The Modern Way: Kaiser Chiefs Release ‘Choose-Your-Own-Album’

Well, here’s something that blindsided me when I woke up this morning. After making their comeback by premiering new track ‘Little Shocks’ on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show earlier this week, Kaiser Chiefs have unveiled their new album today in a surprising fashion. It’s called The Future Is Medieval – but that’s pretty much the only concrete thing about it, as the artwork and tracklisting are for you to decide.

Here's the title. The rest is up to you.

Yep, over at the band’s website, you can listen to one-minute previews of 20 new Kaiser Chiefs tracks, pick ten of them and the order they go in, then design the artwork using various images related to said songs. Once you’ve done that and forked out the cash for your version of the album, you can then sell it on to your friends – and, apparently, get a quid from each sale into the bargain. There’s a pretty in-depth article over at The Guardian that covers the idea behind the album and the events that led up to it in more depth.

Kaiser Chiefs pretty much fell off my radar after the second album, so credit to them for doing something novel to pique people’s interest. But what about the music itself? It’s difficult to say with just one-minute snippets to go on, but in general the tracks feel just a little bit more mature – it certainly doesn’t appear to be a bold, experimental new direction for the band, but I doubt that’s what anyone would expect. There are a couple of tracks up on the band’s Soundcloud page, and the video for ‘Little Shocks’ is below:

I’m not sure how well the ‘sell-your-own-album’ concept will work – why buy someone else’s version of the album when you could create your own for the same price? On the other hand, people might not have the time or inclination to agonise over the perfect tracklisting, preferring to get a feel for the record via the opinion of someone they trust. That being the case though, I doubt the general public will benefit much from the scheme in terms of royalties.

I’m not sure whether I’ll actually bother to create my own version of the album, but I’ll definitely be interested to see the reaction to what Kaiser Chiefs have done here. Will other bands pick up on this method as a way to give fans more control over the music they buy? Or will it end up as a novelty system that only really works for bands in a position to really take advantage of it, a la Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want scheme for In Rainbows? We shall see.

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