The Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum have issued a joint statement encouraging the record industry to continue, renew and extend its commitment to the so-called single release policy of ‘on air, on sale’.
As previously reported, earlier this year both Sony Music and Universal Music announced they would be closing the ‘release window’ that traditionally existed between music being serviced to radio and it being released via digital download stores. Many in the wider music industry, and in particular the FAC and MMF, argued that some music fans illegally downloaded music not because of an unwillingness to pay, but because of impatience, ie as soon as they heard it on the radio, they wanted to buy it, but couldn’t, so instead looked for it on illegal file-sharing networks.
Many marketing execs in the record industry, especially at the major labels, like the release window because it enables them to build a buzz around a single and maximise first week sales, ensuring a high chart position, which is in turn useful for promoting the accompanying album. However, those who advocate an ‘on air, on sale’ approach argue the record industry is losing sales because of that traditional marketing strategy, and also giving file-sharers ammunition so that, if targeted by new legislation to tackle online piracy, they could argue that they went to an illegal source of music because legitimate download stores were not yet selling the music they wanted.
Sony and Universal’s decision to adopt an ‘on air, on sale’ approach was welcomed from many quarters in the music industry, and by digital music stores and political types focused on piracy and digital licensing. It was hoped the two majors’ announcement would also encourage other record labels who hadn’t already done so to close that pesky release window. However, recent analysis by Music Week suggests that some parts of the record industry are starting to backtrack away from on air, on sale, presumably in a bid to maximise first week chart position for key released for marketing reasons.
In response to that analysis and resulting chatter, the FAC and MMF said yesterday: “In the past week there has been much comment about the progress or not of the ‘on air, on sale’ initiative. The FAC and MMF have been supporters of ‘on air, on sale’ from the start. When fans hear music and want to consume it we need to provide legal means to do so. As an industry we need to grasp the nettle of monetising consumer behaviour. As an industry, we’re either in favour of a world where artists, labels and managers hold back releases to manipulate the charts, or we’re in favour of a world where licensed download services are the first port of call for new music. Which is it?”
The statement continues: “As an industry we campaigned for the stick of the Digital Economy Act yet happily turn a blind eye when it suits us. ‘On air, on sale’ is not ‘on air, on sale’ if we apply it selectively. As an industry if we let ‘on air, on sale’ collapse then everybody will know we are incapable of self-regulation. The government is due to comment on the recommendations of the Hargreaves Report on removing barriers to licensing. If we can’t walk through what should be the open door of ‘on air, on sale’ what chance do we have of creating better licensing solutions without outside influence? We should not let ‘on air, on sale’ die on the cross of self-interest”.