Record-label executives discreetly use Garland’s research firm, BigChampagne, and other services to track which songs are traded online and help pick which new singles to release. They increasingly use such file-sharing data to persuade radio stations and MTV to give new songs a spin or boost airplay for those that are popular with downloaders.
Some labels even monitor what people do with their music after they download it to better structure deals with licensed downloading services. The ultimate goal is what it always has been in the record business: Sell more music.
“I know of a case where an artist had obviously gone with the wrong single, and everyone loved this other song they had on their record,” said Guy Oseary, Madonna’s business partner and head of her label, Maverick Records. “In the world of what we do, it’s always good to have real information from real fans.”