By Robert Menta- 2/20/00
Ok, your band was once the darling of the college radio circuit. You had several albums, a couple of hits and then, after a good run, it's over.
The band breaks up, and most of your albums are discontinued. Oh well, that's it right?
Camper Van Beethoven has released its entire back catalog of now discontinued albums free on the Internet in the MP3 format. Yes, that's right. Free.
The move may sound a bit silly at first, but in actuality it is quite a brilliant application of the promotion power of MP3. If successful, it may be repeated by other artist whose remaining legacy has long vanished from the cut-out bins.
All Camper has left of its glory days are two albums of excellent music left in print and a desire to release a new collection of live and previously unreleased tracks this March. The old albums remaining don't sell many copies anymore and the name recognition of the band to the present crop of college kids (once their core audience) is largely non-existant. The rest of their music? Gathering dust with no hope to see the light of day let alone earn some income.
Then some bright guy realized something. We are not earning anything from those old albums. They are doing us no good in permanent storage and the band is not reuniting anytime soon (David Lowery leads Cracker now who ARE well known to the under 25 crowd). Why not give the old music away? Terrific tunes that can not only bring together the old legion of fans but develop new ones.
The price is right. Free certainly can go a long way as MP3.com is trying to prove with the unsigned artists in its roster. Camper Van Beethoven's music is the music of established artists and I can tell you, the tunes available here is better than what you can mine from the ten's of thousands of singles on MP3.com.
This all comes down to a very interesting experiment. I, for one, hope it works. Right now I can name dozens of brilliant artists from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and even 90's whose records are sadly no longer available. Few of them could sell enough to overcome the costs of distribution and pressing new records.
But, in cyberspace, there are no records to press and distribution is free. That means most of the risk is eliminated. Taking those tune out of mothballs and opening them up to the world could develop a new group of fans. Fans to whom this music is as new as the legions of artists on MP3.com with one big difference. These old timers all actually sold their albums at one time, some even went gold.
As for Camper Van Beethoven, you can download all their music for free at Pitch-a-Tent records web site. If you haven't heard of them, we highly suggest starting with the great "Take the Skinheads Bowling" from their first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory. Listen to this one and you will be hooked.
Good luck guys.
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