Earlier in the day I posted on the fate of alternative rock stars in the current economy, but if you really want geek out on semi-mainstream 90s alt rock, no list is complete without Juliana Hatfield, who spent the 90s playing bass on the Lemonheads' classic It's a Shame About Ray, Hatfield became a college rock and MTV staple with songs like "My Sister," "Spin the Bottle," and "Universal Heart-beat" and albums like Hey Babe and Become What You Are. Despite acquiring the reputation of an early '90s bargain bin casualty, Hatfield has continued to record this decade, if mostly under the radar, and last year Hatfield reentered the limelight somewhat with her critically praised eight solo album How To Walk Away, as well as releasing a similarly-praised memoir When I Grow Up.
For her latest batch of recordings, Hatfield has thrown her...hat into the ring of industry pioneers changing the way music is being released. Hatfield has released new tracks "There's Always Another Girl (for Lindsay Lohan)" (nice),"Bringing You Down Again," and "Something In Her Eyes," among others, downloadable without cost straight from her website.
In a statement on her honor code system of payment, calling it "farmstand ethics" (she is from rural New England, after all), Hatfield asserts what has to be one of the more elegant takes on music piracy debate in her call for donations:
The concept is this: There's a furor raging over the legal and ethical reality of music downloading and sharing. On the one hand there are huge multinational corporations suing children and grandparents for copying digital files that let them listen to songs so ubiquitous as "Paranoid" and "Happy Birthday."
On the other side of the line drawn in the silica is most of the rest of the world whose sense of entitlement makes them think the work of artists belongs, somehow, inalienably, to the people. Copy and share, copy and share. This part of the world somehow believes that acquiring the product of artists' labor is obviously helping the artists, just by listening.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. At their most honest, the file-sharers admit that the artists' livelihood is really not their issue and the downloading proceeds apace.
Both of these positions seem to exist in a lawless world in which everyone asserts some privilege to disregard the needs of others. So here we are, at the intersection of greed and sloth; but on this little corner, in this little place, the honor system will hold sway. Here's how it works:
When a song is downloaded, you will have an option. You can decide that ownership of this song is your right and freely distribute the files to your friends and to the people who also think it's their right, without payment.
Or, you can support the artist who wrote and recorded this song and click the PayPal button at the top of the page and send Juliana a contribution. The iTunes standard of $.99 per song may seem too high for you, in which case you can send $.50 - though there is virtually nothing else you can buy legally for $.50. Alternatively, you can think of the number of people with whom you might share these files and give a multiple of $.99 for each song you download.
If you don't have a means by which you can use PayPal or if you're opposed to the burgeoning online drain of your credit, feel free to send a dollar in the mail to Ye Olde Records, P.O. Box 398110, Cambridge MA 02139.
There might come a day when the honor system is a strong enough code to let people like Juliana offer her songs on the web without the force of law or the sting of theft. In fact, today might be that day. Enjoy the songs. Support talent wherever you find it.
On behalf of Juliana, this site thanks you for your support.
Now that's D.I.Y. change we can believe in!
It's interesting to note that Juliana's strong indie reputation and faith in the artistic process may help her get more donations—in fact, most of the artists who have released music this way still have relatively in tact artistic reputations. Radiohead most likely made more money off their idea for In Rainbows than they ever would have made through a major label deal, and Hatfield probably will make a boon off fans past and present with this announcement. Nice to know that she's actually merited it.