What’s Next From SoundScan, a Frequent Buyer Program?

Is Big Brother coming to your record store?

SoundScan, the New York research company that brought accuracy to the nation’s record charts through electronic monitoring, is going to aim that same technology at a new target: you.

The idea is to compile detailed records on what albums individual consumers buy to create special mailing lists that record companies can use in promotion campaigns.

If, for instance, you buy a Garth Brooks album at participating stores, you could get a sampler in the mail featuring selections by different country artists. If you buy a Pearl Jam album, you might get an alternative/hard-rock sampler, and so forth.


Sound like invasion of privacy?

No, insists Mike Shalett, the chief operating officer of SoundScan. For one thing, he says, only those consumers who sign up for FastTracks--as the program is called--will be monitored. Second, the information will stay with SoundScan, which compiles the mailing lists. The names and addresses will not be sold or given to other companies.

Shalett says that plans for the program--which will charge consumers a $5.95 sign-up fee--have been in place from the beginning at his 3-year-old company. “We knew that after we told companies how many units they had sold, they would ask, ‘To whom did I sell them?’ ”

There are other incentives besides an occasional sampler album as well. Each purchase will give the buyer points--sort of like an airline frequent flyer program--which can be traded in for discounts on merchandise in a SoundScan gift catalogue.


Shalett says that among the items available will be vacation packages, minidisc players, leather bags, bomber jackets, triathlete watches, T-shirts and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and posters.

Although details of the program are still being ironed out, it looks as if most major record companies will be part of the program, and that all merchandise purchased at a participating store will provide FastTracks points.

When FastTracks goes on line, about 10% of the nation’s stores will participate, including outlets of the Wherehouse, Peaches and Trans World chains and more than 400 independent stores. Shalett says that he expects many more to join in once the program has been established.