Top Artists Balking At A La Carte Downloads

By | June 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Despite the major labels’ success in clearing hundreds of thousands of tracks for purchase online through services like Apple’s iTunes Music Store, some top artists continue to resist authorizing the dismantling of their albums for Internet consumption as a la carte singles.

Some acts are requiring that their music be sold exclusively in album bundles. For example, Linkin Park recently pulled its music as a singles offering from digital services. Sources say the band has expressed concerns about undercutting album sales. Other acts with similar stipulations about their work include Radiohead, Madonna, Jewel and Green Day, sources say.

Top acts and their representatives are expressing reservations about the creative and financial implications of shifting to a singles-based model. “The fear among artists is that the work of art they put together, the album, will become a thing of the past,” says attorney Fred Goldring, whose firm represents Will Smith and Alanis Morissette.

Artist representatives say a singles-oriented model means a significant hit to the bottom line. Instead of divvying the spoils of a $12-$18 CD sale, labels, artists and songwriters are vying for nickels and dimes from 99 cent downloads. For artists who write their own material, the impact is even more substantial: Rather than collecting songwriting royalties on as many as 14 tracks, plus an artist royalty on the album sale, payment is being parsed on a per-track basis.