MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
Even in the age of iPods and digital downloads, record companies still send out thousands of promotional CDs. They go to music critics, radio stations and record stores designed to generate buzz in advance of an album's release. And almost as soon as those discs reach their destinations, they wind up on the Internet for anyone to download - for free.
As NPR's Jacob Ganz reports, one small record label is trying an end run around that system.
JACOB GANZ: The desk here in my cubicle is covered in stacks of CDs. Most aren't in the stores yet, but a lot of them are already on the Internet, circulating on peer-to-peer file sharing networks and MP3 blogs.
(Soundbite of music)
GANZ: This song is online too. It's from the record "In Our Bedroom After the War" by a Canadian band called Stars. The CD won't be in stores for another two and a half months, on September 25th, but you can buy it right now with the click of a mouse.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. KIERAN ROY (Marketing, Arts&Crafts): The status quo as we've seen in music industry over the last five years just doesn't cut it. The line between the traditional industry and press, and the influence that those have over consumers - the power is now swinging back to consumers themselves.
GANZ: Kieran Roy heads up the marketing department at Arts&Crafts, the Toronto-based record label that's putting out the new Star CD. He says the old way of building buzz is broken in an age when listeners are finding about new music online. He also says the label knew that the Stars disc would leak, so instead of just waiting for it to happen, Arts&Crafts decided the beat the leakers.
This week, just four days after the band headed in the final master version of "In Our Bedroom After the War," it was up for sale on the label's Web site.
Mr. ROY: And whether that's getting it right the first time or maybe tweaking this idea we have, we're not going to sit back and just, you know, play by the same rules. We want to take risks and we want to give consumers what they want.
GANZ: Consumers seemed to be happy. The album hit number one on the Canadian iTunes chart the day it was made available for purchase. It currently sits at number 22 on the U.S. iTunes chart. Of course, not everyone's going to be into this experiment. Brick-and-mortar stores won't likely embrace a business plan that cuts them out of the equation at the front end. But if, say, the publicity generated by this official leak leads to increased sales down the line, Stars could start looking like heroes.
Jacob Ganz, NPR News.