At the turn of the millennium fat cat record label bosses made a decision which ultimately determined the current downturn of the music industry today. Remember Napster? The popular P2P file sharing program that everyone around you had, you know the one where you'd download dozens of Will Smith albums, the latest singles, maybe even a new Mariah Carey track for your girlfriend. Napster existed for free.
The record industry were making more money than they'd ever made from CDs. New singles by Britney Spears were flying off the shelves quicker than Justin Bieber tickets sell on ticketmaster. Understandably, label bosses hated Napster. Why would they give away the new N*Sync album for free when they could make enough money to buy a few round the world trips instead? They didn't know how to deal with it, and instead of opening a merger with the company, it was destroyed.
Since the creation of online music distributing behemoth, iTunes (formed by the gap in the online music market) the money making music industry as we once knew it has single handedly fallen flat on it's face. Look through HMV (is there even one in your town anymore?) and you won't even be able to find the latest single. Besides, many wouldn't buy it even if they could. Mediafire, Google and Blogs are a god-send.
The time, effort and money which has gone into creating music, is often forgotten. Trying to exist in an environment where the common ground is to give stuff away for free is hard.
Thankfully, with the release of his LP Blue Slide Park, Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller has developed a release system beneficial for everyone involved.
Speaking on his UStream last night, Miller announced details of the pre-order for Blue Slide Park. The record is set to be released officially on 8th November, however eager fans will be able to get their hands on a copy early, providing there's enough demand.
In an interview with UK newspaper The Independent, Miller stated that the format of the release would revolve around the fans participation. However, not only will the fans benefit from the release system, the less fortunate will too.
For the first 25K pre-orders, Mac will drop the albums title track, Blue Slide Park. If 50,000 fans pre-order the album, then Miller will personally donate $50,000 to the Make A Wish foundation. Finally, if 100,000 kids lay down their benjamins for the album, then Blue Slide Park will be released earlier than expected.
The uniqueness of this format is that both the artist, and fan, benefit from buying into the album. In the past bands have released records for free -- Radiohead released their album In Rainbows with an optional pay system -- unfortunately, unless the artist doesn't mind living off benefits, or is in-fact, Radiohead, then this release system is virtually impossible to make a living from.
However with the Blue Slide Park format, the artist earns the money that they deserve, whilst fans are rewarded for parting with their hard earned cash. As fans can ultimately, 'decide' when the record comes out, the connection between artist and fan sits at a high level of participation, with power being brought back into the hands of the fans. The format could also potentially eliminate the notorious 'album leak,' because providing the demand exists, then the record will drop early.
I managed to grab a couple of minutes to chat with Mac Miller about the release format for Blue Slide Park.
First up -- why did you choose to release Blue Slide Park in such a unique way?
Because being independent allows me to do whatever I want. I like to use that as an opportunity to do cool things for my fans. This was a way to make the release exciting for my fans and really get them involved. No one ever does anything special with pre-orders and this is a way to make every step of the album important.
Why have you chosen Make A Wish Foundation?
I just feel like that is a foundation that makes dreams come true. That is what I'm all about. What I'm doing right now is such a blessing, because I got to see my dream become a reality and I would like to pass that feeling on to as many people as possible. There's something special about something that seems so unlikely in your head, to become real. I want to help give that feeling to people.
Is there any indication on how many copies have been pre-ordered so far?
We had a great first night as far as what your everyday pre order does... but we have a long way to go. It's going to be an interesting and exciting ride.
I also had a chance to speak to Benjy Grinberg, president of Rostrum Records, who said --
It's important for us to get across the notion that this isn't about getting 100,000 preorders or about commerce at all. It's the continuing conversation between Mac and his fans. It's about putting the power back into the fans' hands and telling them, "we'll do this your way."
Mac has a very direct relationship with his fans and our company is here to foster that.
And we want to continue to push the boundaries of what's possible as an independent company. You don't necessarily need a big radio program. You need a dedicated fanbase.
Mac understands the importance of always giving the fans a voice.
Whether we sell 5 pre-orders or 100,000, I feel like we've already accomplished something great. I'm very proud of Mac and the Rostrum team.
If the release system succeeds, then this format could very much be a system of the future. So far, all so good. After an hour of pre-orders the record reached number 4 on the iTunes chart, nestled behind pop songstress Adele. Although only time will tell if the format works, I'm quietly confident that Mac will reach his milestone, he's a hard-working kid, and his previous innovative tool for getting twitter followers -- dropping a new track for every 100,000 follows -- has seen the rappers following increase two-fold to almost 1 million. With a strong, innovative and independent label backing him and a dedicated fanbase, there's every reason why he should succeed.
Having recently finished up a UK tour, the U.S. rapper released the video for the second Blue Slide Park single, Smile Back. Check the video out for that below.
Follow Ryan Bassil on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryanbassil