Jonah Weiner at Slate has an interesting article on the juxtapositions inherent in Pearl Jam's latest album roll-out campaign, highlighting the previous anti-corporation tendencies of the band and its current status as a Target-sponsored musical entity. Pearl Jam, as you undoubtedly know by now, has a new album, Backspacer, due in stores on September 20; however, the album will be available for purchase only at Target stores, certain pre-approved independent record stores, and a Target-sponsored portion of iTunes. This corporate partnering from a band that has long campaigned against Ticketmaster and has released hundreds of bootleg live CDs, enabling fans to recapture the live experience. Verizon has taken riffs from the upcoming album and has made them available as promotional ringtones, even as the band continues to insist that its albums be sold on vinyl in addition to compact disc and digital download.
Such odd juxtapositions are nothing new in today's music industry, and perhaps Pearl Jam's recent alliance with such corporate behemoths is simply a necessary move in a chaotic economic climate.The band has always put the fans first, as I experienced firsthand while on tour with them in the fourth grade. As a friend of the manager's daughter, I was able to see the dynamic way in which the group interacted with its fanbase; watching them play, it was obvious that they were playing for the people in the crowd. Some may take Pearl Jam's new business associates as further signs of a band on the road to selling out; maybe the harsh truth is that these are some of the steps necessary to continue to connect with fans across the world, and to continue to make music that touches people to the extent that Pearl Jam's songs have.