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  •  The EvO:R Street Journal

    The EvO:R Street Journal
    Editorial statement
    Dedicated to the culture, business and interests of the indie artist. EVJ delivers controversial points of view, hard-news commentary, Industry Insites, artistic prose and photography and welcomes responses (pro or con), feedback and topic suggestions from readers. If you would like to submit an opinionated article, inspired poem, photo or essay to EVJ, forward all copy to Editor ESJ and put To the Editor in the subject field.


    To iTunes and beyond
    By Cnet.com

    Independent labels and artists are beginning to play an increasingly visible role in download services such as Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store, where bragging rights to the largest collections of tracks--including obscure independent songs--are a critical selling point.

    In large part, this growing indie presence is due to the services of a set of aggregators that serve as middlemen between the labels and the big online services such as iTunes and Napster. These companies, such as the Digital Rights Agency and the Independent Online Distribution Alliance, help small labels place their albums inside the music services, even helping them negotiate royalty rates that might otherwise be impossible.

    "It's still a struggle in most cases to get rates that are competitive with the majors," said Tuhin Roy, the founder of the Digital Rights Agency. "It's only through the collective bargaining power of organizations like ours that we're getting close."

    CD Baby, an online CD distributor for labelless artists, also helps its musicians place songs in iTunes and other services. Loudeye, a company that digitizes music for the major labels, offers a similar service to independents that helps them win a spot in download catalogues.

    The digital download market is much broader than iTunes and its direct rivals, however. A handful of independent labels are beginning to create their own stores. Warp Records, a prominent electronic music label, recently launched its Bleep.com, offering downloads of ordinary MP3s from several independent labels, without copy protection, for about $1.35 a song.

    Niche sites offering sales only of punk rock, jazz or Christian music have sprung up. A company called Weed lets people trade and buy independent musicians' songs using a private peer-to-peer network.

    Finding a sympathetic ear
    Despite all the new distribution capability, independent musicians still face their oldest problem, however: How to get noticed in a market where potential listeners now have as many as 700,000 songs at their iTunes-browsing fingertips.

    GarageBand, a boom-era company that was recently rescued and refinanced by current Chief Executive Officer Ali Partovi, has one answer to that question. Independent artists like Byrd can post their songs online, but they must first review other artists' music. The top-rated songs are prominently displayed on the site, and have, at least in Byrd's case, drawn contacts from top industry managers and label employees.

    CNET News.com publisher CNET Networks offers its own site where independent musicians can host and promote their music, Music.download.com.

    Internet radio stations can provide some similar exposure. Live365, which lets independent DJs run their own Webcasts, has its top songs show up on charts in industry magazines Radio & Records and CMJ, both of which are closely watched by big labels and broadcast radio stations.

    In the end, artists say the new tools for independent musicians are coming into their own. But at least today, they remain complements to the traditional modes of incessant touring and offline self-promotion.

    Byrd said that he's had his songs reviewed by radio promotion consultants, and they picked the same potential singles that GarageBand.com reviewers liked. He's now taking those songs to broadcast radio stations.

    For his own plans, the feedback from Internet radio and his CD Baby sales has been invaluable, the songwriter said.

    "I'm selling a ton of CDs in Connecticut and Pennsylvania," Byrd said. "It helps me figure out where I want to tour."



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