A music album without music

I just read an article on TechDirt. Danger Mouse, the DJ behind the more famous collaborative duo Gnarls Barkley, is about to sell a new album titled Dark Night Of The Soul, which only comes with a blank CD-R and the album artwork. Yes, that is a recordable compact disc without any contents but just with the cover printed and included. What this implies is that once you have purchased it, you may look for the actual music somewhere else, even from questionable sources to burn onto the CD-R, as the TechDirt article reported. Of course, this is due to Danger Mouse’s ongoing litigation with the power recording label EMI. It sounds like an interesting form of legal disobedience or detour yet remaining legitimate, because there is no law against selling blank CD-Rs anywhere. Danger Mouse’s stance, however, might appear as if he is willing to risk having people pirating and circulating his entire album through obscure corners of the Internet rather than incur one more cause for EMI to pull another injunction against him.

Since I am aware of the details surrounding the legal dispute between Danger Mouse and EMI, I am not at capacity to discuss whose claim would be more valid. Yet the peculiarity of Dark Night Of The Soul, in which the physical album would be sold without actual contents whereas the music itself is likely to be shared across the web, on one hand reveals the frail and dubious state of music as a tangible commodity these days, while on the other hand also exposes a systematic incapability to resolve conflicts surrounding protection of copyrights and creation of derivative artworks. It is certainly not a desirable situation, but no matter you sell CDs with or without contents, a lot of people would nevertheless access your music through even illegitimate means. It would therefore be of little difference if you just put out a blank recordable CD with a cover; the underlying message would be just to download and burn the music onto it, and technically you are listening to the same music, same quality. A music album without the music–who would have thought of it, like, a couple of years ago?


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