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The Tumultuous Release Of Björk ‘s ‘Vulnicura’



Björk’s last album leaked about a week ago, and, as a result, she decided to release ‘Vulnicura’ for immediate digital download, two months before schedule. In an interview with BBC 1’s Zane Lowe, she talked for the first time about her decision:

‘There is no way to say how you should react. In my situation, I had one thing going for me — the album was mastered and ready. I don’t know how I would have reacted if it was four months before. It might have been messier…. And I think also, because of the nature of the album for me emotionally, it’s the sort of subject matter where I really wanted to just get it out of the way, over and done with it. My gut reaction was immediately like that. It was an immediate album, and I did it so quickly, and it was like ‘Oh, it’s leaked, let’s just put it out.’

The album is very emotional indeed and she is talking about her breakup with longtime partner Matthew Barney. Apparently, her manager told her that he would ‘erased all the leaks’ but her decision was already taken. And she was right, I don’t understand how you could erase all the leaks anyway, once something has leaked it’s over, you kill a leak and 10 reappear right away elsewhere.

But this decision, which seemed to have been a rather peaceful one, was in fact much more chaotic than it first appeared. According to Billboard and NME, Derek Birkett, founder of her label One Little Indian, was contacted by Bjork after the leak as she was looking for advices. Birkett then contacted ‘a few friends in the business’, ‘including Arcade Fire and Paul McCartney manager Scott Rodger, as well as Megaforce Records’ Missi Callazo, who advised him on what to do.’

First, Birkett thought they should do a pre-sale on iTunes, giving right away two or three tracks, but ‘Björk ideally wanted to get the whole record out,’ said Birkett ‘and to cut a very long story short, she made a mostly artistic decision that she wanted to get it all out. She felt very passionately about it.’

But things got even more complicated, as nothing is simple anymore in music business, while Bjork was releasing her album digitally, some physical retailers got angry, because they were afraid this would have a negative effect on physical sales. Rough Trade Germany even threatened to end its relationship with Björk.

‘We had to switch some of our partners for other partners,’ said Birkett, ‘It had a massive, massive impact on us.’

Birkett added: ‘Basically what happened is I panicked and gave it to iTunes because I told them, ‘All these deals are going down and we’re losing a lot of money, I told them to put it on the cover and we’d give them the exclusive. Then I realized the political implications of giving iTunes the exclusive.’

This shows how record labels are still really unprepared for a leak. And this is highly surprising, leaks have happened for a long time now, so you would think they’d know what to do, but no, they panick, release it on iTunes and have still no idea of the consequences on the physical sales? You have to be realistic, all albums leak these days, I don’t know what should be done, but the big heads of record labels should come up with some solution, and fast!

Björk simply announced the release via Facebook on January 20th: ‘Vulnicura will be rolling out worldwide over the next 24 hours!!’ Fortunately for her, the leak didn’t hurt the sales very much as the album had stormed the UK charts and hit number four on Apple’s weekly charts. Birkett has also announced he would not pursue legal action against people who posted it online and that’s the best decision he has made in this story.

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