MT Community response: Number One with a Bullet?

04 Feb 2011

Regarding this newsletter editorial (below) and ‘front-loaded’ releases…could the record companies not set up a system allowing reviewers, DJs, etc. to stream pre-release versions of any future-single or album?  This would solve the issue of p2p sharing as no ‘tangible’ version would have been available prior to official release.

Hoping I’ve helped in some way.

Brian Rice



Newsletter #69 February 2010


Your superstar artist has just recorded their hugely anticipated new album, a release date has been set, and the pr, marketing, distribution and retail wheels are all beginning to turn.  With several weeks to go all that remains is to clear a space on your wall, sit back and wait for the inevitable clutch of platinum discs to arrive in the post.

Unfortunately, with over a month to go before the album hits the shops, just as radio starts playing your lead single and the press are warming to the release, your lovingly crafted opus appears on p2p sites across the world and before you know it anyone with half an interest in the artist and an internet connection is downloading it.

With the sums of money involved in recording and releasing an album you would think that advance copies would be guarded like the crown jewels but every day pr and pluggers send out thousands of promo copies to journalists, radio stations and kids who have spent five minutes setting up a blog on WordPress.

The heavily front-loaded nature of nearly all major release campaigns ensures that not only are promo copies floating around for weeks or months before the official release date but we’re also generating hype and demand for a product that is legally unavailable.  Fine if the public has no option but to wait for the release and grit their teeth as journalists Tweet smugly about its magnificence – but as we all know, that’s almost certainly not the case anymore.

So why this self-defeating compulsion to spread our product everywhere and anywhere like a rampant married footballer?

Labels argue that it is necessary to accommodate the lengthy lead times of print magazines and generate a buzz through radio airplay, in order to create good first week sales and ensure further support down the line from retail and media.  And that this balances out the inevitable loss of sales to p2p.

Still they aren’t particularly happy about the situation, and in recent weeks artist managers and retailers have broken ranks, with the MMF calling for no lead times whatsoever between radio servicing and retail availability, with new chart rules in place to enforce any changes.

Retailers would also love to be able to sell tracks the minute the public can hear them on the radio, but accept the occasional need for a degree of pre-release marketing – especially for new artists – if only to give them some gauge of the stock levels they should order.

Unfortunately though, for all those that would prefer to see the pre-release window shortened, the indisputable fact is that to date, bar Radiohead’s mould-shattering In Rainbows (which made it’s own media splash with its pay-what-you-want model), all those who have experimented with a shortened window have so far seen disappointing results.  Without a collective decision from label and the media any unilateral action seems bound to fail.

It is clear that not only would the printed press strongly resist any changes that impact on their ability to compete with online media, but in the case of radio, it is impossible to stop them playing whatever tracks they want, when they want, once an album has been released.

It’s obviously an issue with no easy answer, indeed some contend there is no answer at all and we just have to make the best of a bad lot.  Despite the knot of almost Gordion proportions the business finds itself caught up in, we believe we should at least make a serious attempt to cut through it and find a solution that benefits all parties.

Next month, for the first time, MusicTank will gather together representatives from all the sectors involved, the press, radio, labels, retail and management, to attempt to find that solution.  At MusicTank we’ve always believed that there is no problem facing the music industry too difficult to overcome if we’re open to change and embracing new ideas – let’s just hope that this time, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t that of a speeding train.

Newsletter Editorial by John Power

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