Bob Dylan is out to prove you can teach the music industry’s new rules to older listeners.
In 2013, Jay Z , saying he was writing “the new rules” for the business, announced he was releasing his album Magna Carta… Holy Grail as a giveaway to Samsung Galaxy phone owners. Last year, U2 took the concept a step further, drawing criticism for “pushing” their album Songs of Innocence onto Apple iTunes users’ devices. Now, Dylan has taken a more traditional approach to the future of music: snail mail.
The legendary singer/songwriter is giving away 50,000 compact discs of his new Shadows in the Night album to randomly selected AARP The Magazine readers, a publicist has confirmed to Wondering Sound. The CD freebie coincides with Dylan’s first interview in three years, also in the bi-monthly periodical published by AARP, the nonprofit organization for Americans over 50. “If it was up to me, I’d give you the records for nothing and you give them to every [reader of your] magazine,” he told the magazine.
Shadows in the Night, on the way on February 3 via Columbia, is an album of American standards that have all been previously recorded by Frank Sinatra. Produced by Dylan under his Jack Frost alias, and on the record he’s out in front of a five-piece band, with touches of pedal steel and horns but, as he emphasized to AARP, “no heavy drums and no piano.” It’s a type of record Dylan said he’s been considering ever since hearing Willie Nelson‘s album drawn from the Great American Songbook, 1978′s Stardust.
In the interview, Dylan answered affirmatively when asked whether his mysterious retreat from the spotlight in 1966 was to protect his family. He also discussed Sinatra’s surprisingly enduring appeal, how he recorded the album “live on the floor” with no headphones, whether songs from the ’40s and ’50s might seem corny (“What’s the word ‘corny’ mean, exactly?”) and even the possibility “hotshot billionaires” could create jobs to lift people out of urban poverty.
Dylan’s CD giveaway comes as the format is at a low. The U.S. music industry sold 141 million new albums on CD last year, out of 257 million albums sold overall, according to Nielsen Music (to be sure, that’s still slightly ahead of 107 million in digital album sales). Meanwhile, streams were up 55 percent to 164 billion. As recently as 2000, CD sales had their biggest year ever, moving 730 million copies. Hyundai recently introduced a new audio system that will begin to eliminate CD players from its upcoming car models.