We, as consumers of music, talk an awful lot about our rights and desires. We don’t want our music shackled by digital rights management. We want its quality to be pristine. And we don’t want to feel like we’re being taken to the cleaners whenever we add another hunk of music to our libraries. Fair enough.
Now imagine that you’re on the other side of that fence. You’re an artist, a producer, the person in charge of making music profitable enough to go out and make some more. What can you do in the face of this changed landscape to keep body and soul together?
While some carry on as if nothing’s changed, others are trying to find ways to bring music to consumers that are innovative and attractive enough to compel people to open their wallets.
One example is Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), the English company known for its high-quality stereo speakers. It, in partnership with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, have launched the B&W Music Club. The idea is this:
Each month, the Music Club will issue an exclusive album, commisioned by B&W, that’s recorded live at Real World Studios. Artists may be known or still undiscovered and receive an advance as well as free recording time. The albums will be offered without DRM and provided in the Apple Lossless format. They’re available for one month only. Two months after the album is offered by the club, all rights to it revert to the artist.
Subscribers to the club pay £23.95 for six months or £33.95 for a year. Those who would like to sample the material before committing are welcome to sign up for a free three-month trial, during which they can download an EP from that month’s album, encoded in the same DRM-free, high-quality format. I’ve signed up for the trial and downloaded the current EP—Little Axe’s Bought For a Dollar, Sold For a Dime—and I like it a lot. According to the press release, future releases feature:
…singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert and Grindhouse (mondo cane)—a new collaboration from Dominic Greensmith (Reef) and Gareth Hale. A further live session is also being recorded by Dub Colossus in A Town Called Addis—a project created by Nick Page (Transglobal Underground) which will bring some of Ethiopia’s best musicians to the UK for the first time ever.
It’s an interesting notion—trusting in something that amounts to a specialty boutique to offer you music it believes in (and hopes that you’ll believe in enough to give them your money). Workable? Beats me. I like what I’ve heard so far, and I certainly welcome new music models that reward, rather than punish, artists and and their audience.