moments before the wind.

March 14, 2006

it’s what you’re taking with you on the day that you go

Filed under: authenticity, business, digital, distribution, labels, marketing, music, news, rock — alimarcus @ 12:47 pm

Ryan Adams' label is suing some people for leaking his album Jacksonville City Nights a month before release date. No, that's not right; they are being indicted by a federal grand jury for violating the 2005 Family Entertainment Copyright Act. From Pitchfork:

The pair are believed to be the first individuals prosecuted under the prerelease provision of FECA. By posting the tracks, Thomas and Bowser violated the section which states that media shall not be made "available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution." Adams' label, Lost Highway Records, is a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, which, obviously, was intending Ryan's album for commercial distribution.

Keep in mind, while you continue reading, that the drama is caused by the obsession with pre-release secrecy, as well as an underlying fear of technology.

In related news, there has been a big stir lately around Victory Records Hawthorne Heights release. Dirty label wars, street team marketing at its worst (or best, depending on how you view it) and dramatic statements from Tony Brummel, the label's owner, have all been highly entertaining. Basically, an email surfaced in which Victory's street teem was encouraged to sabotage the Ne-Yo album, viewed as HH's main competitor in first-week sales. The oft-quoted passage:

As for Ne-yo, the name of the game is to decrease the chances of a sale here. If you were to pick up handful of Ne-yo CDs, as if you were about to buy them, but then changed your mind and didn't bother to put them back in the same place, that would work. Even though this record will be heavily stocked and you might not be able to move all the stock, just relocating a handful creates issues: Even though the store will appear to be out of stock, the computer will see it as in stock and not re-order the title once it sells down and then Ne-Yo will lose a few sales later in the week.

Yes, well, this is not illegal, not to my knowledge. This is what street teams do, duh. Anyone who thought otherwise is fooling themselves. Sure, it's dirty, but, uh, it's no different from taking the CDs of the bands you like and leaving them in prominent places – which I do ALL THE TIME.

Anyways, Brummel isn't into making music available before the release date. In Jeff Leeds' NY Times article last week, different pre-release strategies were covered in relation to the spread of digital music, and Brummel is thoroughly convinced that it cannibalizes sales of the album.

Ne-Yo still outsold HH by a lot. Coolfer wonders about second week sales, which is a valid point, but the illusion of cutthroat competition between these two unrelated bands is getting a bit old. It brings up all these ideas though, about digital music, the inability to control it, and the absolute mania about release dates, which mainly exist in order to be able to brag about sales , which in turn help to inflate all sorts of other numbers.

Does Universal really need to put two guys in jail for up to 11 years for leaking an album? Insiders orchestrate leaks all the time. And when it comes down to it, leaks do absolutely nothing but boost sales, especially when they are talked about as much as these two bands, both of which are awful. Besides, Ryan Adams released three albums in 2005, an ambitious undertaking, and sold a reportedly 250,000+ of them combined- a good number by anyone's standards.

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