Public Enemy's Chuck D. Is Talkin' 'Bout a Music Revolution
Public Enemy have become the first major label rap artists to break free from a record company, and release an entire album via the internet. The new album There's a Poison Goin' On will be released on May 19th in a variety of downloadable formats through net music label Atomicpop.com.
Autographed copies of There's a Poison Goin' On can be pre-ordered at Atomic pop.com. CD's are going for ten dollars and cassettes for eight.
No price has been determined for the downloadable versions. And the album won't be available in record stores until June 21st.
Quote from Chuck D's Terrordome on School Killings in Colorado
It's All Falling Together On May 3rd...
3:55 pm Public Enemy Sign To Atomic Pop
Announcing their partnership to market and promote the group's forthcoming studio album, Public Enemy will be the first major artist to embrace the online space as the exclusive platform for the release of a new album.
The album, itself, There's A Poison Goin' On will undergo a rigorous online campaign, marketing, sales and distribution prior to its release through normal channels.
"I have been accustomed to making revolutionary moves in a revolutionary genre which has always run parallel with technology," said Chuck D. "I've come across Al Teller (Atomic Pop's co-founder) on two significant occasions in the past, and always thought of him as a record rebel at the executive level. Atomic Pop's blend of the record game and the tech game, makes it a launching pad for new powerful ideas that Public Enemy has in store for 2000."
first full studio offering from the group since 1994, There's A Poison
Goin' On will be available for a mere $10.00 from AtomicPop.com and simultaneously
via digital download beginning early May. It won't be in the shops until
PE: This Time It's Poisonal
The band have signed a deal with Atomic Pop, who describe themselves as "the web's first full-service, vertically integrated music company", to promote and market their forthcoming studio album, 'There's A Poison Goin' On', entirely over the web.
It's the band's first new material since 'Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age' in 1994.
Atomic Pop founder Al Teller, who worked with Public Enemy on their debut album 'Yo! Bum Rush The Show' as the former head of MCA Music Entertainment Group and President of CBS Records, said: "Chuck D has been a music visionary and will now prove to be a music business visionary as well. He deeply understands the profound impact Internet technology will have on bringing an artist's music directly to its fans as well as the enormous empowerment the web provides artists to that end."
He went on: "Our relationship with Chuck D and Public Enemy will serve as a strong example of the alternatives rapidly becoming available to artists on all levels."
The band's new album will retail at $10 from atomicpop.com and via digital download from early May, before it goes on to be sold in traditional record stores on June 21.
Chuck D described Teller as a "record rebel at the executive level" and went on: "I have been accustomed to making revolutionary moves in a revolutionary genre which has always run parallel with technology.
"Atomic Pop's blend of the record game and the tech game makes it a launching pad for new powerful ideas that Public Enemy has in store for 2000.
The first single from the album, 'Do You Wanna Go Our Way???', will be available as a 12" single, CD single and digital download later in the month.
Public Enemy have already released a free MP3 track 'Swindler's Lust' on their website, a scathing attack on the music industry in the wake of their departure from Def Jam.
Public Enemy announce internet album details
The chorus of the track 'Swindler's Lust', recentlly posted on their web sie in MP3 format, contains the lines -"If you don't own the master, the master owns you, who you trust, from Swindler's Lust, from the back of the bus, neither one of us, control the fate of our soul, it's Swindler's Lust." A single ‘Do You Wanna Go Our Way', is due to be released via Atomic Pop and the band's own web site (www.public-enemy.com) before the end of April.
Public Enemy move ahead with net release of new album
Atomic Pop will release the album online early May making it the world's first online album release. It will be available in store on June 21.
Chuck D says "I have been accustomed to making revolutionary moves in a revolutionary genre which has always run parallel with technology".
Public Enemy took on their label Def Jam after executives told them to take down MP3 files off their official web site. The songs were intended for release of their next album "Bring The Noise 2000".
Chuck D. says the weasels are now running scared with the technology.
"There's A Poison Going On" will be Public Enemy's first full studio album since 1994's "Muse Sick-N-Hour Message".
