Fledgling Web sites help indie musicians

Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:34pm EST
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By Cortney Harding

NEW YORK (Billboard) - The next Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube: There are millions of dot-coms out there, all claiming to be the next bonanza.

But the five below are actually likely to make waves in the indie world in 2008 -- using new models, new takes on old models and emerging technologies to help artists get shows, sales, and song placement on films and TV shows.

Indie acts need not worry about the cost, either -- all the sites detailed here are free to use.

AmieStreet.com: While the debate about how much a song is worth rages on, Amie Street (www.amiestreet.com) uses a variable pricing structure that lets fans do the math. All songs start out free and top out at 98 cents; the song's price rises commensurate with the number of times it is downloaded. The site rewards tastemakers by allowing them to earn credit for recommending songs that go on to sell big, and the ability to download music for free is designed to appeal to broke students. While Amie Street has yet to break an unknown act, it has helped more than a few build audiences: The band Middle Distance Runner, for instance, has risen from being a virtually unknown outside Washington, D.C., to playing packed Bowery Ballroom shows in New York since it joined the site last March.

SirGroovy.com: As licensing becomes an ever-greater part of a band's income, Sir Groovy (www.sirgroovy.com) connects indie acts to music supervisors who want big-name sounds without having to pay big-name money. The site also takes care of all the negotiations and clearances, and bands are allowed to categorize their tracks in a variety of unusual ways to help catch the eyes and ears of supervisors. The site is still in its infancy, but has had some luck placing tracks by bands including the Sleeping, Jen Chapin, Five Times August and Flickerstick.

Paltalk.com: When aspiring Australian musician Kitana wanted to reach beyond her hometown to set up gigs and find collaborators, she turned to video-chat site Paltalk (www.paltalk.com) . Live cams allow musicians to jam together in real time, perform for fans and seek feedback about new music. In Kitana's case, she found a producer in Scotland and worked with him via the site and e-mail to create an album. Paltalk has also recently launched a number of programs that allow more established acts to perform for and connect with listeners.

Eventful.com: Indie bands unaware they had a rabid fan base in Lithuania -- and other young acts apprehensive about turnout when they hit the road -- will appreciate Eventful(www.eventful.com), "user-generated touring" site that lets fans request performances and organize gigs for their favorite acts. More than 30,000 artists, 29,000 of them indies, use the site to organize gigs and find out where their most obsessive fans live. CEO Jordan Glazier says that those who pledge to come out via the site almost always turn up. In fact, he reports that promoters have started asking indie bookers, "What is your Eventful demand number?"

OurStage.com: This site (www.ourstage.com) aims to be a "democratic competition where the fans decide who's best in emerging entertainment." Indie folks post their content, and fans get to act like amateur Simon Cowells by giving it the thumbs up or down. At the end of each month, the highest-ranking videos in each genre-based channel face off against one another, with the grand-prize winner taking home $5,000. Unsigned acts that receive plenty of votes can also win coverage on Paste and CMJ's Web sites and opening slots at Soulive's New Year's Eve show and the Miami PLUG Awards.


<p>An employee poses in front of computer screen at an office in London August 28, 2007. REUTERS/Simon Newman</p>