One of my personal favourite bands The Shazam are hoping to make digital waves on a new all-digital record label that Universal Music Enterprises Digital has debuted as the label will make all of the bands on its roster available as a digital download only. According to the New York Times article Music Industry is Trying Out Digital-Only Releases by Jeff Leeds (registration required, you know the drill) Universal has “the belief that by signing enough acts with small, established audiences, the company can earn a profit on digital sales alone.” Of course Magnatune has already covered this territory but if its a way for the majors to start backing new bands then I’m all for it. Jay Gilbert, a senior director at Universal’s Music Enterprises unit states that their reasoning behind the label is that it will provide “a chance for acts whose music did not fall into the dimensions crafted by radio formats and music video television.” Could the Internet truly level the playing field and actually encourage the majors to leap into the un-tested but artist-friendly digital waters currently the almost exlusive domain of indie labels? Well the jury is out on that but one thing is for sure, Universal could have come out with a snappier name. Yikes!
Here is the full press release:
UMe DIGITAL, WORLD’S FIRST ALL-DIGITAL DOWNLOAD LABEL FROM A MAJOR MUSIC COMPANY, SET FOR DEBUT
Label Announces Initial Releases; Offers Unprecedented Access And Exposure For Artists
SANTA MONICA, CA – (11/23/04) – The evolution of digital downloads marks another milestone on (11/23/04) with the debut of UMe Digital, the world’s first all-digital download label from a major music company. UMe Digital product–individual songs, EPs and full-length albums–will be distributed exclusively online.
With its unparalleled music and video marketing capabilities and the power and scope of UMe to place songs in films and TV shows and commercials, UMe Digital offers unprecedented access and exposure for artists.
The releases on UMe digital will be consistent with UMe’s philosophy of marketing established acts and acts who already have an established fan base. Available on 11/23/04 via all online music services will be recordings from pop visionary Parthenon Huxley; renowned guitarist Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney, Stewart Copeland); alternative rock pioneer Ken Stringfellow (Posies, currently guitarist touring with R.E.M); guitar giant John Jorgenson (Elton John, Desert Rose Band, Hellecasters); critically acclaimed Tennessee rock band The Shazam; modern rock innovator Dan Reed(Dan Reed Network); legendary hard rockers Black ‘N Blue, and singer/songwriter Will Owsley (Shania Twain and Amy Grant guitarist).
Says Bruce Resnikoff, President, UMe: “UMe Digital is another significant development in the expansion of our business and our efforts to reach more consumers in more creative ways. Last year the music industry sold fewer than 5,000,0000 downloads; this year the industry will exceed 100,000,000. I think every label will have a download-only imprint at some point; UMe wants to be sure that it continues to be an industry leader and innovator.”
In addition to its marketing expertise, UMe Digital provides the technical expertise and production in the encoding and online delivery in the format each site requires. Unlike in the physical world, in virtually no time, perhaps only a week or two after entering into a deal, an artist’s music can be online everywhere.
Overseeing day-to-day operations is Jay Gilbert, Sr. Director, New Media, UMe. “Consistent with the types of artists UMe has marketed or signed through its other labels, UMe Digital is looking for established artists that tour and have a fan base.” says Gilbert. “We’re creating a place where these artists can go to release albums, singles, EPs, live concerts, outtakes or unplugged sessions.”
UMe Digital presents an auspicious opportunity for artists who are between deals and those who have deals but own their recording masters, particularly for live and/or acoustic tracks and previously unreleased recordings such as outtakes and demos. An artist may release a CD on one label and release other product via UMe Digital.
As for the future, Gilbert anticipates that the number of recordings and artists will progressively expand. Also, he adds, “When artists find success with downloads, we may opt for a physical release as well.”
UMe Digital will be available at all of the top online retailers and music services including Apple iTunes Music Store, Napster, Tower Records Online, Microsoft Music Service, Virgin Digital, MusicNet, Liquid/Walmart.com, Real/Rhapsody, MusicMatch, MusicNow, Sony~Connect, FYE online and BuyMusic.com.