So, Who’s Your Album Sugar Daddy? Madonna Finds Smirnoff

For years – decades! – we’ve been talking about branding bands and releases.

Well, the future has arrived, and it’s a deeply-discounted reality.

Maybe it’s all part of an inevitable slide towards $0.  On Monday, Smirnoff announced a massive discount on a modified version of Madonna’s latest album, MDNA.  The ‘Nightlife Edition,’ which includes 7 album tracks, 4 Smirnoff exclusive remixes, and 3 additional remixes (apparently non-exclusive), is selling for just $3.50.  The special collection was put together by Hip Digital, which specializes in just this sort of music branding alliance.

(The offer, available US residents, is here.)

Great for fans, and great for brands.  But what is this doing to the value of the recording?  This is highly-reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s recent, 99-cent album download ‘giveaway,’ which featured Amazon as the sugar daddy.  More recently, Amazon and Google have been price-warring with 25-cent albums, all in the name of customer acquisition.

The difference here is that ‘Nightlife’ is not the full album, and definitely not the full-priced ‘Deluxe’ version ($14.99 on iTunes).  There’s also availability on Spotify, which means only some of this will replace actual album purchases.  Hip was fairly tight-lipped on details surrounding this release, but this is a limited-edition grab.  That’s probably a move designed to generate the maximum amount of attention for Smirnoff, but almost guarantees elevated piracy levels (at $0, not $3.50).

It may also limit the expense level for Smirnoff.  During Gaga’s highly-publicized ‘Born This Way’ discount, sources told Digital Music News that Amazon was heavily subsidizing the per-download cost back to Gaga’s major label (Interscope/UMG).  In other words, the label got paid as if consumers were paying full-price, with Amazon playing the expensive publicity angle (they can afford it).

All of which triggered important questions related to the value of a digital album, as well as concerns over accurate sales comparisons to other, full-priced albums. This time around, Madonna’s coming from Live Nation Entertainment, with Interscope a partner, and the sponsorship costs are unknown.  That said, this is probably pretty pricey – because deeply-discounted albums rarely come cheap.

8 Responses

  1. Seriously?

    Selling thousands of legal downloads causes piracy? Nice logic.

    • paul

      Unfortunately, I think the rather obvious logic is often ignored. Which is:

      limited edition (esp. on digital) =

      false attempt at scarcity =

      fans unable to get the paid content =

      piracy (at $0)

      However, lower-priced content without limited qualities doesn’t eliminate piracy (far from it), but does help to alleviate it.

      /paul

  2. MArknDC

    You realize Smirnoff accidentally promoted this as somethign for the entire world (even using the phrase “Smirnoff knows now boundaries!” and is now back-pedaling saying it is only for the US and in the procss pissing off the global fans who had mistakenly “liked” the page. (“Smirnoff? More like fuckoff!”) So this was a huge social media fail – and the remixes suck too. Back to Absolut for me!

  3. g

    Tacky.

    Although, I suppose Madonna has never really engaged in anti-corporate/consumerist posturing like other artists so I suppose it’s fair game for her.

  4. Keeganskylar

    To me it never did seem like an “album” but just a compainion to the album. More like an EP. But I think fans wanted a remix CD when really all it ended up being is a few throw away mixes. It was cheap but when you downloaded the “album” it was a zip file and none of the mp3s were even named with what mix each file was. Very sloppy. At least they could have named what each track was with the name of the remix .. I am sure the remixers involved would appreciate that as well.

    It is a goood idea overall I think this is a great idea in the future to do this sort of companion to the album release as something “extra” for the fans.

  5. RITCHARD MCKIE

    WHY CAN’T I GET THE MADONNA MDNA NIGHTLIFE EDITION REMIX ALBUM IN THE U.K.? SMIRNOFF PROMISED NO BOUNDARIES AND GOT IT’S INTERNATIONAL VIEWERS TO LIKE IT’S US FACEBOOK PAGE. We only did this to be able to get the album. SMIRNOFF PLEASE PUT OUT A STATEMENT ABOUT THIS. IF THIS ISN’T DONE SOON I WILL BE BOYCOTTING YOUR PRODUCTS.