For a legion of devotees of 1990s Britpop music (myself amongst them), arguably the biggest music event of the year* happened this morning as Blur debuted their first new material in three years in the form of two new songs, “Under The Westway” and “The Puritan,” written especially for the band’s reunion shows this summer. What made this of particular interest for Digital Trends, however, wasn’t the music but the delivery method: Instead of going a traditional radio-play then physical release route, the songs were debuted via Livestream, with fans having to follow the band’s Twitter account to get access and studio versions of both songs released on iTunes immediately following their premiere.
The band’s singer/songwriter Damon Albarn explained the thinking behind the unusual plan to Britain’s Channel 4. “From my perspective, not having a Twitter account and not being very savvy about things like that the chance of just playing your new music and then for it to be out immediately and for there to be none of that sort of process of reviews and anticipation… It’s very natural, it’s what it is,” he said. “It’s direct to the people who’re interested and they’re allowed to make their mind up entirely on their own as opposed to this ridiculous filtration that stuff seems to have to go through, or used to go through because [“old” media such as print and radio] is essentially a dying form. I hate to say that to all the people whose careers are reliant on the sort of printed press world but it is slowly decaying and this is the future. So we’re embracing the new and seeing how it goes. It might be a disaster for us. Who knows.”
The songs – the first, a downbeat track that at one point pleaded “Bring us the day they switch off the machines,” and the second being far more upbeat – were streamed an hour apart, at 6:15 and 7:15pm British Summer Time, from a rooftop in London, England a la the Beatles January 1969′ “Get Back” concert. In order to gain access to the stream, fans had to use a link provided by the official Blur Twitter account; between the songs, the band answered important questions such as “What are your favorite pizza toppings?” and “Damon, what colour is [sic] your shoes today?” Fans had been given two weeks to prepare for the event, with the Twitter having been used to offer preview images illustrating lyrics from each song since June 19.
Despite Albarn’s downplaying his interest in technology both in the lyrics of “Under The Westway” and the Channel 4 interview, it’s not too surprising that Blur’s new material has appeared in this form; not only did another of his projects, Gorillaz, release its latest (and possibly final) track for free online earlier this year, but last Gorillaz album, 2010’s The Fall, was originally released as a free download in its entirety as a “Christmas gift” to members of the band’s website – as well as having been written and recorded entirely on an iPad. With that kind of background, it’s no surprise that the band – Celebrating 21 years since its first album in 2012 – should find itself embracing digital so readily, even as younger acts complain about the lack of romance in the form.