They Want To Eat Your Lunch
As musicians, we’re used to small exchanges: we trade you a small amount of money for a small amount of experience. A few fractions of a penny to stream a file.1 Twenty-five bucks for a few hours together in a dark room. Pay-what-you-can for an album on Bandcamp.2
If we’re lucky, these exchanges defy physics. Small transactions unfold into something bigger. Maybe the song’s meaningful for you, or it sparks a stream of thought that leads you somewhere interesting. Maybe you hate it. Maybe one of these reactions brings you into conversation with us, and we learn something. We all shift, we keep going, making these small-but-expansive trades. Deal of the century, right?
We’ve done this for a long time, and for that we’re so grateful. Frankly, these exchanges are what makes life meaningful for us. Your buy-in means a lot, and our community is formed by the whole of these transactions.
All around us, however, new kinds of exchanges are happening. With them comes a much larger conversation about ownership, compensation, and what it means to support artists. There are lots of ideas being thrown around, but we can all agree that the old models aren’t working. Cranking out content to satisfy the social machine only serves to enrich the tech giants. We own little of what we put online. The mechanisms of visibility are opaque, and people who don’t ding the algorithm just right don’t exist.
They eat our lunch!
We’ve accepted this as the cost of doing business in the 21st century, knowing that people transcend platforms. So much of what’s beautiful about the Internet is due to the ingenuity, perseverance, and care of users making the best of it. But to quote the late David Graeber, “the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make, and could just as easily make differently.”3
To make the world differently, we’ll need to experiment until we get it right.
This is our first experiment: we’re auctioning off five pieces of a new song. We’re doing this on the crypto-art platform Foundation, which allows artists to tokenize their work on the blockchain and sell it as an NFT, or non-fungible token. The work itself remains openly accessible to everyone and the artists retain all rights. What the buyer purchases is the work’s provenance—its unique spot in cyberspace. Every time the work changes hands, the artist gets a percentage of the sale, in perpetuity.
We kicked off the auctions yesterday, revealing each track of the new song as buyers successively bid on pieces representing its beat, keyboards, guitars, bass, and vocal stems. When the reserve bid was met on the final piece last night, we released the full “They Want To Eat Your Lunch” music video here, and set the song loose on streaming services.
After the 24-hour auctions conclude today,4 we’ll release the song for free on Bandcamp, too. The five collectors will each own a puzzle piece, and their bids will have unlocked it for everyone else while subsidizing the fractions we’re paid by music streaming platforms (in addition, since we made a commitment in 2020 to build redistribution of resources into all of our projects as a band, we’re donating 25% of sale proceeds to the LA Food Bank).
It feels nerve-wracking to step into the fray, and to bind something to the permanent record. But we hope these new exchanges, novel as they may feel to us now, might someday unfold into something bigger. If nothing else, we learn something, we shift, we keep going.
PS - Let us know if you’d like to hear more about how we made the song and video—we always have more to share, but we don’t wanna spam you.