So, you’re at a company whose core business hasn’t been doing so well these days. Layoffs are high, morale is low, and people getting your product for free are cutting into your profit model. How can you save your hide, or at least stave off your problems for one more day? Both EMI and the newsmongers Gannett have had these sorts of problems, and together, they’ve apparently decided that the answer is to hook up with one another and remember what the glory days of the monoculture were like–you know, back when the word “exclusive premiere” meant something? EMI and Gannett both remember those days, which is why they’ve entered into a deal to “premiere” the new album by Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun, on Gannett’s newspaper and TV sites before its Sept. 2 release.
While it is fairly common practice for artists to offer promotional pre-release web streaming of new music, it is a unique arrangement to stream an album on newspaper and TV websites. For Gannett, this is an opportunity to deliver new music from a respected artist familiar to its core news audience. Top Gannett markets were chosen for the web streams, some because of the size of the market, others because of a large Brian Wilson fan base.
“Streaming a full album is a first for Gannett, so we are thrilled to be working with Capitol Records and a musician of Brian Wilson’s stature to deliver music in a new way to our online audiences. This positions us well to expand our digital platforms while demonstrating the power of Gannett to deliver quality content across a network of websites,” said Jim Lenahan, strategic development manager for Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing division.
The words “core news audience” in that quoted bit are of particular interest for reasons beyond icky advertorial ones. See, Gannett’s flagship, USA Today, has apparently been working on changing its online music strategy over the past few months. What this has meant up to this point is that Ken Barnes’ once-enjoyable Listen Up blog has basically been gutted of all its geekiness and turned into a repository for reviews that run in the paper and roundups of semi-moldy music news by one Korina Lopez, who’s taken it upon herself to announce, special correspondent-style, that yes, it’s actually her doing the recapping. When you look at these changes in the context of the Wilson deal, one has to wonder if “exclusive” Web content bits like this the future of music coverage for USAT (and whatever Gannett papers still have music content)? And if so, how long before the higher-ups decide that any music-related content should dispense with the pesky words altogether in favor of “quality content” that’s acquired through corporate agreements?