Sony to abandon ‘On Air On Sale’ strategy because it doesn’t work – they’ll deal with releases on case-by-case basis

Maynard James Keenan

Good reason: Maynard James Keenan

Record label Sony have admitted their ‘On Air On Sale’ policy of making singles available to buy the moment they’re played on radio hasn’t worked.

The firm have said they’ll abandon the programme – and instead will deal with each release on its own merits.

The turnaround comes after bosses calculated that putting music on sale as soon as people heard it for the first time would minimise the effect of piracy.

The real impact of illegal downloading to the music industry is in doubt after business representatives said last year they’d been basing their numbers on the assumption that every lost CD sale should have been replaced by a digital purchase.

Sony told the BBC: “We are now looking at each release on a case-by-case basis. We will do whatever we think is best for the artist’s career.”

Universal Music, who also subscribed to the scheme, say they’ll keep using it when appropriate, but they’d always practiced flexibility in their approach.

Jon Webster of the Music Managers Forum called the move “very sad,” saying it was a poor decision because it disconnected fans from reacting to music they’d just heard.

“To deny them the opportunity of buying something when they’ve heard it is to deny them an entry point to the market.”

Webster says it would have worked if every label had subscribed to the blueprint. “The problem is it’s pretty much dead as soon as one company doesn’t do it. It was doomed from the time it was voluntary and not compulsory.”

Some artists had objected to ‘On Air On Sale’ because not everyone used it, saying it became confusing for them and their fans to work out whether enough work had been done to promote a single, because they would also have to know whether it had been released under the scheme or otherwise.

Meanwhile, respected music commentator Alan Cross has emphasised the advantages of making tracks available for online streaming before they’re on sale.

Cross reports: “Why would Jane’s Addiction stream The Great Escape Artist a week before it’s out? What is Maynard James Keenan thinking by offering up the new Puscifer album before it’s in stores?

“Today’s Audio4cast newsletter gets it bang-on: ‘A growing number of artists understand that the formula for selling songs has changed. Restricting access isn’t the way to get folks to buy your music. Instead, offer a listen to everyone. If they like it, do you think they’ll be satisfied with returning to the website every time they want to hear it? Of course not – they’ll buy it, or the songs they like from it. And maybe they’ll come see a show as well.’”

Related stories: