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A Cordless New Wave of Distribution

Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Updated: Saturday, August 9, 2008 23:08

In the CD industry's battle with digital music, Warner Music Group is following the old saying: "If you can't beat `em, join `em." The record label has recently announced the formation of a totally digital, CD-free label, tentatively titled Cordless Recordings.

The "e-label" comes in response to the sluggish CD sales of the past four years, which have been linked with the flourishing of file sharing and digital music.

"As a music company, we understand that our ultimate success lies not in preventing people from getting what they want, but in providing it to them in new and exciting ways," Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group Edgar Bronfman, Jr. said in a speech at a policy summit for the Progress and Freedom Foundation in Aspen.

Cordless Recordings artists will have songs sold online that can be downloaded to computers, mp3 players, mobile phones or other portable media devices.

"It would be cheaper than producing CDs," said associate economics professor Dr. Emily Blank. "It seems like it would help smaller artists."

Artists on Cordless Recordings will not be funded for the production of their music and will not be paid advances. But they will retain the rights to master copies of their music. They will also be given the opportunity to showcase their talent in a low-risk situation with a major label backing.

"A sad story, one too often repeated in the music business these days, is that of a young artist who is dropped when his major label album debut doesn't sell," Bronfman said. "At Warner, we believe that we can create a digital-only label ... that will transform the process for artists young and old and possibly give the stories of artists struggling to be heard, a new and happier ending."

Although computers are becoming customary household items, e-label's sole digital distribution can still alienate some music listeners.

"It would reach a narrower market because not every person has access to a computer with online facilities," said economics professor Dr. Kendrick Hunt.

With this digital music label, Warner Music will also eliminate the standard album format. Instead music will be released every few months in clusters of three or more songs at a time.

"They are keeping the artist in your face," Hunt said, "trying to build loyalty. Now they're expecting you to buy songs every few months."

Junior history major Morgan Penn prefers the standard album format to the cluster approach.

"I want to hear more than three songs at a time," Penn said. "I would much rather just rock with an entire album and wait until the next one."

Some students prefer CDs for their tangibility.

"When I buy someone's album, it's not just because I like the music," said Rahson Taylor, a junior computer information systems major. "I buy it for the actual CD and the book that comes along with it."

But others are embracing the intertwining of music and technology in the midst of an Ipod craze.

"It's just so much more convenient," said junior international business major James Carpenter about digital music. "You don't have to worry about the hassle of carrying a CD player and CDs. Mp3 players are smaller and they can store more music than CDs."

Warner Music Group's Cordless Recordings does not mark the first time a music distributor has experimented with CD-free retailing. The Universal Music Group pioneered the market last November with its revolutionary model, Universal Music Enterprises Digital Group also known as UMe Digital.

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