SANTA MONICA, Calif. – The evolution of digital downloads marks another milestone on November 23, 2004, with the debut of UMe Digital, the world’s first all-digital download label from a major music company. UMe Digital product – individual songs, EPs, and full-length albums – will be distributed exclusively online.
With its unparalleled music and video marketing capabilities and the power and scope of UMe to place songs in films and TV shows and commercials, UMe Digital offers unprecedented access and exposure for artists.
The releases on UMe Digital will be consistent with UMe’s philosophy of marketing established acts and acts who already have an established fan base. Available on November 23 via all online music services will be recordings from pop visionary Parthenon Huxley, renowned guitarist Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney, Stewart Copeland), alternative rock pioneer Ken Stringfellow (Posies, currently guitarist touring with R.E.M.), guitar giant John Jorgenson (Elton John, Desert Rose Band, Hellecasters), critically acclaimed Tennessee rock band The Shazam, modern rock innovator Dan Reed (Dan Reed Network), legendary hard rockers Black ‘N Blue, and singer/songwriter Will Owsley (Shania Twain and Amy Grant guitarist).
Said Bruce Resnikoff, President, UMe: “UMe Digital is another significant development in the expansion of our business and our efforts to reach more consumers in more creative ways. Last year the music industry sold fewer than 5,000,0000 downloads; this year the industry will exceed 100,000,000. I think every label will have a download-only imprint at some point; UMe wants to be sure that it continues to be an industry leader and innovator.”
In addition to its marketing expertise, UMe Digital provides the technical expertise and production in the encoding and online delivery in the format each site requires. Unlike in the physical world, in virtually no time, perhaps only a week or two after entering into a deal, an artist’s music can be online everywhere.
Overseeing day-to-day operations is Jay Gilbert, Sr. Director, New Media, UMe. “Consistent with the types of artists UMe has marketed or signed through its other labels, UMe Digital is looking for established artists that tour and have a fan base,” said Gilbert. “We’re creating a place where these artists can go to release albums, singles, EPs, live concerts, outtakes, or unplugged sessions.”
UMe Digital presents an auspicious opportunity for artists who are between deals and those who have deals but own their recording masters, particularly for live and/or acoustic tracks and previously unreleased recordings such as outtakes and demos. An artist may release a CD on one label and release other product via UMe Digital.
As for the future, Gilbert anticipates that the number of recordings and artists will progressively expand. Also, he added, “When artists find success with downloads, we may opt for a physical release as well.”
UMe Digital will be available at all of the top online retailers and music services, including Apple iTunes Music Store, Napster, Tower Records Online, Microsoft Music Service, Virgin Digital, MusicNet, Liquid/Walmart.com, Real/Rhapsody, MusicMatch, MusicNow, Sony-Connect, FYE online, and BuyMusic.com.
Quotes from some online services:++
“Fundamental changes within any industry have always taken longer than people expect, but result in massive and positive growth. UMe Digital is a big part of fundamental change in the music industry and we’re extremely excited to be working with them on redefining how artists, labels, distributors, and retailers make a connection to consumers. This is a very important step in the evolution of the business.” Zack Zalon – President, Virgin Digital
“This is just an extension of the physical world. UMe is providing opportunities for artists that don’t have existing label relationships. Success is almost guaranteed.” – Kevin Cassidy Executive Vice President, Sales, Operations, and Product for Tower Records
“It’s really encouraging to see Universal Music Enterprises embrace and advance the digital format in such a unique way. A digital-only major label will provide a new point of entry for artists into the market as well as a viable distribution alternative for those without traditional record deals.” – Michael Abbattista, VP Content & Label Relations, Liquid/Anderson
“This is a pioneering move from UMe, one in the digital retail space that I believe has much more potential than has been tried and/or proven to date.” – Christine Carney – Musicmatch
“It’s all too rare that one has occasion to get excited by the birth of a new label, it’s news enough to bring me to my knees in thanks to the label gods!” – Matt Bruno, MSN Music Service
“This is a great initiative that will help artists put new music in fans’ hands more quickly. The advent of digital-only labels like UMe demonstrates that online retailers like RealNetworks are providing new and unique avenues for connecting artists and their fans. We applaud Universal’s vision in recognizing the opportunity to reach today’s savvy music consumers through music services like Rhapsody.” – Julie Wright, Manager of Label Relations for RealNetworks
“We think this is an exciting next step in the evolution of the digital music marketplace and we’re happy to be a part of it.” – Napster
UMe Digital Artists
Rusty Anderson “Undressing Underwater” (Album)
Featuring guest appearances by Paul McCartney and Stewart Copeland, “Undressing Underwater” shines the spotlight on a guitarist-singer-songwriter who continues to break new ground. Heard on recordings from McCartney, Copeland, Perry Farrell, the Wallflowers, Elton John, Courtney Love, Stanley Clarke, The New Radicals, and Sinead O’Connor, Anderson has lent his talents to Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning tracks. “Undressing Underwater,” his debut album, was produced by Anderson, David Kahne, Mudrock, and Parthenon Huxley.
