As the WSJ reports this morning, Madonna is leaving her record label, Warner Bros. Records, for...the concert promoter Live Nation? Yes, the very same Live Nation that clogs your in-box with Concert Updates, but that you don't unsubscribe from on the off-chance you can catch a gem, has now put on the record-label hat.
While I advocate challenges to the existing record-label model, I am curious how Live Nation will successfully be able to sell new Madonna albums. T-shirts - $25. Limited Edition Poster - $40. New Madonna CD - $50. Will people take the bait?
WSJ notes that:
It isn't clear when her first album for Live Nation would be delivered, nor is it clear how the promoter would distribute and promote the album, since the company has limited infrastructure to do so....People briefed on the deal speculated that Live Nation would enter a licensing arrangement with one or more traditional labels to release her albums.
No, it isn't clear.
Also, how much of a shock to the industry is this really? Madge is Madge, but how many other acts out there would (a) be able to afford lawyers to negotiate this kind of deal, (b) even be considered for this kind of deal, and/or (c) opt to venture into "virgin" territory? We all know that the real money for artists is in touring, and that big artists don't even really need labels if they have the built in fan-base. (Radiohead itself just released its new album exclusively on its website. See also Jeff Leeds, "In Radiohead Price Plan, Some See a Movement", New York Times (10/11/07 - Music) ("Radiohead is in a position that can’t easily be replicated — it completed its long-term recording contract with the music giant EMI while retaining a big audience of obsessive fans")).
But still - how plausible is this for the little...or even the medium...guy?
So mazel tov Madge, on a job well-done. But whether others will follow this Oregon Trail...I doubt it.