Last year they also released the soundtrack to "He Got Game".
Chuck D Compares Net Release Of New LP To War Games: Upcoming album would
be the first to be issued by a high-profile act for download.
On that day, more than a month before the album hits store shelves, listeners will be able to download the disc in a variety of digital formats through the Internet music label Atomic Pop (www.atomicpop.com).
"It's millennium music," Chuck D said. "The album is like no other rap and hip-hop album. ... We try to move the little kids and maybe some of the R&B stuff out of the way. This is the most aggressive music imaginable."
The collection marks the first time an artist of this stature has released a new album online in its entirety. It's also the highest-profile promotion to date for the recently launched Atomic Pop.
Chuck D said he and Atomic Pop founder Al Teller -- a veteran of 30 years in the music industry -- aim to revolutionize a staid music business in part through their partnership.
"[Teller] knows enough about the record business to attack it," said the 38-year-old rapper (born Carlton Ridenhour) on Friday. "You can't attack the monster or reinvent different ways [of doing business] if you don't know what the monster's about. We're both on the outside looking in, firing our missiles."
In January, Chuck D said There's a Poison Goin' On would be offered for free downloading for at least four weeks on the band's own website (www.public-enemy.com). On Friday he said those plans were shelved when he entered the venture with Atomic Pop. Customers will be charged a fee for downloading the album.
Nonetheless, Chuck D acknowledged that downloaded copies of the album could be illegally reposted for free online, and fans with the CD version could make their own MP3 files of the songs and distribute them over the Net.
Neither scenario seemed to bother Chuck D.
"I would be a hypocrite if I said, 'No, don't do that,' " said the rapper, who has long pushed for fans and artists to ignore the traditional machinations of the music industry. "That could be a company concern, but I'm an artist. I make music."
Chuck D formed Public Enemy in Garden City, N.Y., in 1982 with rapper Flavor Flav, DJ Terminator X and minister of information Professor Griff. The band rose to popularity with such politically charged albums as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) and Fear of a Black Planet (1990).
Both $10 CD and $8 cassette versions of the new album, autographed by Chuck D, can be pre-ordered through Atomic Pop to be shipped May 18. Those formats (minus the autograph) arrive in stores June 21. The downloadable version will be less expensive than pre-ordered CDs, although neither a price nor the digital formats to be used have been determined.
Industry analyst Mark Hardie said he would be surprised if the Internet release made money, but he added that the music business will be studying the album closely.
"Everyone will be watching to see how successful it is in driving the sale of CDs," said Hardie, who tracks the entertainment and technological industries for Forrester Research. "If it pushes sales in stores, every A&R person [executive who develops artists and their repertoire] will be incorporating a digital strategy into their plans for new and existing artists."
Former Pixies leader Frank Black and quirky pop-duo They Might Be Giants have released full albums online in the near-CD-quality MP3 format. Those bands have separate deals for the CD release of their work, while Atomic Pop will distribute all versions of There's a Poison Goin' On.
The Atomic Pop website includes a 45-second video trailer for the album featuring an excerpt of the first single, "Do You Wanna Go Our Way?" "Who dropped the bomb on hip-hop?" Chuck D raps over a futuristic soundscape. "Who got Biggie, and who shot Tupac?" he asks, referring to the still-unsolved murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher Wallace).
The album marks the most substantial online offering to date from the envelope-pushing P.E. Last year the group offered MP3s of several remixes on its website, a move that drew the ire of Def Jam, the group's label at the time. In January, the group issued a new cut called "Swindler's Lust" (RealAudio excerpt) on the site in MP3.
"Chuck is a very visionary guy, not just musically, but in terms of where he thinks the industry is going and the technology's gonna take it," Teller said last month. Atomic Pop also has done promotions with hard-rockers L7 and the reunited Blondie.
Before founding Atomic Pop in Santa Monica, Calif., Teller held top spots at the CBS and MCA label groups during the 1980s and '90s. He first met Public Enemy when he brought Def Jam into the CBS fold in the 1980s.
