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Amazon AutoRip Service Offers Free MP3 Downloads Of Previously Purchased CDs

Amazon has announced a new service that grants users free MP3 downloads with any eligible CD that they purchase from the website. Once consumers have purchased an album that is eligible for the new AutoRip service, Amazon grants them access to an automatic digital version in Amazon’s Cloud Player that is playable from mobile devices. AutoRip will also allow users to access MP3 versions of albums bought off of Amazon since 1998 if they contain AutoRip-eligible songs. At this moment, about 50,000 songs are eligible for the AutoRip service, with more expected to be added. While AutoRip is currently only available in the United States, Amazon does plan to expand the service internationally throughout 2013.

In the past few years, most new vinyl releases have come with digital download cards as well, but the same service has been slow to take hold with CDs, as their already digital-friendly format seems to preclude the need for a corresponding digital download. With AutoRip, though, Amazon circumvents the entire ripping and syncing process, and allows users instant access from all devices. Sweet.

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What's In A ".music" Domain?

Every denizen of the Internet is well aware of ubiquitous domains like .com, .org, and .net. These are unrestricted generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, acting as a general organization system, by content, for every site on the Internet. Outside of these domains there are also a number of more specialized set of domains. These sponsored top level domains, or sTLDs”with extensions like .travel, .asia, .cat (not about pictures of cats), and yes, .xxx”are assigned by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) through their subsidiary, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Only certain cites can apply for and receive these requested domains. For example, you can’t have a social network with the .asia domain unless the website is catering directly to an Asian audience. The question is why should this matter to you?

Occasionally, there will be calls to develop and provide new domains. Arguments can be made that the lack of usable domains across the net can stifle web creation. More domains should, conceivably, be a boon to websites looking to capitalize and appeal to a specific, niche audience.

Recently, the IANA has been mulling over the idea of releasing a new set of domains. During a four month period, various organizations could apply for a TLD at the low, low price of $185,000 per domain application. In late June, the IANA released a complete list of the proposed domain names along with the associated companies that are trying to get a hold of them. The list revealed, more than anything else, the companies that are trying to plant a digital flag in uncharted Internet territory.

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Motörhead Rebels Against Greed

Outraged by the extravagant cost of their new 15 disc box set, Motí¶rhead has told their fans not to waste their money on the overpriced trinket. At $600, the box set’s coffin-like case houses each disc with a Motí¶rhead skull emblem fastened to its lid. Open it up and you’ll find several singles and eight earlier albums, from their self-titled to No Remorse. In addition, the package contains some posters and a photo book.

According to CNN, frontman Lemmy Kilmister stated, “Unfortunately greed once again rears its yapping head… I would advise against it even for the most rabid completists!”

The band claims, “Motí¶rhead has no control over what’s done with these early songs, and don’t want fans to think that the band is involved in putting out such a costly box set.”

If you’re simply too much of die-hard fanatic, the group recently put out a new (reasonably priced) album and DVD titled  “The Wí¶rld Is Yours” and “The Wí¶rld Is Ours – Vol 1 – Everywhere Further Than Everyplace Else” late last year.

Click here to see images of the box set and its outrageous $644 price tag on Amazon.

If Illegal Downloads Didn't Hurt Music Sales Do We Still Need To Go To The Cloud?

Illegal downloads are bad for music. Blah, blah, blah. Yadda yadda yadda. Like we haven’t heard that one before. You know what we haven’t heard before? That illegal downloads haven’t hurt music sales. Well, at least the claim that they haven’t hurt music sales all that much. This is the assertion being made in a new report from the London School of Economics.

According to the report, file sharing is not the enemy but the future of the music business. And illegal downloads are not the principal cause in the drop off of physical music sales. Rather, it’s a combination of factors such as changing patterns in music consumption, decreasing disposable household incomes for leisure products and increasing sales of digital content through online platforms. Read the whole thing if you have a minute and you have a craving for wordy dissertations on the ins and outs of digital downloads.

But wait, doesn’t this contradict everything we’ve heard about the evils of file sharing? How can the major labels, the RIAA and Metallica all be wrong? The report has come out while another file sharing storm has been brewing. But this time it’s not the anonymous hordes on the peer-to-peers fighting the established fat cat labels; this time it’s a white collar boardroom brawl.

