Friday, February 12, 2010

Cheap Trick upset with Soundscan

Dave Frey is the manager of Cheap Trick, and he's upset.

Neilsen Soundscan collates the data which goes into the Billboard charts, but - at the same time - sells the data it collects to anyone who will pay. Whether you want it to or not.

Cheap Trick are currently self-releasing, but they have a problem:

So, every couple of years when the band releases a new CD we hustle, work, and pay to promote it. This activity always raises their profile. And like clockwork Cheap Trick's former record company(s) release repackaged budget Special Products to cannibalize the new release. Once they buy this information [from Soundscan, and other sources such as Ticketmaster and Amazon] they can better target their predatory product.

The idea being that the record label knows who likes Cheap Trick, waits until Cheap Trick have reminded their fans they're around, and then sidles up and says "rather than buying this new Cheap Trick stuff, why not purchase this album of stuff from when they were popular?"

There's a weakness in Frey's argument here - it's totally possible that the promotional work for the new material does exactly the same job without the need for executives to be buying data: "Ooh, Cheap Trick are on the television. I liked them back in the day - maybe I should buy their new stuff? Oh, it's not as much fun as the old stuff. Perhaps I'll buy that instead".

Still, the extent to which pie charts and data sales and targeted spoilers actually influence sales nothwithstanding, there is murky behaviour afoot:
So it was decided “The Latest” would not be registered with Soundscan. Maybe the former labels would have a harder time trying to trick the fans. But keeping information from Soundscan so that it can't be sold to competitors is impossible.

It seems that if you don't want the information shared, you should have that decision respected. Oughtn't that be the same whether it's an individual not wanting his purchase of sixteen feet of rubber sheeting shared with the world, or a business who don't want its corporate data being pimped out to competitors?