More Free

Like a fading movie, losing its theaters and failing to eke out a high gross, Paul McCartney’s "Memory Almost Full" is sliding down the chart, plunging to number 104 last week, with 6,821 copies sold for a grand total of 511,488.

In other words, "Memory Almost Full" is not going to break 600,000. It’s going to do no better than "Chaos And Creation In The Backyard".

Would "Memory Almost Full" have sold as many copies on Capitol? Interesting question. I’d posit not, since album sales in general are falling. But does this number mean the Starbucks sales paradigm is a success? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Starbucks can’t justify advances like this for long. They can’t guarantee vast quantities of product one way in the future. Because they’re going to take a bath!

They couldn’t possibly have made money on "Memory Almost Full. That’s a five million dollar gross, and with the payment to McCartney and all the advertising and promotion they’ve done, they’ve got to be upside down.

But hey, they got started in the record business!

So, the new Joni Mitchell CD will go the equivalent of gold too?

Are you KIDDING ME? There will be essentially no airplay. She’s over sixty. There’s never been anyone better, but despite her protestations, she hasn’t cut something truly groundbreaking, up to her seventies standard, well, since the seventies.

James Taylor will do better. But any better than he would have done at a conventional label? Oh, HE might make more money, but will he sell more product? Based on the McCartney model above, he’ll sell no more than he did with his last release. Which might be more than a conventional label could sell today, but it will still be a pittance compared to the number of JT fans out there.

How many McCartney fans are in America? Just over 500,000?

Don’t insult him. God, everybody knows who McCartney is. They just don’t want to pay ten bucks for a new album by him. Because he hasn’t released vital new music in eons. That 9/11 "Freedom" song? Sounds like something a grade school class cooked up. He might be able to come back, you never know, but assuming he MAKES great music, how will the public know?

Reviews help with an older demo, but not that much. And there’s no airplay. So, you’ve got to cut out the middleman and go free.

Now let’s go back to that McCartney record. Let’s say he even got ALL the money. Five million bucks for 500,000 sales. How many gigs would he have to do to earn that amount? Not many. Isn’t it best to get the music out rather than use an antiquated model to make bupkes?

Forget charging with the concert ticket. Forget counting on SoundScan. That’s missing the point. Just make it free. And make it up in other places. Hell, Google doesn’t charge for the SEARCH! Which, believe me, is a lot more valuable than "Memory Almost Full". It’s the ads that cost money. In this case, nothing to the end user.

Truth is, all these old acts care about is the money. McCartney gets a check from Starbucks, one previously from Fidelity. The Eagles get an eight figure payment from Wal-Mart. They’ve ceased caring as much about their careers as their wallets. And stunningly, their wallets are ALREADY FAT!

Sure, all those companies do some promotion. But very few people end up with the music in their hands. All that hype ends up moving very few discs. It’s kind of like being on pay per view instead of network or basic cable. You might get a financial windfall, but your footprint is minimal. Now maybe if you’re a boxer, and a fight is a one time event. But these bands can tour until they die, and their records can be played FOREVER!

Assuming they’re good enough.

And conventional wisdom is that the new records of classic rock superstars just aren’t as good as those from their heyday. You used to buy the new record to be familiar with the songs in concert. Now you hope THEY DON’T PLAY THE NEW SONGS IN CONCERT!

It went from being a religious experience that was always in progress, always moving forward, to a calcified show no different from a movie. You go see these old rock bands and it’s no different from the year before. You get the hits.

Sure, I want to hear the hits. But I’m still alive, can’t the bands be too? Can’t they still try?

And maybe if they knew everybody was gonna listen, which all fans would do if the music was free, they’d put more effort into it.

You see they just can’t get motivated, they just can’t get their dicks hard, they’ve been to the mountaintop and wasn’t that enough?

Well, send them to the Super Bowl and they’ll rehearse, believe me. And if everybody was truly listening to their new material, a failure would hurt them emotionally.

The Stones burn up the Pollstar chart. But "A Bigger Bang" doesn’t even go platinum. Even with good reviews. This is a disconnect.

It’s great that Springsteen is giving away his single free. But the concept of getting a taste in order to be motivated to buy the whole enchilada is passe. People are just satiated with the taste. Ninety nine cents a track is TOO HIGH! How do I know? Because you had to pay to listen to McCartney’s "Coming Up", which I wrote about, and almost no one did. Whereas if the song had been on MySpace, people would have clicked immediately and told others if they thought it was good.

Music ain’t gonna be free forever. We’re in a momentary lull while the majors try to cling to an old business model. When everybody gives away their music for free, it’ll be hard to get attention. Do it NOW!

As for the future… In the future, it will feel like free. You’ll pay a little for a lot. And the idiots running the major labels will no longer control the recorded music business.

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  1. […] y launched (on other labels). However, as Bob Lefsetz points out, McCartney’s album looks like it’s a money loser for Starbucks — though McCartney […]

  2. […] y launched (on other labels). However, as Bob Lefsetz points out, McCartney’s album looks like it’s a money loser for Starbucks — though McCartney […]

  3. […] unny) pointed out by Techdirt: However, as Bob Lefsetz points out, McCartney’s album looks like it’s a money loser for Starbucks — though McCartney […]

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