Island tries ads in CD booklets

Mariah Carey's next album is guinea pig for new model

As music sales continue to drop, Island Def Jam Music Group is jamming on a new business model: integrating brands into artists' CD booklets.

The first deal, created for Mariah Carey's Sept. 15 release "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," is a 34-page co-production with Elle magazine that includes lifestyle ads from Elizabeth Arden, Angel champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Metier de Beaute and the Bahamas Board of Tourism.

Providing the experiment goes well, the label is eyeing bigger brand deals for booklets of CDs by Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Kanye West and others.

The mini-magazine for "Imperfect Angel" contains Carey-centric editorial ("VIP Access to Her Sexy Love Life," "Amazing Closet," "Recording Rituals") and lifestyle advertising along with lyrics and other CD booklet elements. Elle contributed the editorial and designed the layout.

The booklets were created for the first 1 million-unit run of U.S. CDs and the first 500,000 overseas, said Jeff Straughn, senior vp strategic marketing at Island Def Jam. It also will be available in a digital format for online buyers. A condensed version of the Carey mag, sans the 14 pages of CD-specific material, will be inserted into 500,000 subscription copies of Elle's October issue, which arrives mid-September.

"The idea was really simple thinking: 'We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,' " said Antonio "L.A." Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam, a unit of Universal Music Group. "My artists have substantial circulation -- when you sell 2 million, 5 million, 8 million, that's a lot of eyeballs. Most magazines aren't as successful as those records."

Carey was "very open" to the concept when Reid showed her a mock-up of the booklet in a magazine format that included brand imagery synonymous with her lifestyle. "I wouldn't want to do Mariah Carey and Comet abrasive cleaner," Reid said, laughing. "I wanted things that really reflected her taste."

Ad revenue is subsidizing 100% of Island Records' costs for the Carey booklet, but label execs also see the alliance as a way to expand distribution at a time when the local music store is becoming as rare as the Beatles' "Yesterday and Today" LP with the "butcher" cover.

"We don't have music retailers anymore, so a smart consumer-products company that understands the value in distributing music is going to restore the vitality of our business," Reid said. "If we distribute music properly, and if it's done tastefully, it could be a huge profit center for all of us. That is the missing link; we need partnerships."

To underscore the point: Elizabeth Arden is allowing the label to cross-promote the release. The "Imperfect Angel" CD will be merchandised directly outside Wal-mart's music aisle with Carey's new Arden fragrance, Forever, which has its ad on the booklet's back cover. The CD and scent also will be displayed together in the beauty department.