Music Business

Pixies Return With ‘Bagboy’ Via BitTorrent, Topspin and YouTube

Bagboy-591x408By Eliot Van Buskirk of

Eventually, the practice of debuting new music as an exclusive, or at just a few strategic spots on the internet, will become so commonplace that we’ll stop writing articles like this. However, the trend is still strengthening, and this latest album debut is noteworthy — in part because it’s The Pixies, and in part because the single (“Bagboy”) was immediately released on BitTorrent (as well as on the band’s own TopSpin-powered page and on YouTube).

In many minds, BitTorrent differs from iTunes, Spotify, NPR, or anyplace else where new music exclusives appear these days, because it’s a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. Those are supposed to be bad for people who want to sell music, and yet every time a Pixies fan downloads this MP3 from BitTorrent, they will

  • Use their BitTorrent client for the first time in a while,
  • Have another reason to use BitTorrent if they already use it anyway,
  • Upgrade their BitTorrent client to the latest version, or
  • Install BitTorrent for the very first time.

However, BitTorrent launched a music store two months ago that allows bands to sell music from within a .torrent bundle, so perhaps the notion of premiering new songs there isn’t as crazy as it sounds, from a “selling downloads” perspective. In this case, in order to get the Pixies’ full Coachella set, all you have to pay with is a valid email address. However, another band could just as easily ask BitTorrent to make you pay BitCoins, dollars, Facebook likes, or anything else in order to receive an unlock key.

Pixies fans — eager for the Pixies “Bagboy” download as well as the bonus material that comes along with it if you enter an email address (a live version of “Where Is My Mind” and the entire Coachella 2004 set) — will have a reason to fire up BitTorrent. And that is why BitTorrent, like these other outlets, is competing ever-more-intensely for these exclusives.

Public Enemy also debuted a new single called “Get Up Stand Up” on BitTorrent on June 19, also in return for an email address. In that case, fans received the single, music videos, outtakes, and 37 never-before-released stems from the single, suitable for remixing.

We downloaded the “Bagboy” .torrent just now, and which took quite a while (the bundle is 24.8 MB) — around 20 minutes. And as we were downloading it, of course, our BitTorrent client was uploading it to other users, because that’s how BitTorrent works (as does Spotify, which is no surprise because its CEO Daniel Ek used to be in charge of the leading BitTorrent client, µTorrent).

Once you get it, the “Bagboy” single is a 320 Kbps MP3 file suitable for playing on non-internet devices. If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of dealing with the BitTorrent stuff and just want to hear the single, here it is on YouTube, and here it is via the Pixies’ own TopSpin player (also with a download in exchange for an email):

So, how does it sound? Overall, “Bagboy” is being well-received, according to Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago‘s Facebook page (that I am Facebook friends with him is one of my major social media achievements), and YouTube commenters.

Bassist and vocalist Kim Deal recently left the formerly-reunited band to focus on her band, The Breeders. To my ear, she appears singing on the chorus of this song, and possibly on bass, although as of this morning, Pixies fans and commenters are still debating that.

Final Update: That is officially not Kim Deal. Says Frank Black on his forum (via SlicingUpEyeballs),

I agree, it does sound a bit like Kim. But it’s my good friend Jeremy Dubs, one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know, both socially and professionally.

Earlier Update: USA Today says it’s her. Pitchfork says it’s not:

Kim Deal is not on the track, a publicist confirms. Frank Black collaborator Jeremy Dubs played bass, and Joey Santiago, David Lovering, and Dubs did the backing vocals.

So basically, guitarist Joey Santiago, new bassist Jeremy Dubs, or drummer David Lovering — or some Pro Tools version of one of them or even two or three of them combined — appears to play “Kim Deal” on this track.

In an unrelated statement, lead singer Black Francis/Frank Black/Charles Michael Kittredge Thompson IV disproved our initial theory that the song is about bloggers:

The lyrics, coincidentally, were composed at a Starbucks Coffee in Harvard Square in Cambridge, about a hundred feet from where, 25 years ago, I composed some of the lyrics to an old Pixies song called Break My Body. … The music for the song has been around for a few years. There are some demos I made with Joey (Santiago) and David (Lovering) a few years ago in Los Angeles, related to a film idea that still has yet to see the light of day, although work on the music continued. So a lot of the musical idea had been kicking around for awhile. It’s pretty simple, kind of a blues-based, two-note kind of thing, really.


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