Last month Amazon launched their Cloud Drive service which acts as a mobile, digital locker. Users can store up to 5 Gigs of media for free and can then access the files from any web connected device. Sounds great, right? Well, nearly every other player with some involvement in entertainment business, especially the music biz, are feeling, well, played.

Labels are especially upset as they argue that Amazon doesn’t have the licensing rights to offer streaming music to customers, only to sell digital downloads. Amazon, naturally, thinks otherwise, likening their service to the also free Google Docs in terms of accessible storage for subscribers of the service. Not only that, but Amazon also claims that the service has already boosted music sales on the site. Amazon wasn’t able to back up the claim with hard numbers, though.

Cloud computing. Is it really the wave of the future or is it a trendy buzz word”a piece of fodder for the hype machine? Some might be a little unsure of the benefits of heading “to the cloud” but that doesn’t change  that everyone’s trying to get in on the ground floor. How does this affect music? Well, everyone’s trying to sell music too. Or if not sell it, at least offer it to people. Sony just launched their Music Unlimited service for PSP users, allowing users to stream music to the hand-held console for $3.99 a month. Industry titans like Google and Apple also have cloud-based services similar to Amazon’s Cloud Drive in the works and iTunes users can already stream their music to other devices… if they’re recent generation Apple Products.

All signs point to file sharing as the digital wave of the future. Analog will always carry a charm, a certain nostalgia. But come on. Getting your files anywhere on nearly any device as part of a freemium or nearly free service? I mean, what beats that?!

That said, the labels have a valid argument in all this. While the reasons for the drop in sales are and forever will be in dispute, facts are facts. Sales of music are down, overall. Labels are going to fight tooth and nail for every available dollar and they have a valid concern if they’re not going to get licensing dollars for streaming music. Amazon is just the first to really dip their toes into the water. If they don’t need to pay the labels to store and stream the music, as they claim, then that would open up the floodgates for numerous copycat competitors. The National Music Publishers Association brought a concern for a more sympathetic group with a stake in all this: the songwriters. One of the main issues is the filtering of content and lack thereof. What’s to stop a user from illegally downloadingmusic and then uploading it to the Cloud Drive service? As of this moment, it appears that there isn’t.

Amazon and representatives from labels met last week to further discuss what the terms of the service to further work out the kinks. While Amazon does acknowledge that there might be future functionality to be added to their Cloud Drive, they’ve made it known that they’re not interested in paying anything extra to stream music to their users. Still, the future of cloud computing looks bright, ironically enough.

The Great Race To The Cloud

Nothing is more frustrating than downloading a song on your phone and having it stranded there, except for maybe losing your hard drive and saying goodbye to your long-coveted music library. Apple, Google and Amazon have been working on solutions to these problems and more in the form of cloud-based music services. Google and Apple have been hung up on some minor details, called music licenses, but Amazon decided to bypass all of that nonsense and released their service last Tuesday.

Amazon’s Cloud Player and Cloud Drive have already caught a lot of flak from the music industry, and it’s bound to get worse with time. When Billboard asked Amazon’s director of music, Craig Pape, about skipping the licensing step, his answer was concise: “We don’t believe we need licenses to store the customers’ files. We look at it the same way as if someone bought an external hard drive and copy files on there for backup.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The main issues stem from the fact that users can upload their music to the company’s servers. Record companies are concerned about users uploading illegally downloaded content, which is a reasonable concern, and a Sony spokesperson said “we’re keeping all of our legal options open.” One senior music executive even went as far as calling the service “legalized murder.” Amazon’s Terms of Use prohibit the uploading of illegal music, but if the debate ends up in court it will be interesting to see if Amazon protects its users or turns them over to the labels.

The industry implications of Amazon’s Cloud Player are huge. If they manage to evade a lawsuit, or if the courts decide that what they’re doing is legal, it can set a precedent for all future cloud-based services. Music piracy has been on the decline since LimeWire closed up shop in October, but Cloud Player has the potential to turn that around pretty quickly. On top of that, it would give Amazon a big leg up on Google and Apple who have yet to finalize their services. If you ask us, though, a lawsuit against Amazon is all but inevitable.

