Music is not a loaf of bread

Chicago band Wilco put its album online free, after being dropped by their record label. It seemed to work out really well for them. In a great Wired interview with Xeni Jardin (Via Boing Boing), frontman Jeff Tweedy makes this excellent comment:

A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that’s it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it’s just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.

People who look at music as commerce don’t understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.

I’m not interested in selling pieces of plastic.

Big message here, and not just for the music business. Do you want to treat your customers as collaborators? If so, you have to let them make their own meaning out of what you say and lighten up around “owning” ideas. (It’s called conversation)

5 thoughts on “Music is not a loaf of bread

  1. The Newest Industry

    Jeff Tweedy on Music Distribution

    Johnnie Moore posts a great quote from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, made in an interview with Wired.
    A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that’s it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a p…

  2. Patrick Misterovich

    Tweedy rocks! And you’d think the suits would listen to him and learn. I guess their egos are too large for that kind of thing.


    Seems like there are two camps, those that get it and those that are afraid of it. It shouldn’t be too surprising that an artist would get it. Their whole career has been spent putting their authentic selves out in front of people and risking rejection on a nightly basis. The reward is getting audience feedback, understanding what does and doesn’t work, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Music executives spend their time trying to manage risk. They do not have the same type of immediate audience feedback loop. It is more about categorizing and packaging. For the exec the audience isn’t a collaborator it is a target market. The world views are completely different but maybe understandable. Maybe it will require the music exec to shift their worldview before they will get it and stop being afraid of it.

  3. nellie lide

    basically the artist is sharing himself

    with his audience and in Wilco’s case

    they’ve taken it a step further – they

    cast their bread on the internet waters

    and it came back to them tenfold.

    no question – sharing and conversations

    are what businesses will be all about.

  4. Aleah

    That’s one of the healthiest, coolest statements I have read on the subject. I believe it is only the labels and the hacks that are worried. They know their well of popularity will soon run dry and they’ll be left with their less than adequate talent. I respect an individual’s right to make a living – and that extends to those who make a living doing their art – but most of the complainers aren’t starving, and further to that, the market has changed for all of us and we must change in order to survive.

  5. Adrian Trenholm

    Music isn’t a loaf of bread… and consulting ain’t stationery

    Johnnie Moore has posted a fascinating little [snippet from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy][1], regarding the free online distribution of Wilco’s latest album. Says Tweedy:
    > A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the sto…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.