Not A Muse’d: Antiquated Recording Label Business Models

While at Musexpo a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to hear a relatively new band, called “A Fine Frenzy”. Their songs were fresh and well written. Upon returning to the bay area, I decided that I wanted to purchase a couple of the songs I’d heard, so I went to the band’s website and to their myspace page only to find that the CD wasn’t going to be available until July 17, three months from now. I checked iTunes and they only had one song from the new album and it wasn’t the one I was looking for. I considered using a stream ripper on the band’s website, but realized it was not appropriate. For a few seconds it also crossed my mind to use Limewire or other torrent sites to see if I could find these songs. Now I understand one of the reason’s for music piracy — not that I condone it.

What’s amazing is that the songs are being used for promotion, at live venues as well as on the band’s website and myspace page, but the ability to purchase this music is still several months away. Maintaining this manufacturing business model will ultimately be the downfall of the recording industry. Moving to digital economics where music is available for download even before it’s availability on CD (or even on CD at all) will go along way to increasing music sales. A modernization of the business model where digital economics are at the forefront may ultimately save the recording industry or at least morph it into a new substainable business.


  1. Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for….
    Hal Cragin,producer;A Fine Frenzy

  2. Richard, you’re certainly right that the current major music business model is a dying one. It’s basically over. No one genuinely thinks otherwise. There’ll be some more big sales successes but it’s essentially a dead man walking. The iTunes store is probably the Betamax to whatever becomes the VHS but there’s no doubt that the major label model, the retail model, the album model probably, are all in their swansong. It’s Berlin in 1945 and May is just around the corner… Luckily, however, music will persist and hopefully musicians and the brokers of recorded music will find some new way to monetise their endeavours.

    In A Fine Frenzy’s defence I can say that their record essentially doesn’t exist yet. Not to one-two you but like Hal above I worked on the record as a producer, and the truth is that we all worked hard to create something really special, took too long probably, and the album was literally only finished a couple of weeks ago. There aren’t even any genuine advance copies in circulation. By record company standards this gives them a spectacularly short run-up period to create some kind of momentum for the release of the album, some pinprick in the fabric of the popular consciousness to give Alison Sudol’s music a chance to take in a few breaths before another attraction comes along looking to snuff out its light. And to Virgin’s credit they’ve been relatively relaxed about the idea of such a “soft” release, aware no doubt that the old slash, burn and blitz tricks have been doing little but slowly erode their sales base over the last few years. So a soft release is what AFF has, and hopefully that will be the best thing for the record, even if it doesn’t tear up the lists in week 1… But any creative venture needs a birth date – dribbling it out willy nilly would seem like a bad idea whether you’re talking about a record, a movie, an art exhibition, or whatever. And I think we can forgive EMI for picking July 17 and (hopefully) sticking with it. Like Hal I think it’s worth the wait in this case. Cheers, LB

  3. Author

    As I said in my post, I really like the music of “A Fine Frenzy”, it is well written and well performed. Given the music available on their website, I also believe it must be well produced. My real issue is the business model. As you state the album was finished just a couple of weeks ago.

    Why does it take so long to make it available to the public? Sales of CDs are down and continue to drop. I’m sure it’s just a matter of the production queue required to manufacture CD’s that is really holding up the release. The world is changing fast, the digital economy is quickly surplanting older manufacting industrial economies.

    Releasing the product as digital tracks now, followed by the CD later, seems to make much more sense. Oh well, I’ll just wait till July to buy the CD — hopefully I won’t have discovered another band or different music that captures my fancy and decide on them instead.

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