And the labels will rock
It hasn't been a good week to be a Yankees fan, a chicken pot pie lover, or a major record label. Well, at least you know that the Yankees will be back with a fat payroll next year, and ConAgra (NYSE:CAG) will get past the salmonella outbreak that led to a recall of its frozen poultry pies.

The labels, on the other hand? It's not going to get any easier for them. Nine Inch Nails became the latest band to opt out of a major recording contract, preferring to follow Radiohead's lead into self-distribution. Oasis and Jamiroquai may follow suit. Then reports began to surface that Madonna was ready to bolt from Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG) to sign a multifaceted deal with concert promoter Live Nation (NYSE:LYV) that would cover music sales, touring, merchandising, and licensing deals.

What's worse? Musical artists trying to cut out the middleman and embracing the benefits of digital distribution online, or some artists actually bypassing labels and signing up with concert promoters or even a bean water brewer to get their music out in the marketplace?

Pick your poison. All I know is that it's a troubling sign when you're a fading sector and everyone's avoiding you like the plague.

Don't worry, major labels. Maybe you can still corner the market on polka-powered dirges after the stars have unplugged and moved on.

Quick hits
A few more of the market's stories, in brief:

  • Don't overpay for your calls. That's the philosophy at Skype, whose chatty cybersurfers can make calls to their landline and cell phone buddies at a fraction of conventional dial-up rates. Well, guess who really overpaid for a call? eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY)! After announcing that it was going to write down $1.4 billion of the $2.6 billion it initially paid for Skype, the company was further embarrassed by Skype's own co-founder, who admitted that eBay paid too much for the company. Gee, and you thought the only eBay saps who overpay are the ones who blindly click on the "Buy it Now" buttons when they're the only ones bidding.
  • Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) began giving a game away through its Xbox Live Marketplace earlier this week. Yaris is an auto-racing game, subsidized by Toyota, the carmaker trying to promote its own Yaris automobile. I suggest that other Xbox Live developers aren't going to like seeing their five-dollar games undercut by an Abraham Lincoln fiver. A Yaris trumped by a Lincoln? That's heresy in the Motor City.
  • What's that? Discount department store giant Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is sporting healthy comps? Warehouse club Costco (NASDAQ:COST) is also thriving? Thrifty eats in large amounts are back in fashion, my friend. I'll meet you at the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant by the corner.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

eBay and Costco areStock Advisor selections. Microsoft and Wal-Mart are Inside Value stock picks. Subscribe to either service and take advantage of a 30-day money-back offer. How's that for an offer one can't refuse?

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look back. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.