The modern marketplace is all about access, Chuck D said. "There are plenty of ways that the people can get the P.E. record. May the most innovative consumer win."
Public Enemy to Release Album Online
Chuck D has long been an advocate of the power of the Internet to give artists more control of their music and the ability to market directly to consumers. "I have been accustomed to making revolutionary moves in a revolutionary genre which has always run parallel with technology," he says.
Atomic Pop said its pact with Public Enemy was a prototype of the unique relationship it offers artists. "Chuck D has been a music visionary and will now prove to be a music business visionary as well," Atomic Pop founder Al Teller says. "He deeply understands the profound impact Internet technology will have on bringing an artist's music directly to its fans as well as the enormous empowerment the Web provides artists to that end."
There's a Poison Going On marks Public Enemy's first full studio release since Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age in 1994, though they recorded and released an album of material for Spike Lee's film He Got Game in 1998. Atomic Pop is already taking preorders and will offer the album for $10 and simultaneously through digital download by early May.
In 1998, Public Enemy posted several MP3 tracks on its official Web site from Bring the Noise 2000, then intended to be the group's next album. Pressure from its longtime label, Def Jam, and its corporate parent, Universal/Polygram, forced the tracks off the site, against the band's will. "It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire," Chuck D said at the time. "The execs, lawyers, and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp." Public Enemy left the label shortly afterward.
8:44 am edt Public Enemy Releases Album Online
Online record label Atomic Pop signed the group to an exclusive Internet distribution contract Thursday.
``There's A Poison Goin On'' will be available for download directly online, but the group's fans also will be able to order a $10 CD by mail beginning in early May. The album will be available in record stores on June 16.
``Atomic Pop's blend of the record game and the tech game, makes it a launching pad for new powerful ideas that Public Enemy has in store for 2000,'' Public Enemy frontman Chuck D said.
A spokesperson for San Diego-based Atomic Pop said the album would be available for download as an MP3 or similarly compressed audio file.
The deal marks yet another example of the recording industry's loosening control over content and distribution channels. The popular MP3 computer file compression format has given savvy music listeners the ability to store, trade and give away music over the Internet.
Musicians are increasingly using MP3 to market their songs directly to consumers, bypassing agents, record companies and other traditional distributors by putting audio files on their own Web sites, a practice that recently got Chuck D in trouble with record label, Def-Jam, which owned the rights to his songs.
Chuck D has since been outspoken in his quest to wrest control away from the larger record labels and secure higher revenue percentages for artists.
Atomic Pop was founded by Al Teller, former head of MCA Music Entertainment Group and President of CBS Records. The company's Web site was launched seven weeks ago.
Public Enemy offers new album online
The news is not entirely unexpected: A disagreement in December saw the group being forced to remove an MP3 version of "Bring The Noise 2000" by Universal, the group's corporate record label, from whom they have now split, causing leader Chuck D to comment, "It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire."
8:08:16 Rap Icon Public Enemy Signs With Atomic Pop
"Chuck D has been a music visionary and will now prove to be a music business visionary as well. He deeply understands the profound impact Internet technology will have on bringing an artist's music directly to its fans as well as the enormous empowerment the web provides artists to that end." said Al Teller, Atomic Pop's founder. "Our relationship with Chuck D and Public Enemy will serve as a strong example of the alternatives rapidly becoming available to artists on all levels."
Atomic Pop will release the first full studio offering from Public Enemy since MUSE SICK-N-HOUR MESS AGE in 1994. THERE'S A POISON GOIN ON will be available exclusively at atomicpop.com for $10.00 and simultaneously via digital download, beginning early May, prior to its availability in traditional record stores on June 21, 1999. Pre-orders will be taken online starting today.
"I have been accustomed to making revolutionary moves in a revolutionary genre which has always run parallel with technology. I've come across Al Teller on two significant occasions in the past, and always thought of him as a record rebel at the executive level" adds Chuck D. "Atomic Pop's blend of the record game and the tech game, makes it a launching pad for new powerful ideas that Public Enemy has in store for 2000."
