Terry McBride has an idea. Another idea. A good – no, a great idea. McBride, CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, is sitting in his Vancouver, British Columbia, office with his local marketing staff discussing strategy for the release of a new album by Barenaked Ladies. The marketing departments in three other cities are conferenced in. The conversation ping-pongs from Nascar promotions to placement in a Sims videogame. McBride is on a roll.
"This one's a real wingdinger," he says, leaning into the speakerphone so New York, Denver, and Los Angeles won't miss a word. "Let's give away the ProTools files on MySpace. Vocals, guitars, drums, and bass. We'll let the fans make their own mixes." The room falls quiet. Musicians usually record their instruments and vocals on separate tracks; the producer and mixer combine those tracks into a finished product. McBride wants to make the individual files available so that amateur DJs can use them like Lego bricks to create something all their own. The record industry likes control. McBride is proposing unfettered chaos.
A voice from LA breaks the silence: "For the single, you mean, right?" McBride's features screw up in concentration, then quickly expand into a grin. "What I'm proposing," he says, "is that we make all 29 songs available as ProTools files. In two weeks." The Internet marketers in Vancouver look worried. "But," he adds, "we'll get the files from the single up on MySpace by Monday." Libby White, a member of the department, shoots McBride a skeptical look. Can they make it? McBride asks. White sighs. "We'll make it," she says.