CBS Launches Music Label

CBS made an unusual move today, announcing the formation of CBS Records, a music label designed to promote and market new music and, not coincidently, act as a reservoir for inexpensive music the network can use on its many television productions, including the CSI franchise, Everybody Hates Chris,America’s Top Model,Weeds, and Dexter. And it’s already inked a deal with Apple’s iTunes to distribute digital downloads, and expects to partner with other online, wireless, and physical distribution partners.

“The marriage of television and music with CBS Records offers tremendous creative and commercial potential for everyone,” said Nancy Tellem, President, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, in a statement. “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 last clause is particularly important to CBS, which has to pay substantial licensing fees to music distributors to include popular music in its television programming. The placement of songs in television shows is a tricky game often conducted through brokers and partner companies, but the bottom line is that by focussing CBS Records on “a select roster of artists from the limitless ranks of independent musicians who write and perform their own songs,” CBS note only gets its own in-house record label with whom it can make sweetheart deals, it only signs artists who are willing to agree to sweetheart deals for a contract and a shot at getting their music heard on television. (But just CBS television: my guess is that other studios won’t find licensing CBS Records’ artists particularly attractive.)

Initial artists signed to CBS Records include Grammy nominee P.J. Olsen, singer/songwriter Will Dailey, and Boston indie rock outfit Señor Happy.

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