Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Disc-overing past music

The bestseller industry such as book publishers and music companies has a two common problem: shelf space and the backlist. The companies fight for shelf space and as soon as bestsellers are out of fashion they belong to the backlist, together with the books or records that never became top of the bill.

Book publishers have now the opportunity to have books of their backlist scanned and published on demand. This individual request business is conflicting with the daily business of the publishers, who like to sell to bookshops and book clubs and not to an individual. But undoubtedly even if the target group is small languagewise, there will always be a company that like to handle the digitising and logistics of this process and offer a fee to the publishing company.

Record labels like Universal Music, Sony/BMG or EMI have also vast backlists, but they are usually hidden in vaults and may be analogue vinyl recordings. From 1980 onwards they have digital masters of the records. But of the period before, they have most likely analogue vinyl recordings.

Since MP3 players and iPODs have given a new incentive to the music industry, music companies are seriously contemplating the future of the backlist. It means that they have to digitise their active catalogue and later their analogue back catalogue. Of course the marketing of these songs and albums will mainly go by internet.

Recently Universal Music, the world's biggest record label, announced that is digging deep into its vaults to release download-only recordings from its vast back catalogue. It is embarking on a programme to digitise 100,000 out-of-print European recordings, beginning with 3,000 British, French and German albums from artists such as Marianne Faithfull and Brigitte Bardot. For young people it might be a re-disc-overy of Marianne Faithfull. IMHO Brigitte Bardot was not exactly a singer; her songs were not worth the vinyl they were copied on.


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