US music labels turn to online media for promotions

NEW YORK: As radio airplay becomes harder to secure and music channels focus on reality television, record labels are looking at online promotions as a viable option. Internet sites such as Kazaa average about 14 million visitors a month while a music channel on AOL logged 10 million unique visitors in April, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Music companies in the US are aggressively pushing through deals with broadband operators and convergence companies such as AOL Time Warner's America Online, Yahoo!'s Launch and Microsoft's MSN in an attempt to drive sales. Online sites are busy promoting new artistes and lure surfers to pay for "premium offerings".

A still from Mumbai band's website

Meanwhile in India too, several budding Mumbai-based rock bands such as Metakix, Sceptre, Freedom amongst others have posted their offerings on the net to seek audiences beyond the geographic boundaries of the city. Metakix spokesperson Zombie claims that their songs are being downloaded by surfers abroad. Food for thought for companies that are planning to foray into the convergence realm - Reliance Infocomm, Bharti and other telecom majors.

An adage report states that the success of Avril Lavigne, a virtual unknown until early 2002, demonstrates the power of online marketing. The rocker's single Complicated debuted on AOL Music's Artist Discovery Network, on 8 March 2002 even before the track had even hit radio. The song logged more than 350,000 digital streams in a month's time, helping to greatly boost demand for her first album Let Go, released on 4 June 2002. The large number of hits played an important role in "convincing" radio stations to air the videos.

Even well-established artists like Jewel, whose latest release 0304 hit the stores on 3 June, benefit from online promotion. The Atlantic artist's single, Stand was streamed 740,000 times in one day (26 May) on AOL First Listen, adds the report. After the second day on First Listen and a Netscape promotion, the platinum-selling artist shot to No. 3 on Amazon's Top seller's list of the 100 hottest CDs based on advance orders. Atlantic saw a 30 per cent jump in CD sales in the first week of the release of Jewel's last album, Spirit.

For the online sites, especially subscription-based ones like America Online, offering exclusive access to artists is a way to entice users to spend more time online. In AOL's case, the race is on to convert the thousands of streams to MusicNet premium subscriptions and ultimately to broadband subscriptions. An adage report says that AOL is leveraging it's music offerings in order to move millions of narrowband subscribers to broadband.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report states that compact-disc shipments in the U.S. fell nearly 9 per cent in 2002, while shipments across all music formats dropped 11 per cent .

Major labels have high hopes that for-pay online music subscription services will reverse their declining fortunes. Are the Indian music companies listening?

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