For anyone immersed in the digital music space, the past couple of weeks have brought some shifts that are reasonably seismic in nature relative to the shifting balance of power from record labels to artists. Here’s a summary of some the most recent (and significant) activities to highlight what’s going on:
*Oct 1st — Radiohead upsets the apple cart by announcing they’ll release their new CD “In Rainbows” via the Internet in 10 days (which was on Oct 10th), and would allow fans to pay what they wish for the download.
*Oct 8th — Nine Inch Nails announce they are leaving their label (Interscope) after over 15 years with them.
*Oct 9th — On what would have been John Lennon’s 67th birthday, George Harrison’s solo catalog is made available digitally on iTunes (the last of the solo Beatles catalogs to be released). The Beatles not far behind.
*Oct 16th — Madonna announces she’s leaving her label, Warner Bros, for a $120M deal with Live Nation.
*Oct 16th — Artist Nation launches with Madonna as its first signed artist; essentially a new form of a more artist-oriented ‘label’ if you will. Housed under the umbrella of parent, Live Nation, Artist Nation aggregates the diversified components of an artist’s distribution and revenue streams, including recording, touring, merchandising, fan clubs, and licensing of rights for traditional & digital use.
*Oct 16th — Led Zeppelin are no longer digital holdouts as they announce they are making their catalog available across a range of digital music stores in mid-November, of course including iTunes — which are making a ‘virtual box set’ of Zep tunes available for $99. This coincides with their ‘reunion’ charity concert taking place in London on November 26th to honor the late Ahmet Ertegun, former chairman of Atlantic Records (the band’s label) who passed away in December of 2006.
*Oct 23rd — The Eagles leave their label and sign a deal with Wal-Mart that gives the chain exclusive rights to sell all future releases from the group. This kicks-off with the release of their first CD in nearly three decades.
These are significant developments folks — and they usher in a whole new era where artists will be more directly engaged than ever with their fans, embrace themselves as the brands they have become, and stand to retain more of their revenue streams across the board. Long-awaited and long overdue.