Speaking of Space Ace, Time Out New York’s classical music writer Steve Smith interviewed former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley last week (check out his blog for some backstory on it). He mentions that Frehley isn’t playing songs from his new album on the tour to prevent leaks on YouTube before its official release date later this month. This seemed insane to me, so I went looking for a direct quote and found one in
this story from Billboard:
“Every show’s on YouTube, every song…I don’t want to play any of the new songs ’cause I don’t want to give away anything. I want that magic and mystique of hearing something for the first time when you’re supposed to, so I don’t think I’m going to play any of (the new songs) until the CD’s released.”
To some extent, I understand what he’s saying: part of what’s exciting about music is hearing it within a specific context, whether it’s in a live club or on an album. And if you’re hearing or seeing it on YouTube, you’re getting a grainy picture with distorted sound that could potentially turn off the audience you’re trying to entice into buying your new record.
But with all due respect to Ace, the time for cultivating mystique has long since passed.
No one’s going to be playing Ace Frehley’s new record on the radio. That’s not a comment on the quality of his work, it’s just a reality of the biz in 2008. Rock radio has been in decline recently, and most classic rock artists – even touring behemoths like Springsteen – have a hard time getting adds.
But that audience is out there. They’ll still go to see these artists in clubs, and are chomping at the bit for new music. Steve’s post alludes to the personal connection that people have with the people who first introduced them to music. But they’re not kids anymore, looking up in awestruck wonder at the man with the makeup. They know the addiction battles, and the difficulties that he’s gone through. In fact, it’s a lack of mystique that inspires his current fandom. That kind of connection inspires a rabid fanbase, and there’s no better place to feed that rabidity than on the Internet.
The best way to beat the bootleggers has been to join them. If Frehley were to post his own YouTube videos (filmed with a decent video camera, not a camera phone) of live performances and the occasional behind-the-scenes clips, people would flock to them, and then buy tickets and the new album in order to have that same “first-time” experience again. And perhaps he ought to look into putting together his own site, so no one has to go searching for news about his latest record or tour. I guarantee that there’s a huge Frehley fan out there who’s just dying to be Space Ace’s webmaster. Probably for free.
In a world of instant nostalgia, rockers like Frehley ought to be trying to bring their audience closer, not keep them at a distance.