No more carpet bombing of press,
radio and retailers
During the Association of Independent Musicʼs (AIM) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in July, ten independent labels presented their _Big Ideas_ to contribute to AIMʼs _Manifesto for the Future_ (to be published later this year). Attending members voted for their favourites and one of the winning ideas caught our eye.
Lo Recordings proposal of an industry-wide abandonment of the CD promo appealed to independent labelsʼ drive to reduce costs, encourage innovation and be green in the process.
Gavin OʼShea, CEO of Lo Recordings, told us about his Big Idea. Itʼs called _Death to CD Promo_:
“All labels produce an extraordinary level of promotional CDs each year for the carpet bombing of press, radio and retailers. Lo Recordings, a relatively small outfit manufactured 27,000 last year. Ninja Tune (another advocate of this idea) notched up approximately 80,000.
Promotional CDs have always been seen as “what we do” for our artists and a necessary evil. We have all tried to switch to dropboxes and yousendit links but the download option has always remained too complex for the recipient, and too easy to lose track of. So, we have stuck to the process, and shouldered the increasing costs to produce and ship them all around the world and then post them a bit further in an attractive jiffy bag, with a bit of extra added to the bill to round it up to a small fortune. On top of this cost to our business, CD promos devalue our final product and guarantee piracy before release.”
OʼSheaʼs inspiration comes from an unlikely source. “I recently went to see the film the ‘Age of Stupid’ which neatly bundles up all the ecological arguments and makes you realise that we really do have to start changing the way we do things immediately. On the way home it occurred to me (during my thoughts about self powering lampposts and night vision glasses) that we need to do what we can as soon as we can (and not be disheartened when we discover we left the basement light on). We are the privileged members of the globe and we have a duty to do this. So the next day I had a think about what we could change quickest.
Fundamentally this is an environmental issue. We can do something about this now, and we should. Let’s use the power we have collectively through AIM to realise this.”
This sense of urgency is driven not only by environmental awareness, but also by the need for a simpler, more convenient and efficient way for labels to get music to the people that need to hear it first. Moreover, cutting costs is essential if these labels want to avoid being sunk by pirates. OʼShea thinks CD promos can be abandoned within a year, and for him this is not a day too soon. He recognises the need for digital promotion technology and proposes that products like Spotify should develop a tool that allows journalists to stream pre-release music.
Why wait? There are tools out there that do this now. The solution is not a year away — it arrived a few years ago. Why ask Spotify and other streaming sites to change their business model when there are already specialist services experienced in this area? Why send the artwork and press release separately via email, when this can be done in one neat little package? How are radio stations and DJs going to play a track if they can only stream it? And how will feedback be gathered in a way that is useful to labels?
For three years, FATdrop has been working to provide labels with a service that allows them to send digital promos, replacing any need for CDs. Thereʼs no call for for a separate email with press releases and artwork — they all go out in a neatly branded bundle. High quality MP3s can be sent out so the CD can be banished altogether. Digital promos sent through FATdrop are watermarked, so the culprits who share them are traceable. This technology, which means digital promos are actually less prone to piracy than CDs, works both as a deterrent to those tempted to share, and provides interesting information for labels about the recipients of their music.
The ideas and enthusiasm of the Death to CD Promo idea are an inspiration to the industry, and itʼs not surprising that it was voted one of the best. AIMʼs members will undoubtedly be pleased to hear that thereʼs no reason for impatience on this one. As OʼShea points out, “the initial obstacle is the willingness of us as small independents to embrace change. Despite the daily evidence to the contrary we are all convinced that it is not possible!”
Weʼre ready when you are.