GIVEN that she was once ordained as a priest in a Catholic splinter sect, it's no surprise that Sinead O'Connor would be willing to take a leap of faith.
O'Connor has jumped from the world of record companies for her upcoming album, a collection of reggae material that will be released directly through a distribution company with no record company participation at all.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 23, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 News Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
McCartney guitarist -- The Pop Eye column in Sunday's Calendar section misidentified the guitarist in Paul McCartney's band who has a solo album, "Undressing Underwater," coming out Sept. 27. He is Rusty Anderson, not Rusty Young.
"Throw Down Your Arms," which teams her with venerated Jamaican rhythm section Sly & Robbie, will be released Oct. 4 via Artist to Market, a new division of independent Handleman Distribution -- the primary music supplier to the Wal-Mart chain and many other retailers throughout North America.
It's something of an untested approach for an artist of O'Connor's stature, but to her, it's an ideal situation.
"It's a feeling of total creative freedom," she says. "I feel more secure because I'm in control. If I wanted to make a record of sheep noise, I could! There's nobody to interfere with it. That doesn't feel risky. It feels like a natural situation for an artist. It's the way things should be."
O'Connor, though, readily admits that she does not think about the business side of things. She's leaving that part to her manager, Danny Heaps, who says that this move into a new business model, without the structure and muscle of a record company to market and promote the album, is not risky at all. In fact, from a purely financial angle, it's quite the opposite.
Where a record company would give a financial advance to the artist, with much of its costs ultimately recoupable by the company from sales revenue, Artist to Market is buying this album up front for a guaranteed fee based on an agreed-upon projected sales level. In O'Connor's case, the target is 200,000 copies in North America, the minimum she has sold on any past project.
"I don't know how you can beat the model we came up with," Heaps says. "Unlike with other artists who self-release records, Handleman has given us an advance on sales, paying give-or-take $5 per record."
What's remarkable is that even with that substantial payment to the artist, Artist to Market will still be able to sell the album at a bargain price, in this case, something under $10.
"Handleman's whole business model is based on low margins," Heaps says. "With a conventional record company, whether independent or major, everyone marks it up 40% each step of the way, which is how you go from $1.50 manufacturing cost to $19 an album in stores."
Paul Ignasinski, general manager of Artist to Market, acknowledges there are some doubts surrounding this and the new Tommy Lee album the company has just released under a similar deal.
"A lot of people are skeptical," he says. "The majors don't think we'll pull this off. But based on the calls we've gotten from managers, everyone knows the model is sound."
Key, he says, is scaling the upfront costs to realistic expectations based on the artist.
"We don't even need to hit 200,000 sales on our end to do well," he says of the O'Connor album.
O'Connor will be holding up her end by touring and doing steady promotional activities, including appearances on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" near the release and in December on "Late Show With David Letterman." But for her, that's again a matter of supporting the art rather than the business.
"I'm very proud of this album," she says. "It's a record I've wanted to make for years, so I'm happy to talk about it."
Rocker, rapper are shooting to score
WITH performances, nominations, previews and, oh, yeah, the awards themselves, MTV's annual Video Music Awards shows have been pretty much wall-to-wall music already.
But for the show taking place next Sunday in Miami, the producers decided they needed more and hired rapper-producer Li'l Jon and Linkin Park musician Mike Shinoda to provide clips to function more or less as "score" music.
"We're laying down the soundtrack for the awards show," says Li'l Jon. "MTV is always on the cutting edge, so it's something different to have original music from hip producers for an awards show."
They will not be doing the music live, as is done at the Academy Awards or Grammy shows. Instead, they've provided recorded sound bites covering different styles and moods that can be plugged in at fitting moments.
"The challenge was that they needed variety," says Shinoda. "I did 10 tracks, a couple of them a lot of Linkin Park fans will recognize the sound, while others are different, all the way down to some really stripped-down hip-hop sounds. And within each piece, there are different parts."
Li'l Jon didn't have to create entirely new works for this.
"They came and hollered at me and I told them I have a catalog of over 600 tracks," he says. "They sat down and I said, 'Pick what you like.' "
However the pieces were created, Dave Sirulnick, executive producer of the show, is thrilled with the selections provided by both artists.