Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ Publicity Stunt Is Funny and Insulting

Photo by Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Photo by Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Now here’s a publicity stunt: Father John Misty this morning claimed that he was introducing a new streaming music service, “Streamline Audio Protocol,” or SAP, to debut his forthcoming album “I Love You, Honeybear.”

In a messaged emailed by his label, Sub Pop, Father Misty mastermind Joshua Tillman wrote:

As an artist, it has been thrilling to see how a decade or so of increasingly free music on the internet has facilitated a veritable anarchic consumer utopia for fans of sharing, rating, discovering and music. Within the last year or so, I started to ask myself a question: We all know free is great for the fans, but how can we extend this freedom to artists as well? Is there a way to ensure that no one, artist or fan, ever has to spend, or lose, any money on music ever?

Clicking through to his website lands you on a page designed to look like a new streaming-audio tech venture, complete with photos of attractive young people having fun in soft light, and banal platitudes about the joys of instant discovery. Then there are more biting sentiments. “Did you know that music can also be expensive to make? Some artists have discovered that sharing their music for free can be tough financially,” reads one text block. “Though artists are widely documented as being reactionary and self-centered, they do have a point, buried down somewhere beneath the alarmist rhetoric and obtuse royalty breakdowns.”

Later, under the “meet the team” section, Tillman describes SAP as “a new signal-to-audio process by which popular albums are ‘sapped’ of their performances, original vocal, atmosphere and other distracting affectations so the consumer can decide quickly and efficiently whether they like a musical composition.” Below that is an embedded media player with simple, elevator-music-style renditions of the songs on the new album, along with a link to pre-order the real music. 

It’s at once funny, deeply cynical and also a little insulting. Though making lite versions of the songs obviously took at least a little work, the whole enterprise feels like a middle finger to what Tillman seems to view as cheapskate listeners not sophisticated enough to tell the difference in sound between super-compressed, poor-quality audio files and the high bit-rate mp3s and vinyl available for purchase. Tillman surely intended the SAP thing as a joke, and that may well be how his fanbase takes it. All the same, letting his frustration with the state of music consumption spill into outright mockery of (or at least condescending to) music consumers seems like poor form.

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