New high-tech record label DigSin, short for Digital Single, hopes to shake up the recording industry model by focusing on singles alone and offering all songs from its digital catalogue completely free to listeners. Catering to breaking artists, users can subscribe to receive new releases online. The plan is to generate awareness through complementary distribution and then use creative advertising and sponsorship programs to benefit musicians.
"Singles are the dominant format for listening," explains founder Jay Frank, a former CMT and Yahoo! Music senior executive and author of Futurehit.DNA, outlining the venture’s mandate to quickly and efficiently generate mass awareness. "Songs used to be designed for maximum repetition on the radio… now they need to impact the listener in seven seconds. People are so busy that, for most albums, they don’t pay as much attention to track seven as track one. Artists pour time and money into each song – I hate seeing them wasted by being buried on [an] album."
Featured tunes, which will span genres such as pop, rock and dance, will be ad-supported, and designed around maximum flexibility in formatting and consumption. "Most people only listen to a free download once," says Frank. "With advertising, we’re able to take in similar revenue as we’d receive from one listen on streaming services like Spotify, so we net out the same financially."
Publishing contracts, allegedly equally malleable, are expected to favor new and independent artists, providing an accessible industry entry point or novel new way to connect with fans.
"I’m not signing artists to long-term deals," Frank elaborates. "This means that I could discover the next Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga and miss out on the opportunity to make millions. So I have to be OK with just making a few million from a small portion of a hitmaker’s catalogue. Once I was alright with that, making a deal that is unique and equitable to the artist became easier."
Aiming to assemble a database of enthusiastic music lovers, Frank and Co. will be looking to cross-market breaking bands to admirers of similar acts and power listeners. Hoping to reach a wide cross-section of sonic tastemakers and savvy critics, they also plan on rolling out both traditional and social media advertising efforts designed to boost artist and song recognition.
"Most great artists are not great marketers," Frank says. "Despite the DIY tools available, most still need someone to perform that function – they don’t have the time, money, or inclination to do that work." Citing DigSin’s ability to capitalize on multiple income sources and promotional initiatives, he believes that the company, a smaller, more nimble alternative to traditional publishers, is uniquely positioned to exploit cross-media efforts.
In addition to sales via iTunes and streaming providers like Spotify, the firm also plans on partnering with mainstream consumer brands and licensing tracks for use by film and TV producers. Angling to kick-start interest in musicians and individual tracks via free song giveaways, Frank believes that value-added promotions such as these can make the full range of potential record industry revenue streams more valuable.
Nonetheless, Frank readily admits that getting rich quick isn’t likely for aspiring songwriters, and that prospective signees must think progressively if they’re planning on making a successful run of the partnership.
"Modern artists need multiple streams of revenue to truly make a living in today’s marketplace," he says. "That could be multiple singles from us if they hit, but realistically, we’re just one piece of their overall pie. Hopefully our efforts raise their ability to profit from other streams that we don’t participate in. Ultimately though, we’re a strategic part of artists’ overall puzzle."
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the company claims that a fresher approach to finance is merely one of many issues it plans on tackling, however. Citing a desire to also focus on quality songs and build a reputation for high standards, it believes a consistently solid catalogue can generate high visibility on a regular basis, which it hopes will translate into more fans and a millions-strong mailing list. This, in turn, should allow the firm to accomplish its ultimate goal of grooming new talent for the spotlight, and giving fans a more direct conduit to their favorite performers.
"The mission is to have fun with music, find artists that grow into tomorrow’s stars, and do it in a way where both artist and fan are happy about the value we bring," says Frank.