Now That's What I Call Distribution Rights!

Pop music is da bomb!

Seriously, popular music has always made me happy. And if you like different genres the only place to you can listen to more than one genre without switching stations after ever song is on a Top 40 station.

There are two CD series out there that I know of that put together Top 40 compilations: Totally Hits and Now That’s What I Call Music. I’ve got Now 11 playing right now and I’m wondering how they can put these things together so quickly. I was under the impression that getting the rights to sell someone’s music (especially if it is popular right now) is a long and expensive process.

UMG Recordings puts out Now. What exactly is UMG? I see that Universal Records is a division of UMG, but there are also recordings from Def Jam Records, Interscope, Virgin, Sony, EMI-- and more. How do the people at UMG pull off getting all of these hit songs on one CD and so quickly?

P.S. The music industry is one twisted labyrinth of interdependent companies and rights ownership. I can’t make heads or tails of it.

Most recordings can be traced back to 1 of only 5 major corporations. I can’t give you a cite or list them, but the number 5 comes up in lots of articles on the music industry. What those compilations probably represent are cuts from the various subsidiaries of UMG.

If you find out more about UMG let me know I’ve looked all over the Internet for them, and the only thing I find is a bunch of law suits they’re involved in.

Contrary to 11811’s opinion, the songs on the Now That’s what I call Music compilation CD are not all from the same corporation.

Like you thought, most companies traditionally loathed to give permission for their hit tracks to be included on compilation CDs. For a long time, the common wisdom was that they’d detract from sales of the artist’s album. However, after the first Now CD all those assumptions went out the window.

What they found was that the sales for performers who were on the CD went up. What was happening was that buyers were exposed to new artists & then would buy their albums. Someone who bought the CD for the Britney Spears track would then hear a track by Pink or Destiny’s Child and would then buy that artist’s full CD. It’s become an amazing promotional tool. Now record companies are fighting to get their performers included on these “current pop hits” CDs. It’s a new phenomenon & quite a success story.

Gee…people hear an artist on a compilation CD and want to spend money to buy the full album. And the music industry is starting to jump at this.

Yet a person downloading an artist’s song to listen to and deciding to spend money on the full album is evil and immoral and illegal and reprehensible and the worst thing to ever happen to the world since saying “please” and “thank you” went out of style.

Go figure.

The difference being that the people who buy a compilation album buy it, and the people who download the music don’t.

It is and should be the decision of the owner of the song to decide how it is going to be marketed – the owners of the songs on the compilations choose to include them, the owners of songs traded on illegal file-sharing networks generally don’t.

There are actually six big “labels” (well, really five and a half). The term is a misnomer – technically a label is something like Interscope, Bad Boy, Blue Note, etc. – a line of recordings put out by a single staff and its stable of artists. However, most labels are associated with one of the big six, five of which are really publishers. Many labels (such as Capitol Records) started out as independent companies which were since purchased by one of the big publishers. The issue is further confused by the fact that most of the publishers not only have several associated labels (some wholly owned and many co-owned with producers or stars) but also release albums in their own name, acting as their own label.

The real big five are Universal, Warner, EMI/Virgin, BMG (Bertlesmann Music Group), and Sony. As you can see, each one of these publishers is part of a major entertainment conglomerate – Vivendi/Universal, AOL TimeWarner, Virgin, Bertlesmann, and Sony. Until a couple years ago, these five publishers (actually, I believe EMI and Virgin were not yet merged then, so there were six) controlled a huge percentage of albums sold. However, the teen pop craze came out of an independent label, Jive Records. N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and others were all signed to Jive which gave it (and its parent company, Zomba) a market share orders of magnitude bigger than any of the other independents, so it really serves as a sixth member of the club, despite being distributed (but not owned) by BMG. However, now that it appears the teen pop craze is both cooling considerably and that other labels have their own teen acts (Destiny’s Child is on Sony and Avril Lavigne is on BMG’s Arista Records), it’s an open question whether Zomba is going to be as important in the future as it was from, say, '98-'02.


Thanks Cliffy. That was very informative.

As to whether MP3s can be an effective marketing tool-- well, that’s a whole nother matter. A thread for GD that could very well end up being a closed thread in GD.

The really crazy thing is that they’re up to NOW 53 in the UK.

You’re welcome, Biggirl.