It's been highlighted several times that major record labels have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age, preferring to try to cling to their outdated ideas of how to sell music rather than really try out any new business models. The New York Times has written a glowing piece on how Epic Records marketed a track and album by the singer Shakira, hailing it as some genius stroke of cross-platform strategy and marketing. It glosses over the smart part of the plan -- soliciting user submissions to create a promotional video -- and plays up the exclusive deals Epic made for the song on different platforms. The intention of the plan was to prop up a sagging album by releasing a second version of it with a new track, a popular take on the make -people-pay-for-the-same-content-over-and-over strategy. Epic then signed some exclusive deals, so that if you wanted to buy the track and download it, you had to be a Verizon Wireless customer; if you wanted to stream it online, you had to go to Yahoo Music. If you were one of the uncool kids that didn't have an affiliation with either of those companies and wanted to buy the song, you had to buy the whole album -- going back to the record labels' favorite ploy of making people buy a lot of content they don't want to get the little bit that they do. The NYT says that the record sales of the single when it finally went on widespread sale through iTunes and other download shops validated the strategy, but it's hardly surprising that only after putting the song on wide release would it actually sell. And while it may have gotten a good first-week bounce -- again, unsurprising for a heavily promoted pop song -- it's unclear if the strategy will turn into any sustained sales increase. So perhaps Epic does deserve some credit, for repacking its normal business model and making it look new, like entertainment companies often do with their content.
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