By Antony Bruno
Filed in the “better late than never” category is the decision by Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group to start making singles available for sale the same day they’re released to radio.
Called “on air, on sale,” the policy will start Feb 1 and is limited to the UK for now, but hopefully we’ll see this expand to all territories sooner rather than later.
Typically, labels would set-up singles by sending them to radio often weeks in advance of them being for sale at retail or at sites like iTunes with the idea that airplay would build buzz and awareness. This harkens back to the days when music was available primarily in physical form and was meant to support the album. It also was designed to affect chart position (having an “event” sales day was designed to generate a bunch of sales in one week rather than spreading them out over time — more overall sales is better than one week’s chart position, right?)
But Universal Music chief executive David Joseph says labels found Google and iTunes searches would peak when they first came out on radio, sometimes two weeks before they were actually available for sale. “Wait is not a word in the vocabulary of the current generation. It’s out of date to think that you can build up demand for a song by playing it for several weeks on radio in advance,” he told The Guardian.
The fear of course is that those interested fans were downloading the song from pirate sites for lack of any alternative. And while this is positioned largely as a piracy-battling move, it’s something all labels should be doing across the board regardless.