You know you have got it good when your record can go gold and it is still a disappointment.
San Diego-based Switchfoot is going back into the studio to record a follow up to Nothing Is Sound. In less than one year, Nothing is Sound sold more than 526,000 copies which is considerably less than the 2.6 million copies its predecessor The Beautiful Letdown sold.
Sony, the band's label, had planned to re-release Nothing is Sound with a few bonus tracks as a means of propping the album up and increasing sales. Instead the band is in the studio working on an entirely new album thus bringing a close to the troubled story that is Nothing is Sound.
There are likely a host of reasons Nothing is Sound did not sell as well as Letdown. For starters, Letdown was a bit better album. I guess I am still naïve enough to think little things like that matter in the grand scheme of things. The band also seems to have played fewer dates on the Sound tour than they did on their marathon trek to promote Letdown.
Of course, part of the reason the band toured so hard on that record is they had their label working for them rather than conspiring against them. I wonder if Switchfoot's management told Sony they had already pissed off enough of the band's fans with the little spyware stunt that called the first run of Nothing is Sound to be recalled (Switchfoot's CD was one of roughly 15 titles to be recalled). Maybe the band told Sony to go screw with someone else's fans. This 'marketing plan' would have called for some fans to be on their third copy of Sound (the one with the spyware, the replacement for the one with the spyware, the one with the bonus tracks).
The spyware stunt was unconscionable and Sony clearly did not lose close to enough money for the deplorable way they treated their customers. To punish the people who actually bought the album rather than pursuing the people who downloaded the album from a file-sharing network demonstrates how out of control the relationship between artist, label, and fans really is.
It is nearly as offensive to see labels release an album one year later with more music than the initial offering. The integrity of the concept of album as art has degraded in the internet age and that is a shame. Nothing is Sound, the album, is the 12 songs originally conceived by Switchfoot last year. Tacking on some more material, no matter how good it might be, is a tacky way of grabbing more cash and diminishes the original artwork. I am piling on Switchfoot for this practice. It is done everyday by record labels and it stinks.
It is one thing to consider doing this on a landmark album's 10-year anniversary. What would be really cool, meaning the labels will never do it, is to see an album re-released at the 10-year mark with a bonus disc comprising all the b-sides from that album's singles. It would give fans of a particular album all the music that belongs with that "era." That is value.
Whatever the reason or reasons, Nothing is Sound will not see another release. Instead the album will go down as something of a sales disappointment and Swtichfoot will try again. Work is already underway on the untitled album with a tentative release date set for November.