4.22.2009

Sufjan Scandal; Intriguing Idea



In winter 2007, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens invited his fans to participate in the Sufjan Stevens Xmas Song Xchange Contest (how Xciting!). Participants could submit holiday-themed songs with hopes of exchanging the rights of their song for a new, unreleased holiday song by Sufjan himself.

Not surprisingly, many people jumped at the chance. More than 600 people, in fact. So Sufjan got busy and set off to pick a winner. He reportedly fell in love with each entry--even "the songs with expletives, the songs with Christmas clich├ęs, the many songs about ex-girlfriends, nativity scenes, snow globes and apple cider"--and referred to this experience as "an arduous and fascinating sociological project."

So, the time came for Sufjan to pick a winner. He eventually chose Alec Duffy, a New York theater director, for his song "Every Day is Christmas." In exchange, Sufjan gave Duffy the exclusive rights to his (new and unreleased) song "Lonely Man of Winter." True to his word, Sufjan sent Duffy his prize in the mail--a brand spankin' new Sufjan exclusive in the form of a soliatary CD.

Sufjan fans held their breath and waited impatiently for Duffy to cash in and make the song readily available to the public.

They waited...and waited...and waited...

And then--oh the horror!--Duffy announced every Sufjan fanatic's worst nightmare: he would not be cutting a deal with anyone to release the song to the public. Period.

<cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth>

Outraged, Sufjan fans cried foul claiming that Duffy was being selfish by withholding music from the world. Fans blasted him with insults and even some threats but to no avail. Duffy would not budge.

For Duffy countered that music used to be about an experience--an experience of searching desperately for a song and finally, when the painstaking treasure hunt ended, rewarded with sheer joy.

But today's music has been reduced to a mere click of a button and is forgotten tomorrow. And according to Duffy, this song should be a "real treat" and not just "one of 10,000 songs on an ipod."

Duffy's solution? Listening parties. In his Brooklyn home. For real.

An interested party contacts Duffy himself and once the arrangements are made, a group visits Duffy for tea, cookies and that much-sought-after secret Sufjan song (no recording devices allowed).

So what do you think?

Is Duffy "spitting in the face of progress" as one angry fan contends by keeping this song under such extensive restrictions?

Or do we today have a false sense of entitlement for expecting music immediately at our disposal?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

3 comments:

R.W. Shipshape said...

I don't know what I think.

Regardless, I'm enamored with the idea of listening parties (complete with tea and cookies).

lauren said...

I see what Duffy's saying, but I think he's overlooking the fact that a song can be one of 10,000 songs on an iPod and still be a powerful listening experience each time it's heard. But tea-and-cookie-and-listening parties could be fun (whoops, I think I flipped the order of priority there...).

R.W. Shipshape said...

Do you have my email?

I have/had one for you but my mail gets returned every time that I try to send you something.