More Record Industry Musings...

This week we celebrate the 4th of July. This is our day of Independence, and hopefully you will be able to sit back and have some fun this long weekend. Since you will hopefully be taking some personal time, I thought I would take this column to comment on a personally interesting issue. Once again, the topic is the music industry and specifically it is Pearl Jam (who if any of you know me very well, is my favorite group).

Pearl Jam recently finished up their contract with Epic and are considering their next steps on how to develop and distribute their music, but they are a case study that the record industry would do well to pay attention to as they utilize the Internet as well as anyone.

For years now, Pearl Jam has used the web as their primary means of communication between the fans and themselves. They distribute fan club tickets through the site, they sell their merchandise, and they stay in contact with updates and special information about upcoming releases. However, all of this is inconsequential in comparison to the system they have developed for selling their official bootlegs series.



The Official Bootlegs for Pearl Jam are available hours after the show ends online. Just visit their website and click to order the show you were just at! They immediately send you a link to download the show directly, and then follow it up with CD of the show within a week. The CD cases are standard issue, with a sticker that includes the set list. These appear to be burned to order, which reduces the printing costs for the label, and dramatically decreasing the costs for distribution.

With the freedom of being an independent band in a digital age, Pearl Jam now has the potential to distribute new music in any shape or format that they feel is appropriate. Why not offer new tracks or demos of new tracks for review by the fans? The CD-to-order format has been explored in the past (remember the Beastie Boys' greatest hits compilations?) so why not pursue this on a much larger basis. The evolution of the distribution model results in a lower cost to the user and the penetration of the Internet negates any of the potential downsides of not being available in the local Sam Goody or Mom and Pop record shop. That being said, why not allow the local Mom and Pop record stores to order multiple copies and sell them on their shelves as well?

Online distribution does not need to occur within P2P networks and much of the record industry seems to have overlooked this fact. Of course, if it starts digital it is easier to share it, but sharing is not going to go away, so why not work with it? Online distribution is a fantastic tool for driving the source of what really makes the bands money in the first place, the touring. Acts like Dave Matthews and Phish taught this a long time (probably from The Grateful dead, of course) and the other acts of today are starting to figure it out.

I know I may sound a little repetitive on the topic of the record industry, but its one that I find more than intriguing. A hobby, if you will. And I also learned a long time ago that repetition can be a tool for teaching, and the record industry has a LOT to learn.

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