Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

CSI Vodafone’s Bright New Sounds

Lets forget about the press release for a moment and take a closer look at Vodafone’s new Bright New Sounds yoke. First, what is it? Well, lets take a look at the website. Actually, there is nothing – not one …

Wed, Feb 6, 2008, 08:47

   

Lets forget about the press release for a moment and take a closer look at Vodafone’s new Bright New Sounds yoke.

First, what is it? Well, lets take a look at the website. Actually, there is nothing – not one word – on the website about what exactly Bright New Sounds is. I mean, there are details of the prize and the process, but nothing about what those behind Bright New Sounds intend this to be. It may be in the press release and you and me may think we know what it is, but it’s not on the site. Is it a battle of the bands competition? Is it You’re An Indie Star? Is it something which Vodafone think might help them flog more downloads? Is it all of the above?

OK, lets move on. The prize.

Universal Ireland will sign the winning Act to the new NoCarbon label. The prize includes a single recorded at the famous Windmill Lane Studios.

The single will be released by Universal in May 2008 along with arranged media interviews and a launch gig already booked as part of the package.

Each member of the winning act will receive a SonyEricsson K850i with 1,000 Euro Vodafone credit.

A record deal, studio time, release, media promotion, launch gig and free phones (we assume a 24 piece band won’t win) – not a bad haul.

The devil, though, is in the detail.

The line “Universal Ireland will sign the winning Act to the new NoCarbon label” is interesting, especially as there is no rep from NoCarbon on the judging panel. How will this work? Can Universal Ireland really tell what looks like a standalone Universal label like NoCarbon what to do? Could they do this with, say, The Blizzards?

What kind of a “record deal” is up for grabs? Is it just for the single release or it for an album/albums?

Well, take a look at the terms and conditions. The link is buried down in the bottom right hand corner of the front page. Click on it and you’ll find the following:

It is a condition of entry that all Entrants agree to be signed up by Universal Music Ireland for an exclusive digital only release of their first single in the Republic of Ireland and to give Universal Music Ireland first option over their exclusive worldwide recording services for a minimum of one single firm and 4 optional albums in the event that they win the above prize; and agree to give Universal Music Ireland first option over their exclusive worldwide recording services for a minimum of one single and 4 optional albums in the event that they reach the live final

Cool the jets! Lets recap on this again. The winning band will get a digital-only release of their single but Universal Music Ireland – not NoCarbon, note – get an option for up to five albums in return FROM ALL THE BANDS WHO MAKE THE CUT FOR THE FINAL. All in return for sending in one MP3. No mention of advances, budgets and the like. Holy rights grab, Batman!

Questions. Under what conditions will the contract progress from a digital single deal to an album or albums deal? Will these conditions be stipulated in the first contract the winning band sign? Why is this not signposted at this stage when it’s clear the winning act will end up in hock to Universal Music Ireland if they’re any good?

What, for example, would happen if the band didn’t want to progress with the contract after the single release because, I don’t know, they didn’t like how their single release was handled and marketed and distributed? Can they get out of the contract? Remember the competition is supposed to be just for a digital single release. Or are they stuck with giving Universal Music Ireland up to five albums once they become the Bright New Sounds winners?

If the band take this contract to their lawyer – and I assume they will be advised by all concerned and especially Vodafone and Universal Music Ireland to seek independent legal guidance about all matters concerning signing any contract with a record label or third party like Vodafone – and he/she advises them not to progress with it because it is unfairly loaded, will they still get the phones and the studio time?

The studio time is “2 days recording at Windmill Lane Studios” with production by Tom McFall. What happens if the band don’t like the production at the end of the session? Can they reject it and call for another session with another producer? Or is this a case of get the job done and shut up about it?

Which brings us onto the release. We assume there will be a full-service marketing campaign around the release so what’s the budget for this? Who will control this spend? Has the money already been allocated? Will the band have any input into how this marketing money is spent? If, say, they believe that taking out ads with Hot Press is a waste of money for their band, can they spend their ad budget with State, Mongrel, Totally Dublin and Today FM instead?

There’s talk of “arranged media interviews” with Hot Press and Phantom FM. What other “arranged media interviews” are there? Surely an interview with a fortnightly magazine and a local radio station will not pass for a press campaign? Or is it a case that most media outlets have absolutely no interest in agreeing to “arranged media interviews” until they know who the band are?

Then, there’s the process. Bands upload their tracks and a panel of judges pick their Top 20. These 20 songs are then available as free downloads and the five acts with the most downloads get to play a gig in Tripod in Dublin where the winning band will be selected. The event sounds unmissable:

The event is free for all to attend and will be hosted by PJ Gallagher

PJ Gallagher! The fella with that ridiculous Jake character which stopped being funny two years ago! Rock!

By the way, I’m sure the people at Tripod will be thrilled skinny to see a photo of crowd-surfing youths used as an illustration on this page. What will happen if this is recreated on the night? Do you really need me to spell that one out too?

So really, it’s a popularity contest, where the bands with the biggest number of download-friendly mates will win. It’s Indie You’re A Star after all. Lets hope any of the bands thinking about sending in their MP3s realise what they’re getting themselves into. It’s also good to see Vodafone heartily endorsing the traditional record industry way of doing business.

The free phones and call credit, though, will probably come in handy for the winner. They can always call a friend to see if they can get them out of the hole they’re in.

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