Nielsen’s Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick manager David Frey posted a commentary on digital music distributor TuneCore’s site yesterday, decrying Nielsen SoundScan’s collection and use of music sales data. Read all about it after the jump.

Frey points out just about every major retail outlet that has sold a Cheap Trick-related item has accumulated data on fans’ buying habits, including Ticketmaster and Amazon as well as the band’s former record labels, and that all that info eventually ends up in Nielsen SoundScan’s data banks. And he’s not happy about it.

The following is Frey’s essay, as posted on TuneCore, and it provides a fascinating look into the music business as it stands today.

Photo: Diane Bondareff / Hard Rock Cafe
Hard Rock Cafe, New York City

Nielsen’s Cheap Trick

I am a manager. One of my clients is a band called Cheap Trick. They have been together for 35 years and basically play shows and make recordings.

Though the public is clearly buying singles and not CDs, they record songs in clusters. They can prepare/rehearse them, get good instrument sounds, and realize other savings through efficiency. Once a good drum sound is finally dialed in, why not record a group of songs?

Anyway the band self released a collection of songs on 8-track, LP, CD, and digitally, called “The Latest” last summer. And since then the biggest thing I’ve learned is the power, (and price), of the band’s fan information.

For instance, Ticketmaster “owns” information on hundreds of thousands of Cheap Trick fans who have purchased their concert tickets. This is for sale. Amazon “owns” information relating to every Cheap Trick Amazon sale from day one. Their information is for sale. All Music “owns” a Cheap Trick “Artist Page” that propagates inaccurate out-of-date information. And many third party sites parrot their information, and that’s for sale. Soundscan “owns” information concerning CD and digital sales. Their information is for sale.

So, every couple of years when the band releases a new CD we hustle, work, and pay to promote it. This activity always raises their profile. And like clockwork Cheap Trick’s former record company(s) release repackaged budget Special Products to cannibalize the new release. Once they buy this information they can better target their predatory product.

So it was decided “The Latest” would not be registered with Soundscan. Maybe the former labels would have a harder time trying to trick the fans. But keeping information from Soundscan so that it can’t be sold to competitors is impossible.

Today I called Tunecore, our distribution company, pissed-off because a radio station I spoke with bought the digital sales information. I wanted to see if TuneCore could help stop the digital stores from reporting our sales information to Soundscan.

It is common knowledge that Soundscan pays iTunes, Amazon, and others for information so that they can mark it up and resell it. Soundscan also acquires their information from the electronics chain, two bookstores, the coffee conglomerate, and the two big box discount warehouse(s) who still remain in the physical CD retail space.

So selling information to predators is how Nielsen/Soundscan hurts musicians and I don’t appreciate Soundscan selling my client’s information to anyone.

Similar to the 24/7 media that leaves no room for mystique, development, and nowhere to earn fans. Too much information in the wrong hands can kill. And when the light hits, it’s often too soon, and like bugs under a magnifying glass everything’s cooked.

Click here for the Cheap Trick Web site.

Click here for TuneCore