Kanye’s Dark Twisted Experiment

Nov. 22 marks the release Kanye West’s 5th studio album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The album, which has been getting rave reviews from everyone from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly, is also notable for Kanye’s interesting approach to promoting it.

Basically, Kanye’s been doing what most musicians hate: giving out free music. Every week for the last few months, Kanye has been providing his fans with “GOOD Fridays,” a weekly series in which Kanye and several of his closest friends provide new music completely free on his official website.

Most of the songs will not appear on the album, but three of them will. “Devil in a New Dress,” “Monster” and “So Appalled” all appear on the final version of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Combined with the singles “Power” and “Runaway,” this totals five songs that fans have already heard appearing in a retail CD that fans will now have to pay for.  Additionally, Kanye’s short film “Runaway” featured final versions of nearly all of the songs.

Is this a smart strategy?  Of course, Kanye West is not your average artist, with a proven track record of great sales. Odds are “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” will be a huge success regardless, but the strategy taken in promoting the album may signal a change in the way artists promote their music.

Kanye is not the first artist to do this. Radiohead originally released their album “In Rainbows” as a digital download in which fans could pay whatever price they felt was suitable. However, it can be argued that GOOD Friday is on another scale entirely. The approach of releasing new music for no charge every week is certainly an eyebrow raiser.

Since Kanye has begun the Good Friday tradition, fellow hip-hop producers Swizz Beats and Timbaland have followed suit, beginning “Monster Mondays” and “Timbo Thursdays,” respectively.

Time will tell if the free music approach will ultimately influence what approach artists take in promoting their music. With how readily available free music is anyway, is it time for artists to just give in?