Cheap Tricks Manager David Frey Blasts Soundscan And “Too Much Information”

But His Attack Misses The Real Target

image from tunecore.typepad.com (UPDATED: Frey responds)

In a scathing editorial on the TuneCore blog, Cheap Trick manager David Frey blasts many of those who collect and sell information about music: "Ticketmaster 'owns' information on hundreds of thousands of Cheap Trick fans who have purchased their concert tickets. This is for sale. Amazon 'owns' information…Soundscan 'owns' information concerning CD and digital sales."

"So, every couple of years when the band releases a new CD we hustle, work, and pay to promote it …And like clockwork Cheap Trick's former record company(s) release repackaged budget Special Products to cannibalize the new release," continued Frey. "So it was decided “The Latest” would not be registered with Soundscan…But keeping information from Soundscan so that it can't be sold to competitors is impossible."

"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", concluded Frey. 

The Real Problem

But while Frey is right that Soundscan and Ticketmaster often do a poor job of collecting data and are even worse at sharing it with artists, is the real problem too much data or Cheap Trick's lack of access to it? 

It's almost a certainty that David Frey uses data when deciding which radio stations and web sites to target; and that the sales numbers he received from Cheap Trick's last tour help determine where the band will play next year and what they'll get paid.

The problem is not too much data or even who controls it. Data is power and can lead to better decisions. Is Frey advocating that the music industry return to the cooked data days when it shipped a million copies to guarantee a #1 and then took back 600,000 in returns?

Frey's target should not be too much data, but rather access to it.

If Cheap Trick had the email address or knew the home city of each fan, how he markets the band would change dramatically for the better.  Frey could accomplish that tomorrow by selling "The Latest" and tickets for the next tour only from their official web site. But when he chose to sell reach a wider audience via iTunes, Amazon or Best Buy, he entered into a partnership that includes Soundscan..

Cheap Trick's battle should not be over others collecting data on his band or even that they make money doing it. The real battle is that creators and rights holders deserve easy access to the data as well.

If David Frey points his guns at that target, much of the industry will jump to stand beside him.

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  1. Seriously? Frey’s piece is an incoherent rant… you try filling in many of the blanks, and spinning some meaning into this disjointed screed, but all the positive points you raise are absent from Frey’s own words. The rambling, angry diatribe is close to nonsensical, so it’s not clear what, precisely he’s angry about.
    It does a disservice to the industry to treat someones howls of pain as rational discourse. Lacking reason, clarity and evidence, not to mention a sense of history, it’s just an emotional outburst. Dressing it up with your own, better ideas only whitewashes the mindless squealing. It’s poorly written, but worse, factually a mess…
    Mr. Frey bellows that somehow Ticketmaster’s sales data belongs to his band, as does Amazon’s. Even All Music Guide, which publishes it’s own original editorial content (reviews, discographies, etc) about most major releases is somehow property of Cheap Trick, simply because they included the band. At the same time, Walmart, BestBuy and Virgin’s sales data, used for decades to bludgeon competitors, beat up suppliers, and control vast market swaths crossing all demographic and social boundaries, is just fine with him. In other words, IP control and theft is acceptable when he gets paid, even if others don’t, but not the other way around.
    Access is access. If the entities he were attacking sold access to their retail sales to Walmart at one price and UMG at another he’d have a point. But that’s not the case. The price is the same for anyone with a credit card or purchase order.
    And about the data itself: Coke has no inherent right to know whether a particular bar sells more of it’s product than Pepsi or beer. If a distributor made such data available to them, I suspect Coke would buy it and be thankful. But to insist that outlets that carry your product owe you anything more than a check and a re-order borders on insane.
    I get it. Frey’s hurt, angry and defensive. He probably catches sh1t all day from Cheap Trick, asking him why they don’t have a deal like The Eagles with Walmart. It’s gotta be frustrating. That doesn’t make his troubles mine, and certainly not the industry’s. It’s the 21st century, Mr. Frey. Join us or go home.

