The Black Keys have created their own version of the classic Heavy Rhyme Experience, live music mixed with great hip hop MCs, and have called it Blakroc. I’ve been excited about this since I first read about it. It was released yesterday and is currently #1 on iTunes’ hip hop chart, (where I bought the download today). I’m stoked to listen, but puzzled by the way they’ve released this.
My curiosity was piqued after an email from Tara (also a fan) wondering why they hadn’t updated their Web site (still says coming Nov 27th, today is Nov 28th). I started poking around online and found it was only available two places: iTunes and Indie Retail stores (via the good folks at CIMS).
iTunes and CIMS stores are both great retailers and partners, but I’m not sure why you would release at these two outlets exclusively. If I was going to do an iTunes exclusive for a highly anticipated album like this, I’d want to see some serious promo from iTunes in return. But there is literally zero promo for the Blakroc album on iTunes as far as I can tell, nothing on the home page, nothing on the hip hop page. Maybe it’s because they released on a Friday and iTunes can’t update their promo card mid-week? Dunno.
Not only that, a hotly anticipated track featuring Ol Dirty Bastard seems to have been left off the iTunes release. Note the comments at the bottom of this page:
No worries, it’s easy enough to find elsewhere, for free:
I like the “Indie Retail Black Friday” part of their release approach. I bet those stores have it well-positioned and hopefully the holiday sale foot traffic bought lots of copies.
But why not have the CD available via Amazon?
Someone who wants the CD and lives in northern Indiana, where I grew up, has two options to get the CD: 1) drive to Chicago or Indianapolis (3 hours by car), 2) Buy from Blakroc’s Web site (Music Today) for $21 ($14 + $7 (!) shipping/handling):
Ouch. Guessing it would be closer to $13, delivered on Amazon, no?
And why not make it available at ALL digital retailers? It’s not any more work, releasing at all digital retailers is as easy as checking a box with digital distributors such as TuneCore, INgrooves, IODA, etc.
I searched for the album in order of my personal retail preference: 1) Emusic (I’m a subscriber, so for music available there, that’s my cheapest option), 2) Amazon (I’m a loyal Amazon customer and have an Amazon credit card, so buying from Amazon is simple, comes in MP3 format, and has a 3x points on my credit card), 3) Rhapsody (I have Control 4 in my house so anything playing in my house plays through Rhapsody). When I struck out at all of those I fell back to iTunes, which did the trick, of course. But why assume all your consumers are buying from the same place when it’s no more work to make it available at all digital retailers in one fell swoop? If it was a temporary iTunes pre-sale to get some good promo I’d understand, but the lack of iTunes promo tells me that’s not it. Also, is “Only Indie stores! And iTunes!” ironic to anyone else? Saluting the indies at physical and thumbing your nose at them at digital doesn’t quite compute for me.
And International? Why not at least make it available internationally on the same day? Again, this is as simple as checking a box at the digital distributors mentioned above. Note the comments on this page from International fans, asking where they can get the release.
I think I know where these fans are going to get the record: there are 500K results on Google for “Blakroc Torrent” and another 500K+ for “Blakroc Download”, including links to Mediafire, etc:
I wonder if the illegal release has the ODB song that’s missing from the iTunes version. If so, ouch, again.
Not to mention that releasing at Lala and elsewhere would improve your Google search results (they would be playable and the top result would link to a point of purchase).
So to be specific, my release strategy would have been:
- Pre-sale of a limited edition unique product on the Blakroc web site
- Pre-sale of CD on Amazon, with promo from Amazon
- Pre-sale of digital on iTunes, with promo from iTunes
- Simultaneous release of CD on Amazon and at indie retailers
- Simultaneous worldwide release of digital at all digital retailers (Amazon, Emusic, Zune, Lala, etc etc)
And this isn’t completely theoretical for me, this is what I just did with Get Busy Committee, an album which admittedly was much less hotly anticipated, with great results.
This really isn’t meant to be a criticism of whomever is releasing this (I don’t even remember who it is — apologies, I think someone told me who was doing this once upon a time, and now I’ve forgotten, so it’s *really* not meant to be a slight, I don’t even know who I’m talking to here!). We’re all trying to find the path forward at this point. Just thought I’d put it out there to open up discussion on how we’re all releasing albums these days, and see if there’s something I’m missing as to why the approach being taken with the Blakroc record is better than the one I’m suggesting.