CBS Takes Online Spin at Record Label

CBS is getting back into the music business in a big way.

The company is launching the CBS Records label--it used to own Columbia Records--with an eye toward signing independent artists, targeting the songs for Internet download, including on Apple's iTunes, and using its marketing muscle to push the songs over its various platforms, including its TV shows.

CBS said it would also distribute the music via and other platforms, wireless providers for example, CBS' broadband channel, Innertube, and its channel on YouTube. CBS said it would also offer "physical" distribution via outside partners.

“With more consumers choosing the online download model as the preferred way to purchase their favorite songs,"said CBS President Les Moonves, "we have an opportunity to use our unique and broad collection of media platforms to create a new music label paradigm for a small price of admission.”

The songs will be integrated into shows "across all dayparts." CBS also said it would continue to get singers from other labels exposure on the CBS platforms.

Back in September, Amy Osler was recruited from the music industry ranks to fine-tune CBS' tunes. Osler, ormer VP, TV marketing, for Columbia Records joined CBS in the newly created post of VP, music, for CBS Entertainment and CBS Paramount Network Television.

She was charged with identifying music or groups that can be worked into network programming. While still at Columbia, for example, she arranged for Grammy-winner John Mayer to appear, and perform in, the season premiere of CSI. Other music placements at Columbia included Anna Nalick on Grey's Anatomy and the Dixie Chicks on Medium.

In addition to Osler, CBS has brought in Larry Jenkins, a music industry vet and head of  L J Entertainment, to consult at start-up. Jenkins will work with Jack Sussman, executive VP, specials, music and live events, CBS Entertainment, and Jeff Sellinger of CBS Interactive.

CBS says the tunes will be worked into shows on co-owned The CW as well as CBS Paramount-produced shows on network and basic cable that include CSI, Everybody Hates Chris, Medium and The 4400.

The label will be a new unit of the Entertainment division, based in L.A. and reporting to Nancy Tellem, president, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group. It will primarily use the existing infrastructure of CBS Entertainment and CBS Interactive, said CBS.

“The marriage of television and music with CBS Records offers tremendous creative and commercial potential for everyone,” Tellem said in announcing the unit. “Our artists will have access to an incredibly powerful medium [television] to drive music sales; our television producers will have greater flexibility to use music as a creative enhancement in their shows; and our company will be able to reduce the network and studio’s music licensing cost center while transforming it into a new revenue stream.”

The move could be a canny one, using a marketing juggernaut to promote the songs while at the same time tapping into the frustration expressed by some artists at not getting airplay for their songs on the radio.

CBS says initial artists signed include P.J. Olsson, band Señor Happy, whose music has been on MTV and VH1 series, and Will Dailey.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.