But it knew that if it sent the single, "Hammerhead," in CD format, it stood a chance of getting buried under the mountain of other CDs that bands and labels bombard radio stations with daily.
So Columbia's target became the desktop computer instead of the desk. It relied on a direct-marketing tool it's been using for the past year, called eNotes, to tout the May 5 release of "Hammerhead."
The label has been "very happy" with the results so far. The single is No. 9 in airplay on Radio & Records' active-rock chart, and according to Billboard.com, it has moved up two spots in as many weeks to No. 16 on the hot-mainstream-rock-tracks chart.
With eNotes, created by digital-media delivery service Yangaroo in 2007, Columbia was able to target more than 1,200 DJs, decision makers and station programmers at rock stations with an e-mail containing a streaming version of the song. The message also contained an image and the album's release date.
ENotes recipients interested in a song can download it through Yangaroo's Digital Media Distribution System, a secure digital-courier service, according to Cliff Hunt, Yangaroo's chairman-chief operating officer.
"It's basically a multimedia advertisement," said Tony Cammarota, director-promotion and operations, Columbia Records. "In the past we had to use print ads in trade magazines to market the release of a single, but here we can market the songs with the information these decision makers need. And it gives them the ability to instantly access the track if they like it."
Mr. Cammarota said there are a number of reasons to use eNotes, including the ability to target a large audience in a more economic fashion, a major selling point for anyone in the struggling music industry. ENotes eliminates the costs of printing CDs, creating packaging, and distribution and shipping. (Mr. Cammarota said he hasn't yet done an "official" price comparison but knows it's significantly cheaper.) Mr. Hunt said if a label is doing a high volume of deliveries, the cost for each delivery "is less than a dollar. If they're only doing five a year, it could be higher than that."
Yangaroo works with three of the four major U.S. labels: EMI, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group.
The company made 1.3 million deliveries in the U.S. last year and 437,000 deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Other artists who have used eNotes include Madonna, Neil Diamond and Miley Cyrus.
Mr. Cammarota said eNotes also allows the label to be more environmentally friendly by eliminating CD production and transport.
"There was definitely a green aspect to wanting to use [eNotes]," he said. "There's nothing from a manufacturing standpoint that's involved, and there's no CD that will eventually get discarded. It's a much more green approach to distribution."