Is this the future of music, or a sure sign of the desperation of record labels? Starting today and running for the next 177 days, extremely popular daily deal site Groupon is offering David Gray’s live album Lost and Found for $6, almost 50% off of what it would cost at most other digital retailers. Gray is a fairly major star in the UK – his 2000 album White Ladder is the highest-selling album of all time in Ireland – most famous in the U.S. for his song “Babylon,” whose strummy acoustic guitar and unintelligible almost-falsetto chorus (is he saying “Fall ya’ll hearts/Fall ya’ll hand” or “Fool your heart/Fool your head” or . . . what?) made the soundtrack to many Americans’ trip the grocery store.
This isn’t Groupon’s first foray into the music industry – the site has previously offered concert tickets from Britney Spears and albums by artists like Rhianna. Groupon’s most notable music project is GrouponLive, the concert and event deal site launched last month. A partnership between Groupon and Live Nation, the site’s front page declares it to be “the new source for the world’s best deals in local entertainment,” but after exhaustive perusal today, Prefix was unable to find any specifically “live” deals on GrouponLive – just an option to subscribe to a daily newsletter which does not immediately arrive.
Following last month’s controversial 99-cent Amazon sale of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, which helped drive her to number one on Billboard’s charts, are fire sales the only way forward for an increasingly distressed music industry? An April report by NPR’s sort-of-Pulitzer-Prize-winning Planet Money team found that Groupon has a decidedly mixed record of success for businesses who partner with them. Most businesses, they reported, only really got any value from a Groupon partnership if customers spent above and beyond the price of the coupon (if you get a coupon for a $4 hamburger, for example, the restaurant only makes money if you order a beer, too). With music deals, especially on album downloads, it’s unclear how the industry expects to generate any actual revenue by selling things 50 % – 90% off sticker price. Customers who buy one album will feel compelled to buy concert tickets? Or other albums? It’s not impossible, but it’s risky, to say the least. Still, when you’re in an industry where even favorable estimates show your revenue falling by 64% in 10 years (and 10% last year alone), anything’s worth a try.