Black ‘N Blue “One Night Only – Live!” (Album)
A heavy metal band from the Pacific Northwest, Black ‘N Blue boasted four albums in the ’80s for Geffen Records, produced by such heavyweights as Gene Simmons (KISS), Dieter Dierks (Scorpions), and Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith). With MTV favorite “Hold On To 18” and songs such as “Without Love,” “Miss Mystery,” “Nasty, Nasty,” “I Want It All, I Want It Now,” “Does She Or Doesn’t She,” and “Live It Up,” Black ‘N Blue helped define the decade of metal. “One Night Only – Live!,” produced by Pat Regan (Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow), is a recording of a one-off reunion show staged by Portland, Oregon’s favorite hard rock sons at that city’s Key Largo club on Halloween 1997.
Parthenon Huxley aka P. Hux “Purgatory Falls” (Album)
A singer-songwriter-guitarist called “rock’s most underrated pop genius,” Huxley wrote a pair of Top 20 rock hits in the ’90s, “Hello Cruel World” with E (Mark Everett of eels) and “You Don’t Have To Remind Me” with Sass Jordan, plus favorites such as “Wake Me Up” with Kyle Vincent and “With Heaven On Our Side” with Foreigner. His own 1988 debut single, “Buddha, Buddha,” had Rolling Stone howl “You could land a marlin with these hooks!” Rolling Stone called his debut album, “Sunny Nights,” “a monumental debut.” Five other albums have followed, including “Purgatory Falls,” inspired by his wife’s ultimately fatal battle with cancer and Huxley’s subsequent emotional devastation.
John Jorgenson “Franco-American Swing” (Album)
In the words of Elton John, Jorgenson’s guitar work is “brilliant, f–ing brilliant!” Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Hank Williams Jr., Barbra Streisand, The Byrds, Rose Maddox, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and John Prine are among the other artists whose CDs feature this three-time winner of the Academy of Country Music award for Guitarist of the Year. In 1986 Jorgenson formed country-rock’s Desert Rose Band. With their second album, 1988’s “Running,” they were named the Academy of Country Music’s Touring Band of the Year, an honor repeated in 1989 and 1990 (years they were also nominated as the Country Music Association’s Best Vocal Group). Jorgenson then formed the Hellecasters – three lead guitarists, no vocalist. “The Return Of The Hellecasters,” their debut, was voted Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year in 1993 by Guitar Player magazine’s Reader’s Poll. He then recorded and toured with Elton, a collaboration that lasted six years. Jorgenson’s solo debut, “Emotional Savant,” was issued in 1999.
Ken Stringfellow & WaFlash “Mappando” (album)
On a trip through West Africa in late 2001, Ken Stringfellow met a group of musicians whose work he had admired: WaFlash, from Thies, Senegal, who have been playing together for about a decade. Immensely popular in Senegal and neighboring countries, they have yet to have a release in N. America or Europe. They boast three incredible vocalists, including female singer Ma Sane, who takes the lead on most of the tracks on the album. They spent a week in early 2003 in a studio in Dakar, with compositions that they had forged the previous week in their rehearsal studio (a spare room in Ms. Sane’s family compound in Thies). Stringfellow feels the musicians and singers here are so inspiring, so generous of heart, so talented that the listener will be directly moved by this music.
Owsley “The Hard Way” (Album)
After a hiatus that lasted much too long for fans, Owsley returns with an impressive collection of perfectly crafted and truly infectious pop songs produced and performed almost entirely in his home studio. Owsley first emerged playing guitar for funk-pop pioneer Judson Spence. He then formed the power-pop trio The Semantics with Millard Powers and Zak Starkey (the album “Powerbill”). In 1994 he joined Amy Grant’s touring band, a gig he still holds today. Playing with Grant enabled Owsley to create a home studio and write and record his own music. In 1999, Giant released “Owsley,” garnering raves and a Grammy nomination for his engineering. With “The Hard Way,” Owsley is on his way back.
Dan Reed “Sharp Turn” (Album)
One of Portland, Oregon’s most successful artists has been Dan Reed, whose Dan Reed Network was a standard-setter for innovative rock in the ’80s and early ’90s. After three Polygram albums with cumulative worldwide sales of more than 1,500,000 copies, Reed backed out of the rock arena to focus on stage acting, as well as producing and directing independent films. Never losing his passion for music, Reed is in the studio once again, defying genre boundaries and stretching rock into new shapes and forms with “Untangled Daydream,” a project leaning to the electronic and featuring stunningly beautiful soundscapes.
The Shazam “Tomorrow The World” (Album)
The Shazam “rams the power pop manual through the shredder” (Uncut) with their latest critically acclaimed release, “Tomorrow The World.” Produced by Brad Jones, “Tomorrow The World” “salutes vintage Britrock with a run of fizzy melodies, guitar crunch and irrepressible spirit” (Blender). Championed by Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Nashville’s The Shazam creates an “utterly glorious knot of The Who, The Move and The Beatles circa ’67, all created in Tennessee” (Mojo). Following their loud ‘n’ dirty self-titled debut and the psychedelic forays of “Godspeed The Shazam” and the “Rev9” EP, The Shazam “pummels first, asks questions later” with an album that “makes a sound that could fill a zeppelin hangar” (The Tennessean). This version of “Tomorrow The World” contains a brand new pop masterpiece, “Cool City.”