OurStage Artists Gear Up For 2011 Releases

Winter is a good time for recording. Tours slow down, the weather is a drag and despite the dreary landscapes,  it seems the creative juices flow so come spring we’re presented with more new releases than our iPods can stand”just in time for summer touring season. Okay so maybe there is a method to the cycle, but come February we get a renewed sense of excitement all the same. Recently we’ve been putting out a call on Twitter and Facebook asking which OurStage artists have new material in the works or recently hitting the shelves. In addition to some great responses, we’ve also been doing a little digging ourselves, and have come up with a great list of EPs, LPs and singles that are either available now or will be in the near future.

So read on to check out the latest from your OurStage favs. Did we miss you? First of all shame on you for not @replying us on Twitter. We forgive you, though, and you can always email us at pr@ourstage.com with your news. Add us to your mailing lists, we’d love to hear from you!

Daphne Willis – This songstress is no stranger to the OurStage charts, and has the achievements to prove it, including a 6 week stint at Number 1 on the Best of Pop chart. We’re sure her new LP Because I Can”an album swirling with inventive melodies carrying straight-to-the-heart lyrics”will provide even more badges. Leading up to Because I Can‘s release, 3 Digital 45s will be released in advance of the full-length record. The second of the 3 “Do What You Want” dropped this past Tuesday and can be found on Daphne’s Web site as well as the option to pre-order the album.

Daphne Willis – Because I Can, April 19, www.daphnewillis.com

Bronze Radio Return - You may remember this fok-rock group’s unique moniker from the John Mayer Side Stage Warfare Competition when they won the coveted side stage performance in Massachusetts (which you can watch a video of here). When an advance copy of their new album SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE! showed up in our inbox one morning we spent the rest of the day dance dance dancing in our chairs. Don’t believe us? Grab an EXCLUSIVE free download of the release’s title track “Shake Shake Shake” on the OurStage Facebook tab for Editor Picks. Don’t want to wait until March? Head over to BRR’s Web site, where pre-order for the album began Feb. 1.

Bronze Radio Return – SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE!, March 29, www.bronzeradioreturn.com [BTdub, you can download the title track exclusively on the OurStage Facebook page FOR FREE!]

Tamppa – There’s no doubt about it, Brooklyn-based rapper Tamppa has skills. He also hustles, and has won a mentoring session with Columbia Records, editorial feature on Vibe.com as well as other various hip hop accolades here on OurStage, and has even shouted us out in his submission to be included in an upcoming T Pain mixtape. So we weren’t surprised when he dropped us a line to tell us about his HUNGERPAIN vol. 1 mixtape coming up, which is hosted by Sha Stimuli & Dj Young Cee of shady/Gunit. He’s got more friends on there than we can name, but you can pick it up for free when its released mid February on a variety of sites.

Tamppa – HUNGERPAIN vol. 1, mid February, www.datpiff.com, Tamppa Facebook page

A’tris – OurStage resident rockers A’tris have been a constant fixture on the OS charts since debuting in the Music Video Channel in 2008. Since then they’ve gained recognition in genres across the board, including alternative, electronic, electro-pop and rock, in addition to going strong with videos. Suffice it to say they’ve got a ton of material, so their plan for putting out a new demo every week in 2011 seems totally appropriate. The band is asking for fans feedback on each track and will eventually use all that input to put together their new album. You can read blog posts and descriptions of the demos when they’re released each week right on A’tris’ Web site.

A’tris – One Demo Released Every Week of 2011 – www.atrishq.com

Wes Kirkpatrick – Another OurStage favorite, Wes has dazzled fans with his songwriting abilities for years, graced the OurStage magazine more than once, opened for HANSON after winning the Shout It Out With HANSON Competition and supported acts like Blues Traveler, State Radio and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Get a sneak peak of Wes’ upcoming release Naps & Nightmares by listening to a new track of the album “Where You Are” on his Web site.

