Sampling Music

Bob Leftez writes about discovering The Weepies – a great but lesser known band that he discovered through their labels downloadable sampler – like Prince done in conjunction with a local paper.

Bob like them so much he wrote a post about them (bet their traffic spiked). It also gave him a platform to talk about music sampling.

 “But now every act has a MySpace page. Music is free. It’s everywhere for the tasting. Where does one start? One doesn’t start on MTV. Nor the radio. … Yet, the major labels want us to buy their records on faith, as if it were still 1973.”

While I believe he’s right – that sampling helps build a bands brand. It’s not as clear a story for labels because its complicated by their revenue and cost structures (see my comments at the bottom of his post – hopefully).

Buried within his post are a couple of almost throw away thoughts which get to the heart of the sampling story. Both are in this sentence “Terry McBride and his Nettwerk Group get it. They assembled this “Seriously West Coast” sampler for the “Vancouver Sun”. Maybe that’s why I checked it out. I trust them.”

First is the issue of Trust. As a label Nettwork has built a reputation – I assume around progressive acts and insightful marketing. That’s more that just providing samples – in fact those samples may have been trashed without the labels reputation – because there is just so much stuff out there. Given that reputation is the sum of what you do it makes me question the wisdom of many of the music industries recent actions – which seem designed to kill their reputation not build it – but that’s another story.

The second part of the issue is the mechanisms of sampling meant that Nettwork was able to limit it to geographic and personal networks – by tying access to the download site to a specific time and location – by partnering with the Vancouver Sun. Like Prince before them, who parleyed a newspaper album giveaway into 20 sold out concert dates and worldwide reviews of both the concert and the accompanying release, the Nettwork sampler targets only readers of the print version of the Vancouver Sun, and then requires they act within 7 days.

Both limit the long term impact of the samples on revenue – while building reputation and connecting with the geographic network and opinion leaders they desire (of which Bob is no doubt one).  As a side note – in a connected world it points to both the power of location specific events as marketing tools – and of old media to reach those groups with physical (Prince CD) or restricted access download information.

Guess what I’m trying to say is that sampling needs to be part of a marketing strategy – not a knee jerk reaction for labels numerous problems. Am I missing something?