As a long time fan of R.E.M. I’m excited to learn that they will become the first major act to allow fans to freely stream and share their new "Accelerate" album via social networking sites when it is released on 24th March. To take advantage of this great opportunity to hear the album before it is released in the shops you simply need to use any iLike application (available from iLike.com, Bebo, iTunes, Facebook and other social networking sites).
This is the latest initiative in the growing ‘direct-to-listener’ trend that is transforming the music and wider entertainment industry. Radiohead caused a stir late last year when they offered their most recent album, In Rainbows, for download at a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ price. And Prince gave his 3121 album away for free with the UK newspaper Daily Mail. R.E.M. will still release their CD-based album as usual, but they’ll gain notoriety and increased relevance amongst younger music fans by publicly embracing social networking.
There’s still plenty of money to be made from good music. All the pioneer digitally pioneering bands enjoy lucrative revenue from their successful live acts and merchandising deals. And therein lies the secret for future success in the music industry. The closer you can get to your fans, the more successful you will be. Hiding behind record label executives and relying on old fashioned album sales is a surefire recipe for failure.
So, what next for the music industry? What’s the next major wall that a music artist will knock down as they grow ever closer to their listener base? These are exciting times.