(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The evolution of digital downloads marked another milestone on November 23 with the debut of UMe Digital, the world's first all-digital download label from a major music company–Universal Music. 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 UM to place songs in films and TV shows and commercials, UMeDigital 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 that already have an established fan base. Parthenon Huxley, guitarist Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney, Stewart Copeland), Ken Stringfellow (Posies, currently guitarist touring with R.E.M); guitarist John Jorgenson (Elton John, Desert Rose Band, Hellecasters), Tennessee rock band The Shazam, Dan Reed (Dan Reed Network), hard rockers Black 'N Blue, and singer/songwriter Will Owsley (Shania Twain and Amy Grant guitarist) are the label's first artists.
"UMe Digital is another significant development in the expansion of our business and our efforts to reach more consumers in more creative ways," says Bruce Resnikoff, president, UMe. "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, senior, director New Media, UMe. "Consistent with the types of artists UM has marketed or signed through its other labels, UM Digital is looking for established artists that tour and have a fan base." says 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 adds, "When artists find success with downloads, we may opt for a physical release as well."
UMe Digital IS 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.
"Fundamental changes within any industry have always taken longer than people expect, but result in massive and positive growth," says Zack Zalon, president of Virgin Digital. "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."
"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," says 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," adds Michael Abbattista, VP content & label relations, Liquid/Anderson. "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."
"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," notes 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!" says Matt Bruno, MSN Music Service.
"This is a great initiative that will help artists put new music in fans' hands more quickly," says Julie Wright, manager of label relations for RealNetworks. "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." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen