Earlier this week Kanye West released the music video for “Black Skinhead” from his Yeezus LP. Normally this wouldn’t be big news but with Kanye nothing is ever by the book. Many sites released the video but Kanye offered an exclusive version on his site, one that allows the user to chop and screw the video to their own liking. This is the first time such interactive content has been available to music fans but it most certainly will not be the last.
Kanye’s genius on this venture is two-fold. First, with music videos becoming all but extinct on networks like MTV, fans need real incentive to seek them out. Consequently, this defeats the purpose labels spending tens of thousands of dollars to make them. But leave it to Yeezy to creative interactive art that not only entices viewers to check out his work but also to return to time and time again to recreate the video with their own vision.
The second smart move by Mr. West was directing people to kanyewest.com. In an era where artists can control their brand without the backing of a major label or corporate funding and Kanye just demonstrated how artists can maintain autonomy.
Recently, stand-up comedian Louis CK did something similar, making tickets to his live shows and even his new releases available exclusively on his site. By cutting out the middleman, in the case of live shows which typically carry a $20 or more “convenience fee”, fans get to lose the excessive charges.
With Kanye’s new interactive music video, he just may have started a revolution. And it’s fitting given that no genre of music has been quite as game changing in music distribution and controlling one’s own brand in the last 20 years as hip hop.
This idea is great, but the fact that Kanye was the one to follow through with it is even better. Rather than partner with the big corps like Jay-Z and Live Nation, artists can receive 1005 of their profits and engage their audience directly. Not to mention the fact that since everything Ye does as late, makes international headlines, he is getting free press simply by tweeting out links to his site along with instructions to log-on for exclusive content.
Unlike the paparazzi, fans will find interacting with Kanye a positive experience that aims to change the paradigm of music videos.