Wes Kirkpatrick – Naps & Nightmares – March 1 – www.weskirkpatrick.com

Stacy Clark – OurStage has been a long time supporter of this Southern California singer, and is even quoted in her release promoing her upcoming album Connect The Dots. While the album is available for download on iTunes now, Connect The Dots official worldwide release is scheduled for Feb 15. The do-gooder has also made one of the tracks, “Not Enough” available for free download in conjunction with To Write Love On Her Arms, to which a donation will be made for every download.

Stacy Clark – Connect The Dots – available now – iTunes and Amazon

Check out these other releases from OurStage artists

Mike Del RioThe New World EP on iTunes

Martha’s TroubleAnchor Tattoo on www.marthastrouble.com

Michael SondersYour Pretty Face EP on iTunes


New Music Biz: How to Sell Your Music

These days, artists need to make their music available on high traffic sites like iTunes, Napster, and Rhapsody in order to create and maintain consistent online sales. However, these third parties only offer solutions for selling digital tracks. Besides selling music directly through an individual Web site, how else can the struggling DIY musician distribute their hard goods? One answer is Amazon.com.

For those who don’t know, Amazon does support the sale of Mp3. Lets begin by briefly discussing the process of getting your MP3s on the site. The easiest way is to go through a third party distribution aggregator such as CD Baby and Tune Core. Signup for either one and you can get your music distributed to major online players for as little as 10 bucks. The instructions are simple to follow and you can have your music up in no time.

Getting your physical album on Amazon, is a bit more complex, but still very worth while.

  1. First things first, make sure you own all distribution rights to the material that you’re selling. This is important as it could come back to bite you hard if you aren’t careful.
  2. Create an Amazon Advantage account. You can start that process here.
  3. Add an item by logging into your account and clicking Add an Item.
  4. After selecting the product type, you’ll need to enter the item’s UPC code. Here are some tips on getting a UPC code if you don’t have one. You’ll then have the chance to enter the details of your CD.
  5. Return to the main advantage page and in the left column click on image upload to upload your artwork.
  6. Expect that your album will show up on Amazon in about a week.

With this type of Amazon account, you’ll be required to ship your own products. When an order comes in, Amazon will notify you via email. You’ll then follow the online instructions to print out the address label and pick sheet provided in digital form by Amazon.

This process is simple but, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

Discourse & Dischord

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Beam 'Em Up: The mysterious Broken Bells ad

The Good

Danger Mouse and James Mercer get LOST on fans

Danger Mouse and Shins frontman James Mercer are set to release their first collaboration in early 2010 under the moniker Broken Bells. If that doesn’t get your indie motor running, this will: To hype up the new record, the duo has launched a mysterious viral campaign. Here’s what’s gone down so far:

Those signed up to the Broken Bells mailing list received an email last week written entirely in binary code. Translated it reads, The high road is hard to find, which is an obvious reference to one of the album’s tracks, The High Road. This week ads started popping up on various Web sites, displaying an image of two shadowy figures. The ads link to several nonsensical Web sites ” all anagrams of Broken Bells. There, listeners can hear brief snippets of streaming audio, presumably from the record.

I haven’t been this excited since finding out that Ethan Rom was an anagram for Other Man!

ABBA decks the hall

Gimme, gimme, gimme airbrushing

Gimme, gimme, gimme airbrushing

The Hall of Fame Foundation has announced that ABBA will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in March 2010. The Swedish pop group joins Brit rockers The Hollies and Genesis, Detroit rockers the Stooges and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who will all be inducted this year as well.

T-Pain and Andy Samberg: On a boat, with crabs

As we mentioned last week, comedy group The Lonely Island has been nominated for a GRAMMY for their duet with T-Pain, I’m On A Boat. This week Andy Samberg reunited with T-Pain for a Funny or Die sketch in which he uses the T-Pain Auto-Tune app on his iPhone to serenade a hermit crab. Funnies ensue.

For the video, click here.

The Bad

Courtney Love loses custody of Frances Bean

Why so serious, Frances Bean?

Why so serious, Frances Bean?

This week a judge appointed Wendy O’Connor and Kimberly Dawn Cobain ” the mother and sister of the late Kurt Cobain ” legal guardianship of 17-year-old Frances Bean Cobain. Proving the legal system right, Courtney Love took to the interwebs to voice her frustration, posting a long rant on Facebook which she quickly deleted but not before several Web sites picked it up. Highlights include Love calling Frances Bean deluded and deceptive. Kind of makes Alec Baldwin look like Father of the Year.