Over the past few years, Chuck D has been a highly outspoken advocate of the Internet. He has explained the power of the Internet to put artists back in control of their music, including the ability to put their music directly in front of consumers, bypassing traditional industry bottlenecks. Chuck D has spoken at numerous new technology & music based conferences, as well as being one of the first significant artist to post his own songs in the MP3 format.
This partnership reunites Chuck D and Teller, who first worked together on Public Enemy's debut album. They share a similar vision and understanding of the future of the music industry. Ironically, Chuck prophesized the reunion with Teller in his 1994 track "An Interactive Phone Conversation with Harry Allen."
Public Enemy, considered one of the most definitive and controversial rap groups of all time, debuted on the rap scene in 1987 with the powerful YO BUM RUSH THE SHOW, and followed it up with 1988's classic platinum recording IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK. The band's next record, FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET featured the hard-hitting single "Fight The Power" which became an anthem in Spike Lee's film DO THE RIGHT THING. They have released a total of seven albums that have produced three multi-platinum albums, three gold albums, four gold singles, and a platinum home video. Public Enemy's most recent release was a reunion with Spike Lee on HE GOT GAME, which featured songs written specifically for the film, and was the first soundtrack created entirely by a rap group.
The first single, appropriately titled "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???," will be available as a 12" vinyl single, CD single and digital download.
Chuck D & Public Enemy are ready to lead the way into the new millennium and feel there are a legion of fans ready to go "Our Way."
Public Enemy Marketing Downloadable Album Through Atomic Pop
A single, ironically titled "Do You Wanna Go Our Way?," will be available as a 12" vinyl single, CD single and digital download.
Atomic Pop founder Al Teller, former head of MCA Music Entertainment Group, president of CBS Records and CEO of Alliance Entertainment [see 2.23.99 Webnoize Interview: Al Teller and 2.12.99 Teller Launching Music Distribution Destination], describes the site as a "music-driven, lifestyle web platform that leverages the digital medium to bridge the gap between artists and consumers." The site launched in February.
"I've come across Al Teller on two significant occasions in the past, and always thought of him as a record rebel at the executive level," Public Enemy leader Chuck D said.
Blondie was the first established act to embrace Atomic Pop's marketing platform. On February 22, the site webcast an online premiere of Blondie Live, a collection of performances of new songs and hits.
Punk/metal act L7 was the first established act to sign to Atomic Pop, releasing a new single via digital download and as a limited-edition mail-order 7-inch vinyl single, available exclusively through the web site.
It is no surprise that Chuck D is using the Internet as an important sales outlet for Public Enemy. In December, Def Jam Records and PolyGram Special Markets acted to prevent PE from offering MP3-encoded tracks from a "best of" album, Bring the Noise 2000, for free download on the band's official web site, a move that Chuck D said he anticipated [see 12.3.98 Public Enemy Brings the Noise to MP3 Battle and 1.13.99 Public Enemy To Deliver Album While MP4 Debate Continues].
"This is a fun game of war," Chuck D told Webnoize at the time. "I have a stick, and they [industry execs] have tanks. [But] I think they're running scared now."
Chuck D also said that PE planned to form an "MP3 intensive" label, called Slam Jamz.
PE has released three multi-platinum albums, three gold albums, four gold singles, and a platinum home video. Its 1998 album, He Got Game, featured songs written specifically for Spike Lee's feature film of the same title.
13:00 est Public Enemy Finds An Online Home For New Album
PE will partner with Atomic Pop (at atomicpop.com) to give Netizens first crack at "There's a Poison Goin On," the group's upcoming studio album, in May. Atomic Pop will promote, market, sell, and distribute the record exclusively online for a period of time before it hits stores on June 21. For $10, fans will be able to order the album or download it via Atomic Pop's website.
As with most announcements of this sort, the PE/Atomic Pop deal is being ushered in with a number of "first-ever" claims. Given the group's rather acrimonious split with its previous label (Def Jam) and PE's penchant for new technology, it looks to be one that will be watched closely. The group has long supported online music distribution and clashed with Def Jam when the group posted an MP3 of a new song on its official website.
