By Richard Menta 10/5/09
The value of a song track has been dropping to near zero for about a decade now, helped in part by various record label miscues with digital rights management that only drove down the price quicker (See our October 2001 article Devaluing the Product - Copyright-Protected CDs and our November 2005 article Devaluing the Product Part II - Sony Music CDs Threaten PCs for two examples). In a move that completes the downturn psychobilly artist and Sirius Satellite Radio host Mojo Nixon announced that he will soon release his entire catalog for free, including his upcoming release Whiskey Rebellion.
"I'm just the kind of crazy person to do it," Nixon told Digital Music News. "What do I have to lose? I'll make more money off of this in the long run." Nixon, who "officially" retired from touring and recording back in 2004, probably sees the money coming from traditional means. Giving away the entire catalog in digital form is in essense an awareness campaign to build greater recognition for both artist and the music. Mojo Nixon's probable end-game is traditional CD sales to existing fans and any new fans the promotion may draw. Higher awareness also translates into higher venue fees should Nixon decide to return to the road.
The promotion also reinforces the notion that the value of a digital download (for now we'll separate it from from CD and vinyl) has indeed dropped to zero. This may additionally recognize the fact that young people now eschew radio for the Internet as a source of new music, a change that broadcast vets like Nixon are keenly aware of. The promotional powers of file sharing have always evident, even way back at the turn of this soon-to-be-over first decade of the millenium.
But are digital tracks really worth zero? As Digital Music News publisher Paul Resnikoff pointed out $1.29 tracks are like $8 ice cream cones. There will be people who will pay the high cone price (New York Yankee fans), but most will simply pass. Amazon, who will deliver the new album, is obviously hoping that the free music will help jump start sales on its digital download service. This may seem like a contridiction to how Nixon's plans to deliver his music, but the effort of selling records in all of its forms are more flexible than many in the industry wish to admit.
Whiskey Rebellion along with the rest of Mojo Nixon's oeuvre will be available for $0.00 this Wednesday, October 7th. "I'm trying to jump-start the black market economy" said Nixon.