Let’s celebrate Ray Charles’ 90th birthday

On September 23, 2020, Ray Charles would have turned 90. To celebrate 40 years of creativity, the Ray Charles Foundation and Exceleration Music are releasing a complete 90-track box set, entitled True Genius.

Exceleration Music is a brand new company, founded by former Merlin Network and Concord Music Group directors, aiming at enhancing “the future of independent labels and artists”. One of their first projects is a partnership with the Ray Charles Foundation to help them digitize the artist’s catalog and thus expand it.

In December 2020, Exceleration Music chose IDOL to manage the reissue of “Georgia on My Mind,” one of Ray Charles’ most iconic songs. Due to the success of the operation, the company has renewed its trust for the release of this exceptional 90-track box set: True Genius, The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection.

On September 10, 2021, dozens of songs will be available for the first time on streaming platforms: “This will allow new and future audiences to discover the true genius of Ray Charles,” says Valeri Ervin, President of the Ray Charles Foundation.

To understand the mission entrusted to IDOL, one must go back to the work done by the teams, and in particular the Catalogue Accounts Manager, Rim Boumahdi, on the re-edition of “Georgia on My Mind“.

Georgia on My Mind

For several years, the original recording of “Georgia on My Mind” was not officially available on the platforms. This means that before this re-release, the only versions online were public domain versions or covers.

The track was made available on platforms in mid-December, one month after the US presidential elections. At that time, Georgia had been declared a “Close State” because absentee ballots were delayed and the results were too close to call.

According to Thomas Maxwell, Head of IDOL’s Nashville office, “The release couldn’t have come at a better time. As Ray Charles had been considered an advocate for equality and voting rights, it was serendipitous to be able to re-release the Official State Song of Georgia during such a critical time in modern American history.”

Initially, IDOL was responsible for informing platforms of this release, making it clear that this version was the only one officially authorized by the Ray Charles Foundation and Tangerine Records (the label Ray Charles founded in 1962). This exclusivity allowed IDOL to request the removal of the other versions (public domain), and to replace them with the official version in all playlists.

“In addition to these exchanges, we were able to place the track in new playlists, which allowed it to move up in the artist’s Top 3 on Spotify. We also got some great exposure: a PHPTO (Premium Home Page Take Over, a banner display on desktop that redirects towards an album or a playlist) on Spotify in the United States, but also a push notification sent by Deezer to 240,000 fans of the artist, a “Song of the Day” promotion on Napster, and a dedicated playlist on Tidal: Georgia on Our Minds…” says Rim Boumahdi.

In view of these results, Exceleration Music decided to extend its partnership with IDOL for the release of the exclusive box set True Genius: 90 songs remastered in HD to celebrate the 90 years of Ray Charles.

True Genius, The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection

The intention of the foundation and the label is to release the box set as a series of EPs classified by genre before the release of the complete box set in September. This will highlight the diversity of his repertoire. Beyond soul and jazz, he has explored country and pop classics. To accompany the release of each EP, Lyric videos will also be published.

For this release, the approach is more or less the same as for “Georgia on My Mind”: first and foremost reintegrate the playlists, replace all the compilation versions by the official versions, and get new playlists and highlights

In the US, as the jurisdiction is different, not all tracks are in the public domain yet. This gives IDOL the exclusive right to distribute these tracks, and the possibility to send takedowns for unofficial compilation versions. On the other hand, in Europe, the strategy will rely on other arguments, like the authenticity of the versions or the quality of the mastering.

Rim Boumahdi, IDOL’s back catalog manager, notes that the United States has never been as responsive to a reissued project as this. “It is very interesting to work on such an important artist. We realized through this assignment that we could be more ambitious. I feed off one project for all the others: I can reuse this information on other projects: now I know what is possible, because I did it for Ray Charles.”

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