Monday, October 01, 2007

McGee gives Tim for free

The Charlatans might be wondering about the direction Alan McGee (professor of Pop at the University of Gloucestershire) is taking them in, with the news that he's decided they're going to give away their new material. For free:

McGee said he decided to give the Charlatans' music away after they were offered a deal he considered less than satisfactory by their record company, Sanctuary. "I thought, 'well nobody buys CDs anyway'. If you talk to a 19-year-old kid, they don't buy CDs. In eastern Europe, nobody buys a CD – everything is digitally downloaded from the internet for nothing. I came to the conclusion, 'Why don't we just give it away for nothing'."

So, having identified The Charlatans' target market as, erm, nineteen year old boys in Bratislava rather than the slightly pudgy thirtysomething Madchester survivors you or I might have pictured as being at their heart, McGee is electing to make it all available for nothing.
McGee said the band "could not lose" from the revolutionary approach. "We looked at the deal we were being offered by Sanctuary and said, 'Let's just do it ourselves'. We increase our fan base, we sell more merchandise, more fans talk about the band and we get more advertising and more films (soundtracks). More people will get into the the Charlatans and will probably pay the money to see the show. I presume it will double the gig traffic, maybe even treble it."

Except, of course, McGee's nineteen year old who'd be getting the album for free now would have been getting it for free anyway, so there's no loss there, but a large number of people would have paid for the record who now will be getting it for nothing. Sure, under the Sanctuary deal, they'd have been getting buttons for their share of the cake, but a small pile of buttons will keep you warm better than a large bunch of nothing. And will the extra tshirts and extra tickets make up that pile? Especially since the band usually sell out their tour dates anyway.

In addition, making the tracks totally free strips them out of chart contention - and pulls them away from Amazon and it's recommendation system - reducing the band's visibility as much as they giveaway will raise it.

We love that McGee has shifted to try something new, but it does bother us that simply giving away the tracks is as unworkable an idea as trying to keep them locked-up. Could McGee not have had effect he hoped for, without costing the band a small fortune, by making the singles available for nothing but keeping an album package back? Just because some people will always find a way to avoid paying doesn't mean it's a compelling business argument to turn away people who want to pay.

Still, should Tim Burgess find himself on his uppers and need a place to kip, we're more than willing to offer him a duvet and a can of soup.

1 comment:

Chris Brown said...

Far be it from me to criticise the man who discovered the hip Jesus-like Primal Scream, obviously; but apart from all you've said, doesn't the tie-in with XFM pretty much rule out any possibility of airplay on non-GCap stations?

I don't know if anybody else heard him on Front Row on Monday, but when Mark Lawson asked him whether he was concerned about the effect this would have on the retail business, all he could think of to say was "Can't we just kill the record companies first?" Twice. Well, no Alan, what you're doing is almost the exact opposite. But it explains a lot about Poptones.

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