Over the summer we've seen the emergence of one of the most successful 'Motown Unreleased' CD's for many years. Brenda Holloway's ' Spellbound' is full of rare and unreleased tracks many of which have surfaced during the last 2 years and have only been available as mp3 downloads. This CD set is fully re-mastered from 8 track and in great sound.
The anticipation[almost hysteria] in the build-up to it's release provided a substantial pre-order and fuelled by 'word-of-mouth' on speciality Facebook groups and the Northern Soul scene the CD achieved a UK Top Ten album position in the weeks following it's released and a second pressing as copies quickly sold out. In this day-and -age of dying CD sales this is pretty phenomenal.
But what are the lessons learned from this release and does it give hope to Four Seasons fans that the large 'cache' of unreleased Valli/Seasons tracks may soon achieve a similar fate?
Well to me there are five important 'lessons' to be learned from this release not only for collectors but for Universal Motown Group and the independent Record Companies that seek to license such tracks and invest in such release programmes.
Facebook groups are a clear market for unreleased material in new CD compilations. With ever increasing numbers of people gathering in interest groups that research Motown 'treasures' or rare and vaulted material it's pretty obvious that marketing is easier than ever .....thus targeting sales with little or no financial investment.
Quality control of 'sound mixes' is still an important consideration with 'hard copy' wav files preferred by collectors to mp3 downloads.
Artist involvement is a major marketing necessity. Brenda was fully involved with Cherry Red Records and producer Paul Nixon to help compile and approve this release.
Record Companies with belief in the project and the launch process are essential. ACE Records lost out to Cherry Red in licensing this music and they must be 'devastated' at getting that wrong. But the big future problem appears to be UMG[we are currently researching their policies and processes for future releases]
Such projects need a top compiler/producer with knowledge of the artist and the market[ie collectors like us]
What this demonstrates is that there is still a substantial demand for the release of tracks from the vaults of UMG [ie Motown Unreleased] and everyone we contact whether a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons fan club member or collector of their music..... knows the strength of their 'brand' …...their 'image' is huge. They remain top stars of the 60s and 70s music scene. Their unreleased music is clearly in demand as the steady growth of members of this group has shown. This is a project waiting to happen. So what is the problem.?
There are Record Companies who license tracks from UMG and top compilers who would promote the project IF......UMG and The Four Seasons Partnership would support it.
BUT the recent decision by UMG to cease third party licensing of tracks to independent record companies not only threatens to stop ALL new projects but threatens perhaps the role and purpose of those collector labels. Some projects are in the pipeline and will 'probably' surface in time...... but this is a real threat to collectors of this material and a huge disappointment to Four Seasons fans.
Our role is to publicise the lack of transparancy by the parties[i.e. artists and track owners]. Our sister blog site 'That 'Northern Soul' Sound' will consider this in more detail as we bring the situation to the attention of the Four Seasons Partnership. Then there is the Corporate 'animal' that is UMG? Whether they respond or not only time will tell. We won't hold our breath based on past experience.......but past experience doesn't always shape the future. Times are changing and the Facebook groups are becoming stronger and more influential. More questions than answers again!!! Hope remains that sense will prevail and the UMG policy will change in the light of this clear enhancement to Motown's music image. More when we have it!