Column from November 15th, 1999

I know I've harped on a few times about the big labels and their attitude to the internet and all that, but there was an interesting development backed by the Seagram-owned Universal Music Group this week.

Universal has announced that it plans to set up a "multimedia record label and online music community". The intention is to let artists submit music over the internet and then hear feedback from both A&R professionals and regular music fans.

I'm not totally sure what the URL but it is going to be called "Jimmy and Doug's Farm Club.com" (try typing that in a hurry! Maybe it's just farmclub.com) and will further "showcase the most popular new artists found through the site on a weekly cable television show on USA Networks". Universal also goes on to say "successful new acts will ultimately be offered a record contract" - oh yeah? However, my initial skepticism was reduced when I saw who was backing it: Doug Morris (who heads up Universal and has "good ears") and, best known for his production and one-time marriage to Stevie Nicks, Jimmy Iovine.

Morris himself says that he thinks the internet can totally change the role of traditional A&R men: "The world wide reach of the internet is much greater than any individual A&R source. I believe that in the future the majority of music that becomes available will be auditioned and discovered through the internet."

Sounds good, one thing that struck we was that Universal would be able to expose new music to the market without really spending much. But Edgar Bronfman Seagram's Chief Executive says: "We will spend what it takes to be dominant force in this space. There will be significant investments, but we expect significant revenues. The primary driver of Farm Club is hope." (!!!) However, he did concede that the more prosaic commercial drivers of the venture would be a new stream of advertising revenue, access to a global group of music consumers, concert promotions and electronic commerce.

For the point of view of this publication, this marks an ideal opportunity for people to really make their voices heard by the record companies. If some decent melodic rock bands can get exposure through Farm Club, we can then exercise some force of numbers and prove to record companies that people still want to hear more such music and are happy to stand up and be counted!