  2. Thanks for the constructive criticism.
    The point is that the band simply didn’t want SoundScan to track this release.
    I certainly didn’t mean to come off whining and complaining, I’m not, and I agree with most of what you’ve written here.
    And this was also written in reply to a prior post on this topic.
    In my opinion The Latest is a record and there’s never been a better time to be in the record business, The Latest has exceeded our expectations.
    The distributor(s) of The Latest, including Tunecore provide us with fantastic information on who is buying what.
    So in my opinion SoundScans’ only stake in the band’s new self release is to sell what I view as the BAND’s information to others.
    I called SoundScan in advance asking them to ignore this release, but “they can’t.”
    And you’re right, this is an old topic,” from an excerpt from thesis on Strategic Information Management;
    “Given the ‘hit-and-miss’ nature of the music business, a key competitive edge for a trendsetting retailer like Newbury Comics is knowing what will sell, and then selling these products aggressively and exclusively within a short window of time. As Dreese of Newbury Comics discovered, among the beneficiaries of the information provided by SoundScan are intermediaries like Handleman. Handleman credits SoundScan with getting them detailed information that it uses for inventory planning and replenishment at the stores of clients like Wal-Mart. Once Newbury Comics realized to what extent its mainstream competitors such as Wal-Mart were benefitting from the precise regional data that it shared with SoundScan— information which these competitors could never compile on their own— it ‘pulled the plug’ and stopped sharing information with SoundScan.”
    Source; http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/digital/Programs/Seminars/AnandPaper.pdf
    So I figured why couldn’t Cheap Trick simply “pull the plug” like Dreese did?
    And now that I’ve poked the bear I’ll concede that I’m an information predator also.
    I’ve paid for information on the band’s fans; who bought what, when, how, and all that, and it’s been tremendously useful. When a show is put on sale or an amazon.com promotion is scheduled I’ve arranged for info on who bought before, even did the; “if you liked this band you’ll probably like that band” program.
    I simply feel that the only entity who should message any band’s fans is that band themselves. So to me Cheap Trick buying information on Cheap Trick’s fans is okay, but others may not be.
    If SoundScan bought information on SoundScan’s fans or if Ticketmaster bought information on Ticketmaster’s fans, that would be fantastic. Maybe like Apple has with Apple fans.
    And again, this is only my opinion on an old topic.

  3. “It does a disservice to the industry to treat someones howls of pain as rational discourse. Lacking reason, clarity and evidence, not to mention a sense of history, it’s just an emotional outburst.”
    While I have no quarrel with your post as a whole, I have to ask how one can ‘do a disservice’ to the industry in this manner. The industry has never had a penchant for rational discourse.
    From Thomas Edison’s commercial suicide, brought about by his refusal to give his customers the recordings of dance music that they wanted, to the willful cluelessness of Doug Morris, the industry’s tendency to embrace it’s own irrationality is well established.

  4. Thanks for your clarification, Mr. Frey… it appears there are two issues:
    1) You don’t feel SS has a right to collect sales data in the first place and that an “opt-out” would be useful to you.
    2) You don’t think anyone should be able to prospect a bands fans other than the band.
    The second point is easy to tackle. Soundscan isn’t piling up email addresses or personal contacts, just demographics AS AVAILABLE (which isn’t always, beyond geographic-linked data and domains). I, or Cheap Tricks former label(s) can’t call up SS and order up a “hit list” of their fans to market to. Rather they can find geographic clumps of them, in specific markets. Big deal. Where’s the beef?
    As to the opt-out, in the early 80s I worked in radio at crap stations periodically. Those stations would have LOVED to opt-out of Nielsen audience metrics. The act of counting, by an inherently unfair methodology, damaged the revenue potential of small stations, and ultimately led to the corporatization of radio in general. We might agree this short-sighted approach wasn’t positive, maybe a cancer on the broader entertainment market that took Google to sort out decades later. But it is what it is: a common, mandatory yardstick, cataloging public information in a proprietary format, to be sold back to anyone with a credit card.
    Bottom line: you’re complaining about a well established system that has pros and cons. There’s no news here. If someone actually built an audience-metric that worked as you liked, it would have absolutely no value, because it’s measurements are too limited and narrow to have meaning. It actually matters to retailers how well a title sells, and where it’s selling, demographically speaking. I’d never stock a title I couldn’t track, and many stations won’t spin them. So the need to bury sales data is curious… what are you trying to hide? Decline in popularity? Market weakness? Demographic slip (fans dying off)? I read the claim (protecting fans from former label reissues), but it doesn’t hold water. A rising tide…
    Your comparison with Walmart makes absolutely no sense. Walmart is a data-source for Soundscan. Cheap Trick’s releases are data-subject. Apples, oranges. Any supplier of data retains the right to withhold that data. But in terms of market data, the subjects of the counting rarely get a say in any field or endeavor.
    Again, the criticism doesn’t make sense because you’re complaining against legacy metrics that have ostensibly improved their function (more data available more widely). You seek control, for it’s own sake and convenience, not because you’ve lost any relative to the past.

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