Free and easy

The Guardian, 13 décembre 2001

Ahead of her concert at the Royal Opera House this weekend, Björk tells Sean Dodson why she choose to market her tour exclusively on the net.

On Sunday Björk will become the first non classical artist to headline at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Heard about it ? If you have, chances are you have probably visited her official website,, over the last couple of months. Sunday’s concert marks the climax of an extraordinary tour that the Icelandic singer has promoted exclusively on the net.

And she is not alone. Earlier this year, Oasis promoted their sell-out gigs at Manchester Apollo and Shepherd’s Bush Empire exclusively through their official website. Other acts as diverse as Radiohead and Pearl Jam have made similar incursions on the web. Even Björk’s former boyfriend Goldie is muscling in on the act. His site - - is currently flogging the last remaining 46 pairs of limited edition Metalheadz trainers just in time for Christmas.

The appeal, for the artists, is easy to understand. Established acts no longer need to book expensive adverts in the music press or rely on other media sources to promote their concerts. It can all be done for a fraction of the cost through their official websites. And by keeping their gigs low-key, artists have an opportunity to talk to their fans directly.

Björk, speaking to me by email, told me that there are several reasons behind her decision to promote her concerts and sell tickets in this way. "After working a lot on the web during the making of the album, the nature of it being quite laptoppy, the whole team around me on laptops. It seemed natural.

"Also, because of the nature of the show : 74 musicians on stage, playing to a thousand people. It was obvious from the start that only a very few of the ones who wanted to come were going to be able to see it. It seemed natural to start with the most hardcore fans. It also helped us to avoid ticket touts and scalpers. And because we were only doing a few shows,. . . often choosing the acoustics of the buildings [rather than for] their location, selling tickets online meant that the ticket sales were not only to local people. It was more international."

Even so, most concerts sold out within minutes. And some tickets for Sunday’s sell-out gig quickly found themselves their way to internet auction site, eBay. A box for Sunday’s concert was being touted for £1,000, over three times its original price, only weeks before Sunday’s concert. A case of cyber-concerts attracting cyber-touts.

Björk’s concert on Sunday at the Royal Opera House will mark the climax of an exceptional tour for the Icelandic singer. Since August, the 36-year-old has promoted her latest album, Vesperine, with a grand tour of some of the world’s most prestigious classical music venues, including Radio City Hall in New York and the Costanzi Opera House in Rome. In France, Björk was awarded the Order Of Merit by former culture minister Jack Lang, and her show at St Chapelle in Paris was attended by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. And Björk being Björk, she’s played a couple of kooky shows too. Earlier on this tour she limbered up in St John’s Recital Hall, Smith Square, a 17th century music hall that usually hosts classical concerts, a mere yodel away from Tory Party HQ.

Her show itself will be equally impressive. A full orchestra, a 13-piece choir from Greenland and a classical harpist accompany the singer. Her trademark electronics and percussion are provided by Matmos, an enigmatic electronic duo from San Francisco who made a name for themselves creating music sampled from live plastic surgery operations.

Björk says that she has learned a lot about her audience by arranging this tour over the net. "[I have learned] that they care. That they are techno. That they have laptops and use the internet. That they are very patient with me. This is an unusual tour for me. The first and last tour I can allow myself the luxuries of orchestras and small chocolate sounding (acoustically, that is) venues."

Björk says she plans to develop her website in the future : "I like things that grow naturally, there are so many long-term decisions in my job. I try to make as few as possible so I can feel more spontaneous. The web will definitely support me there. I can, in theory, write and record a song and put it on the net the same day. Which is very liberating.

"I think the most magical thing about the net is that it allows people with jobs like mine to do whatever they want, so to predict what will happen might spoil the surprise. Each music maker should be able to treat the web in a different way."

Does she think there is something bigger going on here ? Could this be the sole means by which artists represent themselves and communicate to their fans in the future ?

"Most music makers just want to play songs to the people who would like to hear them," Björk points out. "It is that simple. That is the core of people like me, the drive behind everything I do, so a path that makes that simpler and easier - to play a song for a listener and bypass the whole industry, the politics, the "machine" is very tempting. I confess though that it is possibly utopian, possibly too good to be true..."

The tour, which has seen Björk visit a dozen different countries in Three continents, is rumoured to have left the singer out of pocket, despite many tickets having a face-value of £75.

So would she do it again ? "If it feels right the next time we will, otherwise we won’t. Horray to spontaneity !" she concludes.

par Sean Dodson publié dans The Guardian