A few weeks ago The New York Times put up an article headlined "Labels Halt Downloads to Increase CD Sales." (It is now behind the paid archive, sorry.)
The claimed point was that this was some sort of "threat" to iTunes.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the move is complementary to iTunes. And it should be copied.
A CD has 10-12 songs on it. When a CD comes out a label may guess which tunes will be hits, but they could be wrong. By getting all of them out before offering them on iTunes, they give fans a chance to be heard on this.
And this is important. If the music companies have a role, it’s as producers of demand for their sales channels. Apple is just a retailer, one of many sales channels. If you create demand for a CD, and the CD creates demand for a variety of singles, everyone wins, including Apple.
What is more significant is not the publishers’ power play (which also
benefits other retailers, those which sell CDs) but the competition
these companies are now getting in their niche of creating demand.
The success of bands like Arctic Monkeys,
which had a record CD sell-through without a publisher’s help, is the
real story. It’s not just that bands can create their own demand, with
Web sites, with sites like MySpace, it’s that individual entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to create demand outside the publishers’ system.
In other words, The Times (as usual these days) missed the story.