In a feat of aural audacity not attempted since Pearl Jam unleashed 72 separate titles over a seven-month period, Sony's Columbia label recently reissued nine albums -- recorded by the Olsen twins for BMG during their pre- to just-pubescent years (1992 to 2002) -- with such titles as ''I Am the Cute One'' (awww!) and ''Brother for Sale 50¢'' (ouch!). Has Sony lost its mind? Hardly. It's far more likely that Ashley and Mary-Kate -- whose powerful retail empire (everything from music to videos to cosmetics) generated an estimated $1 billion in 2002 -- are swooping in Wonder Twins-style with just the kind of deal the distressed music industry needs right now.
''[Sony] believes in this brand,'' declares Olsen rep Michael Pagnotta. ''Who does a deal if they don't think it's a good deal?'' Of course he'd say that, but a source at a rival label agrees: ''Deals like this are a far less risky financial undertaking than actual recording agreements. Very little investment is needed with catalog titles. If Columbia is smart, they might even buy up ad time during 'Full House' reruns.'' ''Billboard'' charts director Geoff Mayfield calls the deal ''a no-brainer.''
So is there any risk? Well, Pagnotta says the duo will earn a ''significant advance'' against royalties. And, of course, the Olsens could go cold. But Pagnotta points out that they've fielded offers ''from other major labels.''