By Robert Menta
Sony Music successfully derailed the MP3 release plans of one of their artists. After a heated exchange and threats of lawsuits, The Offspring were forced to cancel their planned giveaway of their upcoming album "Conspiracy Of One" on their Web site.
Rather than wait for Napster users to pick up and distribute the music through the software, the band had planned to take advantage of the promotional powers of MP3 themselves by using the downloads to bring that traffic straight to their site. To download the songs, users would need to supply their email that the band would collect and use in their marketing campaigns.
Even though the giveaway would almost certainly drive millions of fans (and millions of non-fans) to the Offspring's site, Sony vehemently opposed the plan and threatened to sue the upstart artists if they went through with the arrangements. The reason is because any success here, which the band and many industry watchers feel would increase hard CD sales, would also prove the promotional powers of free MP3's. That could take Napster off the hook in its legal case by supplying a non-infringing use.
"We were two seconds away from having a 'Reservoir Dogs' ending to this matter," Offspring manager Jim Guerinot wrote in an e-mail to sonicnet.com on Friday. "We both had lawsuits ready to drop in New York Friday morning."
Finally the label and the band came to an agreement that only the single "Original Prankster" will be available as a free download from the site, starting Sept. 29. As part of the promotion, fans can register to win $1 million - a contest initially linked with the planned full-album offer. The single download will be available through the band's official site, www.offspring.com.
The Offspring finally agreed not to release the album online because "The lawsuits would have been paralyzing, Guerinot said. Sony's suit would have prevented the band from proceeding with its plans to offer the album online and would've nixed the $1 million contest for fans.
Guerinot added "It sucks, because once people get their hands on the music, fans will have to turn to Napster and other distribution methods to take a listen, but they won't be able to find the songs at www.offspring.com. We will be the only site on the Web that will not have the Offspring's new music."
Still, the biggest loser from this decision may be Napster. If the campaign was successful, it would have proved that MP3 downloads are not a threat to CD sales but a promotional tool like radio. The Offspring's promotion would have also been repeated by dozens of other bands, all releasing their full array of album tracks before the actual CD release. Had this happened, the act of giving away music in MP3 would have become standard practice and the music industry's legal case against Napster would probably fall apart. After all, you can't be accused of stealing what is being given away.
But the music industry is not fighting against piracy, they are fighting to extend their oligopoly into the Net music arena. They don't want to cut in the MP3.coms and the Napsters, they want it all for themselves. If the Offspring were successful in their giveaway, Big Music's claims could unravel in the courtroom. Sony was not about to take a chance that might happen.
The major labels are also fighting their major artists, who once they build a name can flee the labels to build their own promotion and distribution entities online. That is what the Offspring are attempting to do, test the feasibility of this before they decide if they want to exit Sony Music.
90% of the music sold today is shared among five major labels (Sony, BMG, Time Warner, Universal, EMI). If Time Warner and EMI merge, the split goes four ways. This action against this band is just one of many steps to show who's bigger and proves Big Music's concern is not with the needs of their artists but the corporation and the high paid executives that run it.
Copyright 2000 MP3 Newswire. All rights reserved.
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