Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From Nonesuch to Jeff Tweedy with love

Dear Jeff,

We wanted to take a moment to write you a letter of praise in regard to your band’s new album, Wilco (the album). It has been a genuine pleasure to release your albums over the past 8 or so years, and we take pride in the fact that our relationship with you and Wilco has lasted so long. We hope you love the artistic freedom we give you as much as we love the money you make us.

While you were not on our label for Being There (well, you were sort of, on a subsidiary of our parent company), I think we all know that Wilco was on the verge of going the way of the Jayhawks. However, given your big label affiliation at the time, you rode it out and made Summerteeth, which no one understood at the time, but importantly, it gave those of us in “the biz” a sign that Wilco might actually be far from finished. Thank goodness WB put out that album, or you very well could have fallen through the cracks before you found direction and began to hit your stride.

At that point, you still weren’t that big of a deal, but oh man, the Woody Guthrie business was the beginning of great things to come. The great things just got better when we got the opportunity to pick you up after our parent company dropped you. (Still not entirely sure, but did you really get paid twice for that album?) Anyway, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot really broke ground because it was so experimental (seems like a tiny bit too much noodling at times now, but that’s neither here nor there), and was coming from what people had previously thought was an alt country band. And then there was the documentary about all the drama in the band…a better script could not be written for an American rock band.

After you reinvented the Wilco wheel, we have to say we couldn’t be more pleased with the direction things have gone since then. A Ghost is Born worked to push the envelope just a bit more, but not enough to scare away any of your ever expanding fanbase. And honestly Jeff, when you listen to some of the musical shenanigans on Kicking Television, don't you wonder how you get away with some of that stuff yourself? Whatever the case, you can take a song like "Via Chicago" and play the skillet and wooden spoon on it in your live show, and the crowd just eats it up. After that, Sky Blue Sky continued the path of changing things up just enough to make people still feel like it was cool to blast "Impossible Germany" out of their Subaru factory speakers. The addition of Nels brought such an amazing dimension to the band, and thankfully, the rest of your personnel changes have never been so drastic as to alienate any substantial segment of your fanbase. Remember when you included one of John Stirratt's songs on A.M? It's almost funny to think about now.

Sure, you have never gotten much radio play over the years, but it just hasn’t mattered. You’ve steadily grown into one of the most respected American rock bands, with virtually complete control over your artistic integrity, and we just couldn’t be happier that you’re going stronger now than ever before. The pleasure is all on this side of the table, trust us.

More adeptly than most bands of your kind, you have found a way to stay relevant enough to your fans that they stick with you. All those hipster kids in 2001 who fell in love with YHF are mostly out of college and/or have families and good jobs now. And as you well know, those are the same people who pay to download songs from their favorite artists like nobody's business. Downloads basically cost us nothing, and we don’t even have to go to the bank to cash in on them, since the money just drops straight into our (and your) offshore accounts. Turns out your fans aren’t quite as hip as they used to be, but the key is, your music is just far enough out of the mainstream that they still believe they’re listening to cutting edge music. Good for us, and doubly good for you, since they pay $35 & up (plus typically $25 in service fees) to see you live at huge venues across the country. Hipsters would rather spend that money on PBR and silly hats, but they aren’t vital to your success anymore, so no reason to change what you're doing now.

In fact, what better to keep your fans energized than to make your 7th album such a tongue-in-cheek affair by naming it Wilco (the album), with “Wilco (the song)” as the lead off track? Whether intentional or not, you’ve created a blogger's dream, as blogs have already begun to proliferate the internet with clever titles such as “Wilco (the review)” and “Wilco (the blog post).” This has prompted those of us around the office to refer to the album in-house as “Wilco (the cash cow).” Can we also say that the Feist guest appearance was a brilliant move that we think will see you continue to gain new fans in the ITunes demographic? We’re actually in talks with Toyota to have “You and I” preprogrammed into every new Prius sound system. Just as expected though, this album is not a one trick pony, given that "I'll Fight," "Country Disappeared," and "One Wing" are likely to become instant Wilco staples as well, because after all, you're the one making the rules. The album is accessible, but appropriately, not instantly accessible to the casual listener. After a few listens, your core fans will start reminiscing about the days when they listened to really cool music, and remember why they got that "I am an American aquarium drinker" ankle tattoo. Admittedly, we get a little sentimental too, when we think about how much money we were making off of you back then. Let's keep this gravy train going, why don't we?

For future reference, we’d love it if Spencer is ready to put out an album in the next few years, so please keep us in mind. Otherwise, we'll leave you alone for now, as we've got to get back to our layoffs, but please let us know if there's anything we can do for you.


Nonesuch Records (the label)
Warner Brothers Records (the parent label)
Warner Music Group (the corporation)

1 comment:

Derek said...

What the hell just happened?