"It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire," PE frontman Chuck D later wrote on the site about the label's move (see "Public Enemy Remix Album Pulled From The Net"). D later expressed those feelings further on the Net-only track "Swindler's Lust," in which D rapped, "Gotta li'l rhyme but we barely get a dime... If you don't own da master then da master own you / Who you trust from Swindler's Lust" (see "Public Enemy Lambasts Labels With "Swindler's Lust").
Soon after, the group ended its 12-year relationship with Def Jam, and D pledged that PE would release a new album on the Internet in the spring.
Public Enemy To Release New Album On Net
The new album, ‘There’s A Poison Goin On’ will be available by digital download through online record label Atomic Pop sometime in May. It is the band’s seventh album. Their last proper album was 1994’s ‘Muse Sick-N-Hour Message’ although they did release the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s ‘He Got Game’in 1998. Public Enemy are the first major act to sign to Atomic Pop.
As previously reported on Music365, PE split acrimoniously with their longtime label Def Jam records earlier this year. The band had recorded an eighth LP, ‘Bring The Noise 2000’ which Def Jam refused to release. Last December Public Enemy put MP3 files of some of the tracks - remixes of earlier Public Enemy material - on their website, which resulted in a wrangle with Def Jam that led to the band leaving the label. After that, frontman CHUCK D vowed that the seminal rap act would sidestep traditional recording channels and release their next album on the Internet. A new song commenting on the split with Def Jam and outlining the band's new Net-centric policy, 'Swindler's Lust', was posted on the site earlier this year.
The new album will cost $8 to download and will be also sold in CD format on the website for $10. The band will also make the album available in shops from June 16.
P.E.’s single ‘Do You Wanna Go Our Way', due to be released on the band's own website in the next few days, will also be made available through Atomic Pop.
For more information contact the Public Enemy website at www.public-enemy.com or the Atomic Pop label on www.atomicpop.com.
6:53 pm edt Public Enemy Sign To Web Label
1:00 pm pdt Public Enemy Goes Atomic
P.E.'s Poison will be available for download via Atomic Pop's website in early May. Although Billboard has reported that the album will be sold over the Web in downloadable form for $8, a spokesperson for the label says the price has yet to be determined.
In addition, Poison will also be on CD from Atomic Pop for $10, an Atomic Pop spokesperson confirms. It will hit traditional retail outlets on June 16.
This marks this first full-length album from Atomic Pop, which debuted earlier this year with a one-off deal with Los Angeles-based girl rockers L7. Atomic Pop has signed five other acts, including Jewish rappers Blood Of Abraham, once signed to the late Eazy-E's Ruthless Records.
Late last year in an interview with LAUNCH, Chuck D raged against the record industry machine, questioning the pricing of CDs and noting that the advent of digital downloading has allowed "everybody to pretty much come to the game and play fair ball".
Following its split from Def Jam, P.E. issued the downloadable track "Swindler's Lust" via its website, www.public-enemy.com. In the track, Chuck D further railed against the injustices in the music business with the opening salvo, "A dollar a rhyme, but we barely get a dime"
11:00 am edt Public Enemy Is No. 1 For Atomic Pop
Public Enemy is the first major act to sign with Atomic Pop, which was founded by former MCA Music Entertainment Group chairman/CEO Al Teller. A single, "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???," will also be available from the label, as a CD single, on 12-inch vinyl, or via digital download. Prices on the single configurations have not been determined.
Rocking Out Online: Chuck D, The Beastie Boys and Todd Rundgren all do
it…soon, so will you.
Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. There's no reason to get misty-eyed just yet. But in a few years, your computer may make trips to Tower and The Wall obsolete. With the onset of online music stores, radio stations and record labels, as well as MP3s ("CD-quality" downloadable music files), the music industry is feeling the effects of an Internet tremor that's about to become an earthquake, changing the way you acquire music.
