R.E.M. Accelerates into Streaming
The mega-band R.E.M. is making a move into online streaming with their new release Accelerate due out in stores in two weeks. A week before that, however, members of iLike, a new online music service, will be able to stream the album in its entirety. This is just another in an increasing group of major artists that are leaving the traditional model of music for a more progressive one.
It wasn't long ago that Radiohead provided their album for free (albeit lossy MP3) with a request to "pay what you want" and Nine Inch Nails offered part of their album for free, full album for cheap, or full album and a bunch of extras for increasing amounts of money. Just yesterday we reported that Iron Maiden is offering their newest release for download for free but for only three plays before its DRM kicks in. Notice a trend here? Lots of artists doing it, every one doing it differently. This model is so new, they just don't know how to approach it yet.
The key here is that all these bands (regardless of what you or I might think of them) are huge stars. Huge stars with (for the most part) contracts with record labels that have expired (or with a very understanding label as is the case with R.E.M.). Of course it makes sense that they'd strike out on their own. They've got the brand recognition, the fan base, and the Internet is practically free for them to use. In this case it truly is a "build it and they will come" situation. R.E.M. may be unique in that it is still under contract, but don't forget that this is the last album under their current contract. It doesn't take much of an imagination to figure out why Warner is being so accommodating to them.
But what about smaller bands? What about those estimated millions of bands and musicians on places like MySpace and Facebook trying to gain a little attention and respect. Can they throw up a website and expect the money to come rolling in? Of course not. So this "new" model seems to be predicated on the success of the old. Sites like iLike are attempting to help these bands by giving them a location to upload their music and offer some (or all) of it for free in the hopes that they'll get noticed. RCRDLBL.com is out there buying songs from artists to offer for free on their site. Perhaps a band will make their mark that way. I'm sure there are sites being developed and released as I type that are working on new models. While this is an exciting time for music it is also a time a great uncertainty. As more and more mega-bands strike out on their own, it remains to be seen what this means for the new, up-and-coming bands of the future.
What concerns me is the possibility of some bands forgetting about the CD altogether. As someone who does not download, that would be bad.