Garth Brooks recordings will be the testing ground for a new procedure that may result in the demise of radio, promotional and review copies of CDs.
Authenticated users, as determined by EMI Recorded Music, will be sent digital files of the Capitol Records Nashville artist’s forthcoming single “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)” over the Internet. Security and other technologies are from BayView Systems.
“Nobody is going to be sending CDs to radio stations anymore,” EMI Recorded Music senior vp new media Jay Samit said. “I see a future where hard copies of the product are replaced with digital.”
Piracy is one of the main problems the initiative will tackle. “Protecting prereleased tracks from music pirates is very important,” Samit said. “We have many artists that are very, very concerned with the issue. It is crippling the launch of albums.”
Samit said Brooks took a personal interest in the project. “Garth is the No. 1-selling artist of all time, and security is a huge issue for him, for other artists and for us,” he said. Future product from Brooks and other artists also will be distributed this way.
He added that the initiative also will result in significant cost savings when compared with packaging, handling and mailing out CDs. Additionally, there are strategic business advantages to this distribution method.
“Not only does this protect content from leaking out, but it also provides tracking,” Samit said. “You can keep track of how it was used, when it was used, where it was used – imagine, in the future you could find out when a track was played on the air even on college radio.”
He does not believe that there will be any backlash from the thousands of programmers, critics and other people deprived of receiving the actual CD. “I don’t foresee any difficulty,” Samit said. “In some ways, I think this will even be more convenient for them.”
BayView’s Duolizer technology, which has been tested by EMI during the past year, prevents the broadcast-quality digital audio files from being reproduced or redistributed. EMI took a minority equity stake in the San Francisco-based company in August 2000, but BayView’s CEO Ron Cadet said he has been encouraged to work with other labels as well.
“Record labels are seeking new, better ways of exploiting the Internet’s vast potential for promotional activities without losing control over how digital material gets reproduced or redistributed,” Cadet said.
Only authenticated users can hear a full-fidelity version of the music. If they forward it to anyone else, the sound quality is degraded to whatever degree the content owner wishes. Cadet said some content owners want the forwarded files to be completely unlistenable, while others prefer them to sound “like AM car-radio quality.”
Duolizer does not rely on encryption, Cadet said. Rather, it splits the files into one main file and a much smaller one that the company calls a subStream. The main file can be distributed by any method, such as e-mail, download, streaming, peer to peer, CD or other optical storage disk. The subStream, however, is stored on the content owner’s server. The user’s bandwidth and modem speed, therefore, are nearly irrelevant.
The full-fidelity music file can only be played by temporarily combining the two parts – end users never have a complete copy of the file.
“The file itself cannot be hacked because we pull information out of the file,” Cadet said. He likened the effect to punching holes in a photograph.