Warner Music Group is to launch a download-only record label, where artists could periodically release clusters of tracks rather than big budget studio albums.
The new label, officially the brainchild of Edgar Bronfman Jr, WMG's chairman and chief executive, will focus on both emerging talent, and bands with a core following of loyal fans, but that don't really stand much chance of hitting the charts anymore.
"An artist is not required to have enough material for an album, only just enough to excite our ears," Bronfman said, speaking at a conference in Aspen. "Rather than releasing an album every couple of years, every few months the label will release clusters, three or more songs, by an artist."
As well as cutting distribution costs, the new model should meet with the approval of hordes of music fans who have long been agitating for record companies to take full advantage of the net to sell music.
The record industry, for its part, has resisted the move so far because of doubts over copyright protection, but also the potential conflict with their sales channel. It remains to be seen how the big music stores will react to WMG's decision to sell direct to the public.
The company is planning to have the service up and running by the end of the year. Bronfman commented: "We're going to try it and see where it goes." ®