The latest news from cyberspace will undoubtedly rattle the Richter scale. Chuck D, leader of the groundbreaking rap group Public Enemy, has just inked a deal with the new online record label Atomic Pop. Though other artists have attempted to sell their music over the Net, this arrangement is a great sign of faith in the power of online retailing and distribution.
Last August, Upper Darby native Todd Rundgren introduced a service entitled PatroNet (www.tr-i.com/pitch.html) which makes it possible for subscribers to purchase different packages of new Rundgren music, costing between $20 and $60. As the name PatroNet suggests, subscribers are patrons who aren't paying for a particular album, but a more loosely defined assurance of things such as "three new installments of audio on CD." It's hard to say how well PatroNet is doing because the company won't release the number of its subscribers. Though Rundgren hopes other artists will sell their music via PatroNet, he's the only musician currently doing so.
Chuck D's decision to release Public Enemy's music online may not be surprising to those following his group's tussles with its former record label, Def Jam. Last December, Chuck (a.k.a. Carl Ridenhour) posted MP3s of previously unreleased remixes on Public Enemy's Web site (http://www.publicenemy.com/). Def Jam's parent company, Universal, forced the group to remove the downloads. Public Enemy responded by posting a track entitled "Swindler's Lust," which invoked a phrase popularized by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince: "If you don't own the masters [the master recordings, that is], the master owns you." Not surprisingly, Public Enemy and Def Jam, the company that had released all of the group's albums since the late '80s, parted ways. For several months, Chuck D has been on a crusade to tell other artists about his plans to distribute music online, speaking earlier this year at New York's Music and Internet Expo and the Silicon Alley '99 conference.
"The industry has gotten away with bloody murder," said Chuck in February at the Silicon Alley panel discussion "Convergence: The Future of Media," accusing record labels of taking an unfair cut for musicians' work.
Public Enemy isn't the only group that's raised an eyebrow at its record label by posting MP3s. Last summer, the Beastie Boys offered free downloads of live tracks from their recent American tour on their Web site.
Was Capitol afraid that fans might turn high-quality sound files into bootlegs?
"I'm sure they were," says Lisa LaCour, who oversees the Beastie Boys' Web site. Getting approval for the project took numerous phone calls. Though LaCour says the band wasn't worried about anyone burning the MP3s onto CDs and selling them, label executives and lawyers were less than thrilled about the idea.
(City Paper's calls to Capitol about the subject weren't returned.)
"The record industry wouldn't be as freaked out by MP3 if they actually tried using it," says the Beastie Boys' Mike D. Mike finds the MP3 song downloads to be clunky; however, he's a big fan of a new product named Shoutcast, which uses MP3 technology.
Using Shoutcast, LaCour recently created Grand Royal Radio, an in-house radio station that plays artists on the Beastie Boys' label, Grand Royal, over the label's Web site. The Shoutcast stream of music is "CD quality," but, reportedly can't be recorded onto a computer receiving the signal.
LaCour says Grand Royal Radio has not only increased traffic to the site, but also spurred interest in Grand Royal artists and increased music sales because visitors to the Grand Royal site can hear the music and if they like it, buy it with a point and click.
Still, LaCour notes these sales are negligible in big picture: "No matter what anyone tells you, records aren't selling that well online." Last year, online record sales accounted for about 1 percent of the music industry's $12 billion in sales.
Al Teller, founder of Chuck D's new online record label, Atomic Pop (http://www.atomicpop.com/), predicts that will change very soon. As the former CEO of MCA records, he is an old hand in the record business and a long-standing proponent of the Internet.
In the 1993 Musician cover story, "Future Shocks: The End of the Music Business As We Know It," Teller, then head of MCA, called upon large record companies to embrace the Internet.
Well, guess what, it's almost time to start stacking your compact discs along with your 8-tracks.
Six years later, after leaving MCA and a tumultuous stint with the independent label Red Ant, he has left the big leagues behind for a much smaller, riskier proposition.
