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Why can't you buy Fiona Apple's new album? Sony says you can't!

You can't buy Fiona Apple's latest CD. You can't download it from the Internet either. Sony says you can't. How would you feel to be a star stuck in the star system?


If you enjoyed Fiona Apple's first two albums, Tidal and When the Pawn..., then it's a reasonable bet that you would like to listen to her third, Extraordinary Machine.

Except you can't, because her label Sony has decided not to release it. It's all recorded and ready to go. But it's not in the shops. In fact the tapes have been gathering dust for nearly two whole years.

Needless to say, this is totally maddening for an artist. So why did Sony choose not to release? Apparently because the Sony execs couldn't hear a single on it. Other possibilities include the work being too different to her previous output, or maybe it just doesn't fit into the corporate vision of what music should be (like kids' yogurts - bland with 'no bits').

But you can hear this album through the wonder of the Internet. Please bear in mind that Sony could possibly sue you for reading the next paragraph. They could certainly sue me and heaven knows who else. And if you choose to follow the link, well it's your responsibility. I'm telling you to restrain your curiosity and ignore it...

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(If the link is dead, then in the time between writing this and you reading it, I guess someone must have had it taken down.)

Just so what you know what you would have found if your morals had let you down for a moment - as mine did - and followed the link. You would have found a full CD-quality BitTorrent download available. (Actually, it just says CD-quality, but how can it be when the file size is only 62 Megabytes? A whole CD is more like 600 Megabytes without MP3 or other bit-reduction treatment.)

So the next question is, why doesn't Sony make the CD available for download? If they don't want to go to the expense of manufacturing and marketing a physical product, can't they just put up a paid-for download on iTunes or somewhere like that? After all, it's not going to cost them anything.

But they won't do it. Seems that making money by selling a download isn't what they do. They make money out of promoting the 'star system'. Fiona Apple, in truth, isn't any better than a thousand singers or writers out there. It's only because Sony hooked her up to their star system that her first two albums sold in the first place.

But that doesn't mean she's not worth listening to. She is, and so are the other 999 of the thousand singers and writers I mentioned. The star system distorts our perspective and Sony loves that. They don't want us listening to thousands of good acts. They want us to listen to the few acts that they choose to use as a profit-lever for their corporation.

The fact is that Sony and the other big players make fools out of us. They sell us the star system and we buy into it.

Next time you feel like buying some music, buy from one of the thousands of great acts that the star system ignores, from small and self-published labels.

Oh and by the way, maybe it's best to cancel that ambition to become part of the star system yourself. Just make great music and get people to pay a fair price to hear it.

By David Mellor Tuesday April 12, 2005