Was Revenge of the Sith P2P released to generate buzz? I’m not sure; I have yet to see any serious analysis/commentary mustering much proof. (Please use the comments section to point to anything of value along those lines).
But using P2P as a buzz promotor is something which has been happening with increasing regularity on the Music side of things.
In November of last year, we asked the question: Was U2’s P2P release a Marketing Ploy?, looking at a very beleivable scenario:
"Some conspiracy theorists believe that a major artist has gotten tired of the big Labels internet incompetence. The alleged theft of U2’s "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," and its subsequent release on the P2P networks is being suggested as not a theft at all.
The labels may not understand P2P, but according to this theory, the band does. It seems Interscope Records (Geffen) wouldn’t allow Bono & Co. to release their tracks to the P2P networks. So their master recording "accidentally" got left somewhere (or stolen, depending upon which story you believe). Lo and behold, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is showing up on Grokster, Limewire, Acquisition, Kazaa, Bit Torrent, etc.
Incidentally, the last CD that this happened to was Eminem’s, which despite all the file trading (or more likely, because of it) was a huge 8 million+ seller. Eminem’s label? Its also (not coincidentally) Interscope.
But its not only the monster names that are recognizing the promotional aspects of P2P — several bands have been more or less rescued by P2P from the hands of big label incompetance. The most well known beneficiary of this is probably Wilco (See this smackdown between Jeff Tweedy and Sheryl Crow).
The NYT had noted:
"Tweedy, who has never been much for rock convention, became a convert to Internet peer-to-peer sharing of music files in 2001, after his band was dropped from its label on the cusp of a tour. Initially, the news left Wilco at the sum end of the standard rock equation: no record/no tour, no tour/no money, no money/no band. But Mr. Tweedy released "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" for streaming on the band’s Web site, and fans responded in droves. Wilco then took on the expenses of its tour as a band.
The resulting concerts were a huge success: Mr. Tweedy remembered watching in wonder as fans sang along with music that did not exist in CD form. Then something really funny happened. Nonesuch Records decided to release the actual plastic artifact in 2002. And where the band’s previous album, "Summerteeth," sold 20,000 in its first week according to SoundScan, "Yankee" sold 57,000 copies in its first week and went on to sell more than 500,000. Downloading, at least for Wilco, created rather than diminished the appetite for the corporeal version of the work."
Lastly, the artist Shaggy was rescued by Napster. In Jacob Slichter’s So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star, he offers Shaggy as an example of the poor judgement of the execs at MCA. It seems the Jamaican born rapper handed in his new album, Hot Shot to the label, and the first two songs on the record suggested as singles were “It wasn’t me” and “Angel:”
“Remember those song titles and read on: The MCA bosses listened to the album and complained “They’re no singles.” The bosses demanded that Shaggy return to the studio and record new songs, and Shaggy agreed. This was exactly the scenario that Semisonic had faced in late 1997 when Jay Boberg and other [MCA] senior executives heard no hit potential in Closing Time and suggested we return to the studio to record more songs. Jim warned us that if we recorded a new batch of songs, the label would choose the single from the new batch and forget about “Closing Time.” Fortunately, we heeded Jim’s warning.
When faced with the same dilemma, however, Shaggy accepted MCA’s mandate to record more material, and no surprise, one of the new songs was selected as the single. The CD came out in August 2000, the single flopped, and within weeks MCA stopped working the album.
Meanwhile, a DJ in Honolulu, Pablo Sato of KIKI 93.9-FM, had downloaded Shaggy’s album off of Napster and started to play one of the other songs, “It wasn’t me.” KIKI was flooded with calls and “It wasn’t me” became a local hit. Bonnie Goldner and other Shaggy supporters at MCA seized on the success and advocated the song be pushed to other stations, and within a few weeks the song was a nationwide smash. By Christmastime, the album was on its way to number one, and after another hit, “Angel,” the album had sold 12 million copies worldwide, no thanks to the people running MCA. It was Pablo Sato, his listening audience, and Napster — the dread enemy of the music industry — who pulled Shaggy’s album from its grave at the Music Cemetery of America.”
There’s a lot more to P2P than free MP3s. While the music industry understands this, the recording industry has yet to figure it out yet. And make no mistake about it, they are two very different beasts.
My persoanl suspicion is that the music side wants to see the widest distribution of their creative works as possible. As we have see in many instances, the money — for the bands — is in the touring.
As to the recording side — aka old media — I suspect that by the time they figure it out, it will be too late . . .