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Walt Disney Records and iTunes EXPLAINED

Discussion in 'Archive' started by Randy Thornton, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. Randy Thornton

    Randy Thornton Member

    Mar 15, 2002
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    On another thread (linked below), there is a compelling discussion on Walt Disney Records decision to release titles via iTunes. In it, some of you have expressed enthusiasm and others their concern over a whole range of issues. I decided to create a new topic that addresses these issues so that everyone could read it without hunting through a large thread. But before I babble on, I want you to know that I really appreciate not only your comments but also the civility used in expressing them!

    I would also like to welcome our new members from the FilmScore Monthly / Intrada / and other Soundtrack related discussion boards.

    Though it is not my intention to change your minds, I hope my ramblings help shed some light on your concerns.

    As I posted on this site when we first launched this new iTunes initiative, technology will improve! All of the albums that we are releasing through iTunes are being transferred and restored at 24bit 96kHz sampling whenever possible - a higher quality source results in a higher quality download no matter the compression. I'm not doing this just because it?s the right thing to do, but because I sincerely believe that technology will advance to the point where we can offer these rare and obscure titles at this higher resolution. Please keep in mind that I too have a personal interest in doing what can be done to see this happen. I spend months researching and restoring these titles and I want these out at the highest quality as much as you do. Is iTunes perfect? No. But I?ll be straight up ? if the only way I could get these titles released was on an Edison Wax Cylinder, I would! For now, iTunes is the best way for us to release this material.

    I?ve recently celebrated my 20th anniversary here at Walt Disney Records, and I?ve spent nearly all of those years trying to get this great material released. I?ve tried every way possible from physical releases, budget line releases, limited editions, licensing agreements, to CD burning kiosks. They all ultimately failed to one degree or another. iTunes has allowed me to restore and release more titles and to get them into more people's 'hands' than any of the previous attempts. Digital Downloading is the future. We have to accept that physical releases are going the way of the dinosaur. When Tower Records (arguably the largest record chain in the US) declares bankruptcy, the killer asteroid has entered the atmosphere. When the physical outlets start disappearing, the first casualties are the more obscure titles - the stuff we're interested in. It may not make us happy, but that's the reality of it. On the other hand, download technology creates an outlet that frees us from the discriminating silliness of traditional retail - their marketing trends, merchandisers, and disinterested buyers. In the US, it?s not just what the consumer wants, it?s what the buyer of any retailer thinks the consumer wants. iTunes eliminates this. It enables us to release even the most obscure titles in our catalog without the threat from the intrinsic pitfalls of retail - getting it into a store, manufacturing small quantities, inventories, shipping, availability, and the eventual returns of unsold manufactured goods. With iTunes, titles will never go out of print and you don't have to worry about whether your retailer carries it - they're all just a click away.

    Though we have many affiliates around the globe, the only thing that I can do is let them know that these masters are available. And by ?available? I mean to release in any form they wish ? CD, iTunes, vinyl, or 8track - whatever their market will support. We notify all of our affiliates that these masters are available even before I've finished them. We cannot, however, force them to release a title. It is within their discretion to do what they will within whatever rights they hold in any specific territory. The only thing that I can suggest is to let your territories know that you want these titles. I've told them, but you are the consumer.

    In closing, iTunes offers us an opportunity to release titles that have been proven to be impractical by any other means. I?m not asking you to purchase something you don?t want. But I ask that you just keep one thing in mind ? when televisions were first introduced they had 5? screens and you needed a separate magnifying stand to enlarge the picture ? fisheye distortion and all. Now we have High-Def. Hopefully it won't take over 50 years (as with TV), but when the technology is ready for lossless or high resolution downloads, we're ready! You may very well believe that this form of distribution at this current compression is a disservice to the original artists, but I argue that a greater and more tragic disservice is allowing all these great recordings to remain unheard and unavailable in any form.

    I do thank you for your comments, and rest assured I will continue to pass them along.

