The Boston Phoenix ran this article (“Singled out: Mercury Rev’s big Internet gamble” by Mac Randall) [5/19]. Mercury Rev is experimenting with “building fan anticipation” by releasing the album in EP-size dribs and drabs, via iTunes, and then pulling the EPs:
The CD won’t reach stores till May 17. But on January 25, an EP with selections from the disc went on sale on the Web through iTunes. Six weeks later, another EP with a different set of Secret Migration songs went on sale as the first EP was pulled from iTunes. The process repeated again six weeks later, with a third EP replacing the second. Once the album goes on sale in stores, all of the songs will again be for sale on-line, but the EP configurations will be a thing of the past. (Unless, of course, you want to program them into your iPod that way.) More to the point, every song on the CD will have been made available to the public well in advance of the “release date.”
What about the possibility that downloading will destroy the album sales? The company’s marketing director had this to say:
So far, according to Dan Cohen, the iTunes EPs’ sales figures are “good but not astounding. My head of sales hates when I say this, but the greatest thing that could happen is that there are so many MP3s circulating on-line that we’re like, ‘Oh God, this might hurt sales.’ It hasn’t happened yet.”
Selling music is like selling drugs. If you want your clientele to keep coming back, you need to consistently supply a quality product. People know what they want. People talk about how the music industry is struggling, but there’s no strain on Eminem records. There’s no strain on the Game. There’s no strain on 50 Cent records. My first album was downloaded 300,000 times before it went on sale, but we still sold 872,000 copies the first week and 822,000 copies the second week. I don’t believe in the oversaturation of a quality product.
Relatedly, Halsey Burgund, here in MA, just started a new project: he’s making a compilation of musicians saying, “I am a musician, and I support file sharing” (and whatever they want to add about why). [i followed the link from respectp2p.org 5/10]
update 2005/8/24: another 50 Cent story, this time on 50 cent’s position re: a trademark / right of publicity issue.