It's interesting that all this has come from comedians. Perhaps not surprising, given that TV shows are owned by networks, and bands are largely indebted to record labels- I never thought about it before, but a comedian is far more of a "free agent" than anyone else- for instance, Aziz is one of the main stars in a hit NBC comedy (well, as much of a hit as NBC gets these days), but he's free to do stuff like this as much as he wants. I very much doubt a band would be able to get away with that.
I've been a fan of Aziz for a long time- I'll be buying.
It's because a lot of comedians are writer/producer/director/editor of their content--a one man act. They aren't usually signing seven album contracts to a label or answering to a network. Usually they have an agent or manager who gets a cut for promoting them.
Agreed, I've taken a raised interest in comedians since the whole podcast thing has turned into a movement and something of an artform. I've seen three comedians in the last month - I don't think I'd seen more than one per year before this.
But really, musicians have been doing the equivalent - selling albums at a flat/reasonable rate - on Bandcamp for years now. For most of them, being on a label is more about getting exposure in the right channels (getting reviewed on high profile sites, being in premier showcases, etc.) and showing that they live up to curated tastses, which is more difficult than the comedy world.
Exposure seems easier in comedy. A comedian can generate/distribute brand new material (jokes) on twitter or on a podcast at a clip that musicians can't compete with. Subjectively, there seems to be fewer comedians than bands, which is more amicable to cooperation.
It has begun quite a while ago with podcasts. Adam Carolla runs a whole podcast production shop in addition to his own hugely popular show and even some spin-offs, then there's the Nerdist (same thing), Joe Rogan has a popular show, Doug Benson, Bill Burr and many others.
Comedians just seem more... entrepreneurial. It would be interesting whether it's because there's less structure (existing or required) in the comedy world, or because comedy attracts more independent performers.
Dana Gould's doing his own, and it has production values and editing. By comparison, Adam doesn't really do a whole lot of quality control on his show. Shitty shows still get released. It irritates me.
I did stand-up comedy for a while. Allow me to offer my own experience about the entrepreneurial streak you're seeing from the comedy sector:
1. As a comedian, you have no choice BUT to get creative. Nobody is going to give you stage time as a no-name comic so your choices are either (booked) open mics or starting your own show.
2. There isn't an "agent" culture for comics like there is for bands or actors. You write your own material. You're alone on stage. You're alone every step of the way.
3. The money stinks as a comic. I can remember being paid for a show in food. FOOD. And there were limits on what I could order. At a mexican restaurant. Since there isn't a lot of money in comedy shows, every dollar you spend on getting to/from a show or paid to someone to help you book a show is almost a eat-or-pay-rent type of decision. If you go to a comedy show, buy a CD from the comic after the show. It's likely that 5 CD's sold puts more money in the pocket of the comic than whatever they earned from the club.
4. Finding another comic to share expenses is almost a losing proposition from the start. Unless you're on stage together as part of an act, it's impossible. Only headline acts can bring their own opener/feature and you aren't a headline act.
SO, to sum up, the money stinks in comedy, you can't easily achieve scale, and you need to be your own writer/agent/booker/show-runner to make a living.
Everyone learns to perfect their craft through constant failure. Musicians/artists have the luxury of failing over and over while in the isolation of their bedroom. Comics have no choice but to fail repeatedly in front of a live audience, and nobody wants to pay you while you're learning to fail.
Disagree completely -- the world has plenty of office workers scared to try something so bold, we need better filtering tools and more people trying rather than believing that the current system works to capture, foster, and utilize talent properly.
I think we do way too much stifling as a society as it is, and a lot of that has to do with people who gave up on their dreams for a safe existence justifying their decision by ridiculing others who dare to take risks.
Because I've been a part of independent recording sessions with bands who released albums using their own meager funds. It doesn't have to take much money to record and produce a decent-sounding album anymore.
I don't think anyone is debating that music can be recorded cheaply, the point is about standup being easier to produce (from a technical perspective), and unless you're thinking of a solo acapella singer, music requires a lot more production value, even just to get something sounding "decent".
>2. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero (2007)-- This album was released by Reznor as a free digital download and Reznor also released the master tracks and encouraged remixes of the work.
YZ was actually the last album in Reznor's contractual obligation to Interscope. He leaked a number of tracks as part of the accompanying ARG, but the album itself wasn't free. I seem to remember him having to jump through a number of hoops to get the masters released, as well.
Also: keep in mind that Saul Williams had attempted a pay-what-you-want model with the Reznor-produced The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! prior to any of the other releases you mentioned.