    Randy Thornton

    For the discussion referenced, see ?

  2. merlinjones

    merlinjones Member

    Oct 17, 2003
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    Bless you, Randy. I imagine that, without your personal dedication, many of these masters would no longer even exist, let alone be reissued as downloads.

    Please keep 'em coming before someone changes their minds!

    How are sales? Is there any intent to publicize or contextualize the downloads for people who might not find them easily or be aware of their existence?

    Any chance that pre-Disneyland/Vista masters on other labels (such as Bing's Decca singles from Ichabod, etc.) will be liscensed by Disney for release if their copyright holders do not make them available?

    Will you also offer the original LP versions of Soundtracks (such as Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins or the WDL library) that differ from the restored/extended Walt Disney Records versions? These often have alternate vocals or complete cues where the film version doesn't.

    Will you offer additional restored soundtracks/scores that have not been available in any form?

    Will you offer more singles comps of hard to get and unique tracks never on LP?
  3. CPNHOOK15

    CPNHOOK15 Member

    Jun 13, 2003
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    Thank you, Randy, for taking the time to shed a little light (or a lot actually) on this topic.

    I hope that now people can breathe a sigh of relief, go purchase some of these tracks they were holding off on, and support the future of these types of releases (while still making suggestions or complaining as needed)... with the knowledge that it will continue to see improvements as time goes on. As long as Mr. Thornton is in charge, we should rest easy knowing that we DO have a music lover (just like us) inside the MouseHouse doing all that he can.

    Wow. After reading that first post, my day just got better. Amazing. ;D
  4. Dr. Know

    Dr. Know Member

    Apr 27, 2002
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    I appreciate your taking the time to post here on this thorny subject. I'm not happy with the imminent demise of the physical cd, and I'm just thankful that specialty labels like Intrada, Varese, and FSM are showing no signs of slowing down in bringing out limited edition compact discs for serious collectors of film music. I hope the Disnleyland 50th set that you produced isn't the last of its kind!

    My question to you is this: taking into consideration what you have said about the advantages of iTunes in enabling you to pull obscure material out of Disney's vast archives and make it accessible to what is admittedly a niche market, what are the chances that you will be able to go beyond the catalogue of previously issued LPS and bring out soundtracks that were never released in any form (such as George Bruns' terrific scores to the Dexter Riley films, or, more recently, Michael Giacchino's great score to SKY HIGH)? And how about all that elusive park music, some of which was available in the original cd-burning kiosks 5 or 6 years ago? Is it possible that some of this will end up on iTunes? Here's hoping....

  5. WDWGuy08

    WDWGuy08 Member

    Aug 15, 2004
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    Hi Randy!

    In addition to what Dr. Know said about releasing park msuic. Is it possible to release music from attractions that are no more? Such as Horizons, World of Motion, The Timekeeper, Mission To Mars, Universe of Energy, etc... as well as still operating attractions such as Ellen's Energy Adventure, Mission: Space, El Rio del Tiempo, The American Adventure, Mickey's Philharmagic, etc... I would buy this music on iTunes in heartbeat of being let known it is available to buy. I hope you are able to reply to these questions soon so we will know wether it IS possible or not, i am hoping it IS possible.
  6. Dirk

    Dirk Member

    Mar 20, 2002
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    Hi Randy

    First of all (even so it has been said many times on this board by many members): THANKS for your enthusiasm and your dedication to releasing "obscure" Disney material.

    I appreciate your willingness to enter the discussions here. Your statements certainly help shed some lights on these matters. It will be interesting to see which direction the upcoming development will take.

    While we as music fans frequently complain about the compression rates made available, right now I expect more movement on the topic of DRM. Just this week on the music trade fair MIDEM experts and representatives of the major labels discusses whether there is / will be a move toward online offering of DRM-free music (most probably then in mp3 format with a digital watermark, allowing to identify the buyer of the original file if copies are made and then pop up on e.g. filesharing-networks). Interestingly these were discussion on a professional level (not consumer targeted) by representatives of the industry.

