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ABC NEWS.com Indie vs. Industry - MP3s Music to Independent Artists' Ears


Monday, July 2, 2001

by Melanie Axelrod

ABC NEWS.com Indie vs. Industry - MP3s Music to Independent Artists Ears
NEW YORK, July 11 - There are bands that make a lot of money, then there's Jim Infantino, lead singer of the band Jim's Big Ego, an independent band from Boston, who's happy with any attention he can get.  
And if he can get millions of people downloading his music on the Internet, he's more than just happy. He's ecstatic.
"I think independent artists are not so much concerned that people will trade our music and not buy our CD, as we are concerned that they won't hear our music," Infantino said. "I'd want to make music anyway, whether it was worth the money or not."  
Not in it for the Money - Now
Infantino's feelings may seem a bit idealistic. However, the reality is, there are scores of newcomers like Jim's Big Ego, happy that folks can download songs from the Napster Web site.
"I think it's a wonderful thing that people can grab new music," Infantino said. "Music that until now had a price tag on it - perhaps there just won't be any money in music anymore."
Sure, one day, Jim's Big Ego might hum the same tune as Metallica when it comes to the free trade of music on the Internet. But with Metallica's Lars Ulrich testifying on Capitol Hill for the Judiciary committee today at a hearing on new technologies for the dissemination of copyrighted music online, it is important to note that many new groups view Napster as the fast road to fame.
Suzanne Glass, founder of indie-music.com, a Web site that offers independent musicians advice and resources so they can find a way to make their art profitable, sees file exchange programs as one of the best things for independent musicians. She feels that smaller bands have to start using all the resources possible - and what better resource is there than the Internet to disseminate music to millions of people.
"I think the digital music revolution was inevitable," she said. "The Internet has a hotbed of talent. When the bandwidths of home Internet access gets better, it will be good for artists, good for everybody."  
Industry Seeks Money for Downloads
Although many independent artists may not be pro-big industry, most will admit that the money is nice. Statements released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) say it wants to work to find a more acceptable way of sharing recordings.
According to Hilary Rosen, Chief Executive Officer of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the main problem is finding the technology to make sure the artists receive the proper royalties for their music - even if it is distributed electronically.  
One idea that's being toyed around with is for companies like Napster.com or MP3.com to start paying artists that sign up and download a few of their songs on the Web site a small fee, or royalty. Infantino's Web site directs users to MP3.com so he can get a little Internet air time - as well as a little bit of cash, thanks to a new program run by MP3.com called the Payback for Playback program. With that, Infantino says, the band receives a small royalty depending on how many people download their music.
"Instead of only selling a full album of packaged goods, artists and record companies are looking at subscription services, singles and compilation downloads, artist packages, on-line jukeboxes and so many more," Rosen said during her testimony in June to the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual. "Property prices, in my view, will be cheaper for the consumer because consumers will get exactly what they want, and the opportunities for the industry and artist will grow as volume increases."
"One thing for sure, it's inevitable that music is moving in this direction," Glass said. "In the past, the industry got upset by new advances. Musicians at one point said ?oh no, we're not going to make any money with radio.' Once the technology gets better, people will be able to profit from their work."