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If it's on air, it's on sale, say majors

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Two major labels are giving up one of their most powerful marketing tools - because they say it's "out of date". Universal and Sony have said they'll give make digital songs legally available the day they're first played on radio - moving to an "on air, on sale" policy from next month.

Traditionally, labels have created demand for new material by releasing it to radio stations early. But Universal chairman and CEO David Joseph said his company's research showed demand, measured by Google and iTunes searches, peaked two weeks before the songs went on sale. Fans simply found the music via unlicensed outlets – and didn't spend money on the real thing. Recent research from the BPI showed YouTube is more popular than legal downloads.

"Wait is not a word in the vocabulary of the current generation," said Joseph.

It feels obvious and inevitable, and is a move many in the music business, particularly music managers, have been pushing for for some time.

Radio stations and TV channels are unlikely to be too chuffed. Exclusivity has been a powerful marketing tool for both label and broadcaster. And in a fragmented media world, creating exclusivity means creating artificial scarcity, and creating an "event". On the internet, there are no "events". So nothing ever happens. ®

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