Thing a Week Redux

5 years ago Jonathan Coulton (that's me) started a project called Thing a Week, in which I released newly recorded song every Friday for a year. I'm replaying it in real time here with all the songs and the text from the original posts.

Oct 4

Thing a Week 52: We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions

Unbelievably, we are here. Thanks to all of you who sent in hand claps – every one of them is in there. It was very charming how almost all of you apologized for the quality of the recording, and suggested that I just throw it away and forget about it if it was unusable. I have taught you well – always, ALWAYS doubt yourself.

I’m sad and relieved that it’s the end. It’s been a really amazing trip from 1 to 52, and I can’t thank all of you enough for the many different kinds of support you’ve offered me over this last year. If you bought a CD, if you bought a song, if you sent a donation, if you drew a picture, if you made a video, if you stole a song and passed it along to a friend, if you babysat while I recorded vocals, even if you just wrote me to tell me you like the music, you are one of the reasons that this lasted a whole year. The difference between my life then and my life now is enormous, and it’s all because of you. And while the standard rich and famous contract continues to elude me, in the ways that really matter I am filthy, stinking rich.

Thank you.

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: The audacity! The nice thing about covering a song like this is that it takes the pressure off - you can always blame your failure to excel on the original being so iconic and irreplaceable. Though I think we did pretty well all things considered. Getting the hand claps from everyone felt absolutely correct, and the scope of the song is huge and epic, which seemed important. Once I’d hit on this as the final song, I couldn’t think of anything that fit better.

I couldn’t get the boom claps right, so I got them wrong in a different way. There are plenty of mix and arrangement problems I can hear, but boy was I tired of solving those! I love the way it veers into the instrumental section at the end of We Will Rock You with the slide guitar and the sweeping vocals. The slow picky arrangement of We Are the Champions works pretty well I think, and the understated nature of it gives the whole thing a fresh coat of poignant. Arranging it as a sad song is somewhat predictable given my tendencies, but still appropriate. It’s always sounded to me like a slightly depressing, “non-victory” victory song. “No time for losers cuz we are the champions of the world” - sounds a lot like a Jonathan Coulton character to me. Pathetic but proud, no self-knowledge, tragically sure of himself. Possibly a monkey or a robot (technically, you can’t tell if it is a monkey or robot or not, I’m just saying).

Just like in Thing a Week five years ago, here I am at the end and I’ve already said a tearful goodbye last week. What a relief! I’m not sure what to say, except thank you again and again and again. There was no reason at all to suspect that this ridiculous plan was going to work. The only reason it did was because of the various kinds of support I got from complete strangers all over the web and all over the world. I am grateful, always.

It’s a strange time for musicians and the business that lives around them. It’s a simple truth that For Sale competes with Free in the digital realm. That’s just the way it is. We don’t get to decide if it’s good for us or not, because we’ve already demonstrated that this is the way we want things to work. So now we have to figure out what to do.

In my experience, For Sale wins often enough that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the Free side. This may not be true for everyone. You could argue that people only pay for things because the iTunes store came along and made it slightly easier to buy than to steal. You could suggest that the only reason it works for me is because I write funny songs about monkeys and robots. You could predict that in ten years, the downward trend of the value of a song in mp3 form will lead us to a place where music is free. I might grant you all of those things, but I still think we’re going to be fine. Music isn’t going away - it was here long before we figured out a way to make money from it, and it will be here at least until the day we all upload our brains into the giant universe-shaped computer and disappear. The music business is an accident, a side-effect, an unintended consequence; music comes from humans.

I’m immensely proud of Thing a Week, partially because of what I accomplished, but more because of what WE accomplished. My plan, if you can call it that, was to concede victory to Free at the start. You guys pay me anyway, almost as if you “like music” and “want to support musicians.” Dummies.

Thank you for everything.

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.


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