Feeds

Fiona Apple saga shows Sony's core dilemma

Disc rejected, online distribution too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

Comment You think that record companies are all geared up for the 21st century, and that the fact that online downloads will count towards the Official Chart Countdown means that they're au fait with the online future - right? That they realise that you can make a profit by continually selling a small number of digital copies of songs, because there's no cost of replication, compared to CDs - right?

As I discovered while half-listening to an internet radio station the other day, wrong.

What grabbed my attention was a voice I hadn't heard for some years: Fiona Apple, American chanteuse best known for her 1996 debut album "Tidal" and its 59-word-titled followup "When The Pawn..." (we'll save you the rest). Noted the title of the song being played, thinking to listen to it again, as both her ripped albums lurk in my MP3 collection. But the track ("Red Red Red") wasn't there.

Odd: it can't be off her third album, because Ms Apple hasn't released one. But Google the song title, and a much more interesting story emerges. It turns out she has done a third album, titled "Extraordinary Machine", which was completed in May 2003. Recorded, produced, done, dusted. All it needed was the nod from the people at Sony for the CD presses to roll.

They didn't. The album "was quickly shelved by the sad corporate drones over at Sony because they didn't 'hear a single' and because it doesn't sound exactly like Norah Jones and because they're, well, corporate drones," wrote Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle. Sony wanted something more like her earlier stuff. But she wasn't writing that stuff any more. Impasse.

Which has left Ms Apple in artistic limbo, her contract half-fulfilled and her music unheard, for 18 months. The site set up for her by Sony, at http://www.fiona-apple.com, gathers virtual dust, untouched since the launch of her second album in 1999.

Enter a group of fans of Ms Apple. First there was fionaapple.org, set up in 2002. Then, enter BitTorrent, and somehow the tracks from Extraordinary Machine began showing up here and there on the Net. Somehow again the whole CD (or the tracks off it) reached a Seattle DJ, Andrew Harms, who began playing it on his show. And then a CD-quality version appeared on BitTorrent which, according to its BitTorrent page, has been downloaded (as I write) more than 18,500 times.

OK, 18,500 sales barely registers for Sony, which wants sales in the hundreds of thousands to feel warm about an album. But that's the old thinking - that you have to sell tons of physical copies of something to make a profit.

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.