"We're trying to be the model for the 21st century record label," explains Teller on the phone from Atomic Pop's Los Angeles offices. Not only will the startup label allow artists to own their master tapes (typically unheard of at major labels), but it will also offer them a bigger share of the profits and short-term deals.
In early May, Public Enemy's new album, There's a Poison Goin On, will be available as both an encrypted $8 download and $10 CD. By removing the middle-man distributors, explains Teller, Atomic Pop can offer its products at a much lower rate than the typical major-label CD price of $16.98.
Major labels, on the other hand, are still hemming and hawing over Internet sales. All of them have Web sites to promote their artists, but few use them to sell albums. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents U.S. labels, openly blames MP3s for a decrease in sales among teenagers and has attempted to stop the sale of the Rio portable MP3 player. As for major labels selling digital downloads, they've banded together in the Secure Digital Music Initiative with plans of fostering industry-wide downloading standards. But no one seems to be rushing. Many labels say they're waiting to find a viable system that will keep bootleggers at bay.
"It's not the technology that's holding them back, it's an industry not willing to move forward," opines Seema Williams, an analyst of online retail strategies with the Cambridge-based Forrester Research company. Selling copyrighted digital downloads is the easy part, she says. The problem is that once record labels start selling their albums over their own Web sites (both as a digital downloads and hard product), they'll be competing with retailers.
"[Record labels] depend on retailers. There's a concern that if these large companies offer music online they will be creating a conflict with the retailers whose shelf space they still need… hiding behind the piracy issue is the way for them to stave off making those decisions."
Williams predicts that by 2003, 20 percent of all music sales will be online. Right now, only 34 million households are currently wired up and the consumer base for an online record label is severely constricted. Realizing this, Atomic Pop plans to release the new Public Enemy album in stores come June. The company will also do some offline marketing (traditional street campaigns, etc.), but its approach will be much leaner than usual.
"When we sit down with an artist, we tell them we're not interested in making $250,000 videos or spending $150,000 in promotion, but we're willing to do smart things," says Teller. "So many marketing promotions are based on loading a cannon filled with money, pulling the chord and hoping when the dust settles something good has happened."
The biggest advantage of an online label, says Teller, is that marketing plans don't need to be worked out months in advance. The company can kick around ideas in the morning and, hypothetically, put them in practice by the afternoon.
But if all Teller's crew is doing is sitting around and thinking of new ways to sell a band, can't anyone do that? Who needs a record label - 21st century or not?
"Theoretically an artist can do it online, but it takes financial resources and marketing know-how to do it well," responds Teller. If an artist has the wherewithal to keep a site current and consistently exciting, then they might be able to do it, he adds. Atomic Pop has music news, comics and games, hoping to lure more surfers to their Web page.
The folks at Forrester Research, however, figure that within the next couple of years a "garage band" will prove that it's possible to become a national presence through online "word of mouth."
"It has to happen," says Williams. "There are just too many people trying to do the same thing for someone not to get it right."
Chuck D's venture with Atomic Pop isn't the only event this year bound to shake up online music business. In June, Musicland, the nation's largest music retailer, plans to launch its e-commerce site, attempting to stake a claim in the battle for online music customers being waged most notably by CDnow and Amazon.com.
Since merging with N2K (Music Boulevard) in March, Fort Washington's CDnow claims to be the largest music retailer in cyberspace. Of course, representatives from Seattle's Amazon.com say they're the biggest and neither company has yet to release its first-quarter sales.
Actually, Amazon.com is still deciding whether or not it will release its first-quarter music sales separately from Amazon.com's overall figures, "to give Wall Street good guidance," says Greg Hart, Amazon.com's music product manager. In case you don't follow the stock market, Amazon.com's stock price has fluctuated quite a bit over the past year. CDnow's hasn't been doing so hot, either. That's probably because neither company has ever shown a profit. Both are spending millions of dollars in marketing to establish their brand name and offering super bargains to consumers in hopes of creating brand loyalty.
This year, New York's Jupiter Communications expects the amount of Internet sales to rise to $280 million (about $140 million more than last year). Even though online music sales are still relatively low, Musicland (which is the parent company of Sam Goody and Suncoast) wants to establish its name in cyberspace.
"There have always been new distribution methods. This is not a new phenomenon," assures Marcia Appel, Musicland's senior vice president for corporate communications. "This is what we have been dealing with for over 40 years. We know how to roll with the punches."
Musicland is banking on its established brand names to carry over into cyberspace. Jason Olim, president and CEO of CDnow, points to his company's incredibly large inventory (nearly 500,000 products) as their major point of advantage. Amazon.com won't say how many products it offers, but both have low, low prices.
How will this all shake out and change the way we buy records?
In 1999, several established "brick-and-mortar" retailers, such as Musicland, will head onto the information superhighway, says Ken Cassar, an analyst in Jupiter Communications' digital commerce group. You may also start seeing computer kiosks in stores that enable you to order albums not stocked in the confines of retail shelves. And the impact of Internet sales will soon be seen in the decrease in the number of record stores, particularly in the suburbs and more remote spots where there are lots of computers and small record stores.
"Internet sites are going to become destination points for people who are looking for price and depth in a particular category," says Cassar.
Appel says the Internet has yet to affect Musicland's building plans. The company will build 15 stores this year, which is one more than last year, but a huge drop from 1995, when the chain built 175.
The established retail outlets will probably move slugglishly online compared with their online-only counterparts, leaving Amazon.com and CDnow to battle it out. There's also the hope from players such as Appel that the Internet phenomenon will bring new music consumers into the marketplace.
Finally, once you decide to buy your music online, should you purchase it as a CD or download? Well, guess what, it's almost time to start stacking your compact discs along with your 8-tracks. Several industry experts say the format's viability is in its final years (though it may take a decade or so before they're phased out).
What will replace them? No one is sure. At the moment, downloads take a lot of time and aren't very transportable. (See "I Want My MP3" for more about the Rio portable MP3 player.) Beginning this summer, CDnow will start offering a wide selection of downloads.
Olim estimates that download sales may be about a million out of hundreds of millions of online music sales.
"That amount of sales may not be huge, but it will be important," he says.
Sean Byrne, a member of the band Lenola who runs the label Tappersize and works at CDnow, has mixed feelings about the onset of music's digital era. He's thrilled that computer-savvy people from as far away as Australia and the Philippines are raving about Lenola and buying their records. He also says MP3s sound "great," but he has a soft spot for more antiquated technology.
"Everyone talks about the interactivity of computers and technology," he says, explaining why his label will continue to press vinyl singles (even though they were supposed to die with the advent of compact discs). "There's something about the packaging and getting up and putting on the record… it's interactive in its own way."
The Enemy Strikes Back With Atomic Pop Deal
Chuck D Promises MP3 Single By End Of April
The track is called 'Do You Wanna Go our Way', and in a posting on the group's website, leader CHUCK D says "I guarantee that it will provoke stares first, then head nods and a new hysteria by July 1999. This ladies and gents is new music. A return to some noise only your ass can explain."
He likens the track to such tracks from the band's past as 'Public Enemy #1', 'Rebel Without A Pause', 'Welcome To the Terrordome' and 'Bring The Noise. Chuck D also adds: Shit, finally everybody's caught up with our future and I'm glad Def Scam ain't gettin' this. They'd probably be afraid of it. Mark my word, the PE happening is this month and a schedule and further announcement is comin' very, very soon."
A new album, called 'There's A Poison Going On', is due to be released soon, according to Chuck D. It will be the band's seventh album. The group have also recorded an eighth, 'Bring The Noise 2000', which Def Jam refused to release. Last December Public Enemy put MP3 files of some of the tracks - remixes of earlier Public Enemy material - over their website, which resulted in a wrangle with Def Jam that led to the band leaving the label.
Enemy's website has become ever more important since the band's split with
Def Jam. Chuck D has also made public plans to create an Internet record
label to distribute MP3 files of Public Enemy songs and material from other
artists in the future.