    But on to the one part of your post I wanted to comment on:

    This is a thorny issue - international releases (in whatever form) and the necessary legal rights. I doubt that the international affiliates can easily acess information whether they hold the necessary rights to release the "obscure" material in question here. With the comparable small sales numbers it could rake up, they most probably don't see the need to dig through archives and contracts to determine what they could release and then organize the according release. Unfortunately since they are "only" affiliates there aren't many "Randys" working with them, willing to go to such lengths for this "obscure" material.

    Just as an example: in Germany Walt Disney Record releases are licensed to EMI right now, but used to be licensed to EDEL before that (for a short time), and even before that to Polydor. Mind you these are only the licensing partners since the 80s. I don't know anything about the time before that. So the question would be: what is covered by the license to EMI?? All material of WDR, only material that has been released in Germany already (plus new material released for the first time in the US?), material released after a certain date or maybe also some of the historic material that was never released in Germany before?

    The legal question with international releases are complicated and before requests by fans can do any good (which I doubt considering the small numbers they represent on seperate international markets) I fear it would be necessary that WDR informs its international affiliates for which of the "obscure" releases these affiliates are in a legal position to handle a release in their markets. To my understanding (at least in the 90s) TWDC has a member of its local offices dedicated to WDR matters who functions as a WDR representative. Maybe these could be of some help as well.


  7. Michael Zielski

    Michael Zielski Member

    Mar 20, 2002
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    From my Little Golden Records back a "few years ago," to the cyberspace of iTunes, I'm not exactly boldly going, but I guess do have to go, as this "virtual musical format" will most likely not go away. It's certainly reassuring to me that in this time of significant change, that a person with the musical integrity of Randy Thornton is intimately involved with the process.

    And yet, I just don't see CD's ever totally going away either, as long as there are individuals around willing to produce the re-recording of a score like Bernard Herrmann's Jason and the Argonauts, with "our own" Bruce Broughton at the orchestral helm, wanting it available in the finest musical format possible. I'm just not ready to let go; and speaking of film music, I, too, would've preferred that significant recordings like The Black Hole, and The Black Cauldron, for that matter, have formal CD releases, especially during a time when the "virtual musical format" is in an evolving state.

  8. BDBopper

    BDBopper New Member

    Jun 7, 2004
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    Here's a question. My computer and Quicktime/ITunes have never been friends. I have yet to this day been able to download the software and get it to work. I have no idea why not. I am sure I am not the only person with this problem. Am I just SOL on this one until I buy a new PC?
  9. Howard Hawks

    Howard Hawks Member

    Apr 21, 2005
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    As you obviously don't own a Macintosh, one of the many Windows-using members here may be able to help if you provide some details.

    They're a friendly and helpful bunch, as a rule.

  10. MWRuger

    MWRuger New Member

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Thanks for the informative post. I sincerely appreciate the hard work you do and the fact that you have taken the time to read through that thread and respond to my and others concerns.

    I actually do understand the position that you are in and, as I have said on that other thread, I hope that one day I can buy the Black Hole either on CD or lossless from iTunes. While I agree with your logic on nearly all the titles that you have just released, I am sure that the Black Hole would be a success as a limited edition (In addition and not instead of iTunes). I don?t know what the sales of a title like the Tron release of a few years ago were but I know I bought one as did fans of the film and sci-fi fans as well. I feel certain that a boutique label like FSM or Intrada, Varese or even Prometheus could produce and market a limited edition as they have with many other scores that seemed impossible to release.

    As someone who restores vintage music I know that you have a vital interest in the quality of the music you release. I share that interest and I hope that you understand that it is my passion for music that drives me to discuss this issue at all.

    I eagerly await the time when I can buy this score in either CD or lossless download. In the meantime I will continue to hope that things can change.

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