The news that the Decemberists have signed a contract with Capitol Records was unexpected, but not particularly surprising. The band's song has evolved since the days of 5 Songs, and I have generally approved of this evolution. Especially after the attention that Picaresque got, I figured that it was only a matter of time before the Decemberists followed Death Cab for Cutie into the arms of some RIAA member.
As you might recall, back in June, I swore that I would not buy any CD released by a label that was a member of the RIAA. So far, this has been relatively easy to do. There are enough artists that are not affiliated with the RIAA (like Sufjan Stevens) that the fact I have not yet listened to Death Cab for Cutie's Plans does not rankle that much.
But the Decemberists are my favorite band, hands down. I own all of their albums, and even considered purchasing compilations in which only one of their songs were included in order to get as much as their music as possible. This changes my promise from a relatively insignificant commitment to a oath I will really wish I did not have to keep when the next Decemberists album is released. The rationale of the lead singer, Colin Meloy, toward the decision also annoys me:
"Having grown up seeing what major labels do in the early 90s, I was skeptical about it all along. I've been steeped in that mythology, Steve Albini essays and things like that. But the whole idea about selling out seems like such an antiquated notion. I don't just say that out of defensiveness. A lot has changed since Fugazi in the 90s. People have come to realize that that's a really difficult standard to maintain."
He continued, "The contract that we have with Capitol is peppered with the words 'band approval'. It's really as good a contract as we could hope for. If they do have a nefarious agenda, it's completely hidden on me."
While I am happy that the Decemberists are going on to bigger and better things, I do not believe that the behavior of the RIAA or the recording cartel that it represents have changed enough for me to change my ways and start buying their music again. Luckily, Kill Rock Stars (the Decemberists' former label) will be releasing lots of Decemberists-related material next year, including the Tarkio anthology I mentioned earlier (coming on January 24) and a DVD.