In the autumn of 2009, with various knockoff cover versions of Shakira’s ‘She Wolf’ scaling the charts before Shakira’s own version of the tune had even been released, we did a thing for The Guardian about how soundalike versions of tunes were taking over iTunes. “Labels have now lost control of their most precious marketing device, which teased fans with radio play, video airings and TV performances, creating demand months ahead of a single’s release,” we wrote. “Illegal downloads, and this latest wave of covers, mean that any thirst a label creates can be instantly, unofficially quenched.”
Well this weekend it was announced that in order to combat piracy (ie make more/lose less cash) Sony and Universal will be moving to an ‘on air, on sale’ model. As soon as a song is played on the radio, it’ll be available to purchase.
The timing is pretty perfect: following last Tuesday’s official online and radio premiere of the Britney single ‘Hold It Against Me’ Sony released the track for sale in most of its major territories. At one point, not long after release, the song was at Number One on iTunes in 17 different countries.
That didn’t happen in the UK.
In the UK, Britney’s label decided on a February release date. As well as unnecessarily putting Britney head to head with Lady Gaga’s new single – a foolhardy move for any act – the decision also meant that UK fans would have to wait a month to buy the song. Well, of course, they wouldn’t have waited a month. Although they would happily have spent a quid on a legal download, fans ended up illegally downloading the track, or legally listening to the track on YouTube. Either way, by the time February’s official release would have come around, the legal release would have been purchased by only the most hardcore Britney fans – the ones bothered by the single’s chart placing. Everyone else would probably have moved on.
Finally! Forward progress! This has been needing to happen for such a long time..
It’s not just about instant gratification either (well, not entirely) it is also about removing the insanity of staggered teritory based releases in the internet age.
Also for those of us who spend the lead up to big releases squinting at the computer with our fingers in our ears trying to avoid leaks and demos this might help ease up the deluge.
All words by Susan Sloan.