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SING, the celebrated vocal compilation series from CASA (Executive Producer: Julia Hoffman / Producers: Thomas King and Jon Pilat / Founder: Dave Sperandio) hit iTunes this week. A cappella fans worldwide now have immediate access to preview and download all the tracks as well as purchase the album for only $9.99.  With each album rocking around 20 tracks of pro, collegiate, and high school a cappella music, that's one of the best music deals out there.

On top of the breakthrough price, SING struck a breakthrough deal with A Cappella Records (ACR) to distribute its catalog, in addition to compensating ACR artists for individual digital sales (press release).  This means that when someone purchases "Sound of Silence" by the Harmonics from SING V: groovus, the Harmonics receive a portion of that revenue.  While this may seem like a no-brainer, this is a first for an a cappella compilation, for a few reasons. 

First and foremost, across the music industry digital downloads is are still viewed as new territory.  Artist compensation for regular digital distribution is fairly low (often between 10-15% of the net profit). That is once the digital stores have taken their cut (~30%).  Today the fight for fair compensation of digital downloads continues with some publishers trying to get money every time a consumer listens to the iTunes 30-second sample.  Yes it's a crazy industry filled with greed but also incredible new opportunities for music exposure and discovery.

Now let's take a look at the a cappella scene, an industry with a reputation for not making much money.  Producers put together fantastic compilations to get a cappella music out there--it's a brilliant marketing effort that benefits everyone.  The artists get a ton of additional publicity, the producers bring in revenue for their brands to continue making future albums, and the consumer gets a ton of top notch a cappella tracks for a great price.  It takes the producers a lot of time and money to put these compilations together, so traditionally the artists agree to purchase a bulk sum up front.  This gives the artists more albums to sell at events, and keeps the producer from losing money.  As long as these physical compilations sell, no one loses money.  The artists make profit based on the markup price they sell these albums for, and the producer receives all the sales revenues for any albums he/she sells.

This all changes with digital: it's no longer about inventory management and production.  The expenses are much lower and the potential reach is much higher.  It becomes a game of marketing, sharing, tweeting, linking, previewing and instant purchasing.  It's a very cool technological development that has shaken the music industry and is starting to do some great things for a cappella.  But as compilations have moved over to the digital stores, the model hasn't changed.  The producer continues to receive all the revenues and takes care of all the royalties on both full album and individual track sales.  What happens if an artist sells 10X as many tracks as another?  All that money continues to go to the producer to further develop future albums. These producers aren't set up to be mailing checks periodically to the 100+ artists they work with, and it's not how the original model was built.  If it ain't broke don't fix it, right?

In negotiations about bringing the SING series to the digital market, the producers of SING and the executives at A Cappella Records (ACR) came up with a new compilation model, one that is designed to be more affordable for all participants and that offers a way to compensate the individual artists based on how well their feature tracks sell.  ACR will undertake this new step bringing digital compensation to the a cappella artists.  This deal is going to begin exclusively for all current and future ACR artists that appear on SING 1-5.

SING 6, coming this November, will also adopt this model.  SING 6 is a digital release with a handful of special edition, high-end copies being sold exclusively at SoJam 2009.  Being all digital, artists won't have to enter into any buying agreement or pay a penny to be on the album making it the best compilation business deal around.  Submissions for SING 6 are open now through September 28th, so I highly encourage all groups to submit now.

Make sure to check out SING (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) in iTunes and Amazon MP3.  I hope you all enjoy listening to this amazing collection of a cappella music.  Please tells your friends about it, tweet about it (#SING) and rock out to it.  This is a very exciting time for a cappella music.  As more of it enters the mainstream, please continue to write, arrange, record, shout and SING about it.

Chris Crawford
Director of Marketing