It’s no secret that revenue from album sales is in decline. But necessity is the mother of invention, right? There’s been a trend in the past few years of artists trying creative ways to increase their cut of sales by avoiding paying shares of profits to major retailers like iTunes.
Garth Brooks recently launched his own music download store called GhostTunes. He has released two new albums for around $30 and has his entire catalog of music available for purchase exclusively through the site. He’s hoping other artists will follow suit and “take back” their music.
Only full albums are available for purchase on GhostTunes as an attempt to change consumer shopping habits that often prefer buying just a single. This, along with the extra hurdle of drawing fans away from the established retailers, has led some to criticize the move. Billboard thinks it’ll be a stretch for him to make as much money as he would on the “proven retail model.”
Despite the skepticism of some, the direct-to-fan approach of GhostTunes has paid off for other artists. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails both have successfully released music on alternative platforms.
Radiohead's 2007 album In Rainbows allowed fans to pay what they wanted for the album directly through the band’s website. The album ended up topping the Billboard chart, and made more money than their previous album Hail to the Thief before even being physically released a few months later in retail stores.
Nine Inch Nails offered an exclusive “audiophile” master of their album directly through their website for their latest release Hesitation Marks .
The benefits are obvious. Direct-to-fan sales can yield a big payout for artists, as they don’t have to give up a portion of revenues to a retailer. The challenge is that it can also be an uphill battle to get fans to migrate from iTunes.
As album sales will likely continue to decline, it’s not unlikely to expect more artists try their hand at selling music through their own channels. Just last week it was announced that Brad Paisley is launching a web-based TV channel.
It's too early to say whether a direct-to-fan sales model will become a viable option for big artists. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s the third best selling act in U.S. history.