Just An Online Minute... Opening The Vault
Universal says it will digitize 100,000 out of print European recordings, beginning with 3,000 British, French and German albums from artists such as Marianne Faithfull, Brian Auger, and Brigitte Bardot. Ooh la la.
"Over the next three to four years, we aim to reissue perhaps as many as 10,000 albums for downloading, which amounts to more than 100,000 tracks," Barney Wragg, senior vice president of Universal Music Group International's eLabs division told Reuters. "This program will offer material that, in some cases, goes back to the early days of recorded music."
The digitized songs, many of which have only been published on vinyl, will then go to Universal's online music partners such as Apple's iTunes Music Store.
The move by Universal to digitize its back catalog is big and will force other major labels to do the same. Basically, the Web has forced the hand of the labels. Making online downloads available from the archives is no different than offering new tracks. The Web makes it possible for unlimited inventory to become available for legal download. There's no reason why other labels shouldn't mount similar efforts and begin bringing some revenue in for back tracks.
However, making old recordings available for download can be complicated because many artists' contracts didn't allow for digital rights. But wherever possible, these older/vintage recordings should be made available online. Heck, we'll buy them...