Death to CD Promo

photo from flickr:spadgy
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.

4 Comments on “Death to CD Promo”

  • someone needs to tell the journalists and radio types to get with the program and be more accepting of digital promos. the only reason we still use CD promos is to try and get noticed and avoiding being lost in someones inbox. if journo’s or magazines just set up a special email addresses for promos then this would be easier to manage and less likely to be lost amongst the daily barrage of email.

  • Bring Back the Vinyl Dayzzzzzzz,,,
    Was like Xmas Day every day

  • I come at this from a variety of directions. First, I am the owner & director of a music/record pool where we supply DJs around the world with the latest release to help the labels & artist break their music. I actually like the FatDrop system & the other system that are similar to this, however not all labels understand the difference between a 160 & a 320kbps mp3, so it doesn’t matter which of these systems they use, their music won’t get played by professionals around the world. Next, we understand the cost issue with vinyl & or CDs, however we are rolling into a time when the quality of sound doesn’t seem to matter to the labels & eventually their customers. Why spend thousands of dollars to master a song in a studio when it’s going to be ripped to a 128kbps mp3? We now have 2 generations of DJs that do not know what they are missing in sound quality from analog & even CDs. That gets passed along to their customers, too, so everyone just walks around with iPod ear-buds in their ears, blasting away low quality mp3s or other digital formats. I guess once the labels dumb down their customer’s taste for quality of sound enough then we won’t need big sound systems to play the music in clubs or parties, there won’t be much need for mastering music beyond .mp3 or .m4a quality, all for cutting back on the production of vinyl & or CDs & cutting cost. I am aware that there are higher quality formats for digital music, but it has become the norm so much that many large & small labels only blast out as low as 128 to 192kbps mp3s & expect us to make it happen, right now! Personally, I’m an old vinyl DJ & I have conformed to the various formats over the years, but if labels are going to embrace blasting low quality digital music to the masses & expect professionals to help expose their music, then it’s a sad future for music lovers, artist & labels. Quality should always be first, not quantity, otherwise you’re just 1 more mp3 on a 1.5 tb hard drive.

  • Majikk Alexx Beatzz Mar 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I must agree with alot of this thread & ROnnie Mathews Comment !!!! We have indeed come into an era where QUality has bit the Dust , the proof for me is the Vodox voice system , where people don’t need to be able to actually sing but rather apeal to the eyes of the focus group their music is written for . Too many artists are preoccupied with how they look rather than how they sound & the Industry big wigs are sadly supporting it . Heck i constantly hear of bad bands going to studios to record & the sound tech turning around and relaying all their music so it actually sounds decent . With that being said alot of the underground scenes in the music world seem to try to not follow that mainstream state of mind . I am but a mere vinyl DJ but i do have friends that produce some tunes that have been released or remixed on labels such as Hot Cakes & Lucky Break , & the effort they put into producing something solid & complete is rather humbling to me & to see their hard work get overlooked due to not emulating shitty quality music . Having said that most people that produce actual music are highly aware of theusefullness of the internet to promote them selves , but there is no real collective effort being done , it’s the typical war of we have a better service for you to use vs we have a faster service for you to use . I have always noticed within any type of scene be it production / promotions a desire to out do the other comp. & slander the other for a higher customer base . If people were to share information and allow the common user to be able to find a higher quality of product / mp3 wav flak files , the industry would eventually profit from it in general as we would start taking apart the bad habits that have been layed out for us to fix . We are entering a new phase of technology uses & how they affect our lives , we need to take over before we are taken over . I agree to no more CD’s ( i haven’t burnt one in yrs now ) & i agree to the fact that information needs to shared amongst people so that they can learn about the sham that most of the music world has become !!!! KILL ALL YOUR APPLE DJ DOCKS !!!!!!! WHAT IS A DJ IF HE CAN’T SCRATCH ????? WHAT IS A SINGER WHO CAN’T SING ???
    WHAT IS A 128KBPS track WORTH ???? The world needs to get back to being picky about what we call high quality music !!!!! & how it gets passed around !!!!!!!

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