We posted back in November that Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek had enabled pre-release digital download purchases of his new CD, Blinders On, from his web site. At the time, we reported that there was no indication of record company involvement, but we have just learned that the new Watkins CD will be released by Sugar Hill Records on March 14.
In a new move for the label, Sugar Hill agreed to allow for pre-release downloads since Sean finished the project well ahead of schedule, and was eager to get the music out there right away. Holly Lowman of Sugar Hill told us that this project seemed like a good opportunity to test the concept. She told us that pre-release download sales have been significant, but not “so massive that it will really detract from the national full-on release.”
Sugar Hill has also been keeping an eye on the Nickel Creek fan sites and bulletin boards to get a feel for fan reaction to Sean offering downloads. They seem to think that a large portion of the fan base wants to wait and get the full CD package, with artwork, etc, though some seem prepared to both purchase the downloads in advance, and then the manufactured product upon release.
It will be interesting to see whether it is something Sugar Hill (and other labels) will embrace on more projects in the future.