GUNS N’ ROSES’ CHINESE DEMOCRACY IS DONE; AXL MAY UTILIZE RADIOHEAD SALES MODEL
Will Chinese Democracy finally hit the shelves in ’08? According to a report from Classic Rock Magazine, Axl Rose’s longtime personal assistant Beta Lebeis has confirmed that Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited Axl Rose release, was finished before Christmas of 2007.
She added: “Everybody knows that,” and mentioned that Axl is “in negotiations.”
Presumably Axl is figuring out when and how to release the record. Though Geffen pulled the financial plug on Chinese Democracy years ago after the recording costs spiraled above $13 million, the mercurial frontman remains contractually bound to release the album on Geffen.
There are completely unsubstantiated rumors that Axl is considering the Radiohead “pay as you wish” model. While this is purely speculation, I find it highly unlikely that either the label or Axl would agree to this. Firstly, CD sales, though in decline, still make up 80% of all sales (# of units — gross revenue is an even higher percentage). Profit margin is higher on CDs than it is on digital tracks, so I can’t see the label agreeing to a digital-only or digital-first release. Furthermore, by and large GN’R’s fanbase is skewed slightly older, meaning their demographic a) prefers to buy CDs, b) has the income to do so, c) is less likely to illegally download. There’s also the fan element; GN’R is so universal and this album has been delayed for so long that lots of people will probably buy the CD just because.
But most importantly, we’re talking about folks, both in Axl and the record label, who are imbued in the old model; spend, spend, spend on marketing, carpet-bomb the masses, bombard the media, make a big video, push the single heavily at radio. Neither party would ever allow something as risky as a “pay as you wish” model to happen, and would never in a million years allow this pesky Internet thing to do the marketing work on its own.
And you know what? In this case I can’t blame them. This album — if and when it comes out — is going to make bajillions. But no amount of record sales is going to recoup Axl’s ginormous $13 million debt. If I were Axl I’d let the label do their thing and then reap the benefits by the worldwide, two year, sold out stadium tour that will inevitably follow. Perhaps Geffen is trying to strongarm him into a 360 deal?