Opening the Vault: Sony seeks guidance on which classic albums to releaseWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Gomez remembers what it was like to be a fan, looking for great music and learning it wasn’t easily available. Now, as the Vice President of Digital Media for Sony Music, Gomez is overseeing a project that will help fans of classic recordings to obtain titles they have long since given up on.
“I just think back, you know, when I was a kid, it was very difficult to even find — you know, there was a song that you really loved, but you didn’t know what album it was on, it was hard to even find that album,” Gomez said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “And today, clearly, with iTunes and Spotify, that piece is much easier.
“But we still don’t have our entire catalogue available, and we want it. And that is our intent — to make the catalogue available. And we’re looking for a little guidance for where to start.”
Sony’s Legacy Recordings label holds the rights to past recordings from tons of labels and acts — everything from AC/DC to Andy Williams. Much of this great classic catalogue has yet to be issued digitally.
That’s the idea behind the Legacy Recordings Vault, a new website (www.legacyrecordingsvault.com) which allows fans the chance to recommend and vote on which albums should be released in new digital form. It’s a concept Sony has been kicking around for a while.
“Sony Music has the two oldest labels — Columbia and RCA — both over a hundred years old,” Gomez said. “And as we, our staff and our producers, were looking at what we wanted to make available digitally, we thought, well, we all definitely have our own opinions about what we think would sell and what would be of interest.
“And we thought, well, why don’t we use the fans’ opinion, and how can we do that? And we talked about several different ways to do it, and ultimately we decided to use this mechanism for fans to submit what titles they thought we should make available for download and let them vote on it.”
The first 30 albums listed on the site — including selections by Eddie Money, Electric Light Orchestra, Willie Nile, Flatt & Scruggs and more — were chosen by Sony staff in order to give visitors something to vote on right away.
“We thought, well, is there a way we could start the conversation? And so that’s why we submitted, we started it off with some titles that we recommended. The idea was, hopefully, we wouldn’t be the ones always submitting, that the fans would ultimately submit their ideas of what they want,” Gomez said.
The top vote getter currently is Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman,” with Tammy Wynette’s “The Ways to Love a Man” in second place. Fans have already begun to make suggestions that are climbing the voter rankings, with albums by Bob Dylan and the Band, Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel and more drawing support.
Inspiring that kind of passion and discussion is exactly the intent, Gomez said, and he added that he hoped other sites would join in to campaign for their favorites.
“If there was a guitar site or a classic rock site or something that was really a cult fanatic of an album that for some reason we didn’t have available, that they would tell us and their fans would get behind it, and we would certainly make it available.”
Of course, despite the vast catalogue of titles Sony has the rights to release, it doesn’t own all of musical history — and helping guide voters to titles that Legacy Recordings actually has the rights to is part of the growing pains, Gomez said.
“We don’t really expect everyone to know what albums were recorded with Sony Music. So we figure we may need to provide a little guidance there. But ultimately the entire intent of this is to listen to the fans.”
Gomez said that Sony hasn’t yet publically announced how many votes or how much discussion a particular album has to inspire in order to be released, but noted that “the intent is to see where things stand after the first month, and make a few of these available.
“There are some users who submit hundreds of titles they want made available,” he noted. “It’s very interesting, because some of these only want them if they’re put out on vinyl. And that’s not the intent of what we’re working on right now. And others are just happy that they can have a voice.”
And that kind of interaction is what the project is all about, Gomez said. “Just tell us the ones you want and we’ll do our best to make those available.”