The Ugly

Chris Brown disses Walmart, quits Twitter

Tweeter no more: Chris Brown

Tweeter no more: Chris Brown

Chris Brown stopped by a Walmart in Wallingford, CT and was, um, dismayed to see that the store wasn’t carrying his new record, Grafitti. So, like fellow genius Courtney Love, he voiced his concerns on the Internet, tweeting [Walmart] r blackballing my cd. Not stocking the shelves and lying to customers. What the f”k I gotta do. [sic] Walmart responded that they were, in fact, selling his CD across the country, including the Wallingford location. Brown then deleted his Twitter account. Now if only Love would do the same ¦

Rihanna goes topless for GQ

More classiness for you. Begs the question, why is this a headline? A more newsworthy story would be Rihanna keeps her shirt on for photo shoot.

Miscellany


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HOW TO GET DISTRIBUTION

OSBlog_HowTo_GetDistrubYou spent months recording your CD, mixing and mastering it, deciding on artwork and sending it off to production. And there it sits, with 4,999 of its friends, piled in boxes on your apartment floor gathering dust. What you need is some distribution. And finding the right distributor will require some tenacity and gumption. To give you a general idea of what the world of distribution looks like, here are the main players:

¢ Major music distributors. These big-wigs, such as Sony-BMG Distribution, Capitol-EMI Distribution and UNI Distribution, are bedfellows of the majors and focus exclusively on them.

¢ Independent distributors. These distributors partner with independent record labels, and will often form alliances with other indies to expand their reach outside their region. An example of this would be the Alternative Distribution Alliance.

¢ Rack-jobbers. These ridiculously named distributors buy music and establish outlets of their own to sell it, usually kiosks and displays in department stores.

¢ International distributors. The jetsetting bunch, who market the records internationally and work for both major and independent labels. The largest one here in the states is E1 Entertainment.

¢ Digital distributors. These invisible ninjas supply records to online music merchants such as iTunes and Amazon, dealing in both MP3 and CD sales. The three major digital distributors are CDBaby, Nimbit and Tunecore.

While independent record shops staffed by earnest music nerds are a romantic ideal for many musicians, they’re unfortunately a dying breed. These days most physical record stores are actually just music aisles in places like Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart. More and more, fans are turning to online stores to buy their music. That being the case, most music distributors cater strongly to the digital side of retail.

If you’re determined to see your music in the $10 bin at Target, but are an unsigned artist, you’ll want to research distributors who don’t go require label representation. This will be a challenge in and of itself, but if you find one, you’ll need to present them with a flawless press kit that demonstrates your saleability and a solid marketing plan that includes your Suggested Retail Price, or SRP. Most distributors will take a 40-60% cut of your SRP.

If you’re currently on a label, you probably don’t have to worry about distribution. Typically a distributor will partner with a label and front the manufacturing costs of the CD, then bill the label out of sales of that CD. Think of it as large-scale consignment.

However, because of the growing consumer trend towards online retailers, and the ease of securing a digital distributor without label representation, we recommend you focus your efforts solely on digital marketing of your music. Digital distribution costs vary. Some charge larger annual and set-up fees to make up for not taking a commission off sales. Others take a percent commission or a flat rate commission. Do some comparative research and go with the one that feels like the best fit.

See you in Target ¦ or cyberspace!

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A Gift from Mieka Pauley!

Mieka Pauley’s music is as soulful as it is honest, which is shown very well in her song “Secret” through passionate melody and a clear lyrical message. She takes this honesty to a new level with her song “Marked Men”, an a capella tune full of anger and passion (you can check out the performance video below). If you’ve been keeping up-to-date with her, you already know that she has been busy. You can take a look at some past OurStage blog posts (Mieka Pauley Feature post and CMJ Performance post) to catch up on all of her previous endeavors.  These include, winning the Cosmo Magazine Star Launch contest and having a song featured on the ABC television show, Lipstick Jungle.

Mieka Pauley has quite a bit planned for the coming months. She is booked to play SXSW in Texas for the second year in a row, where her blues-influenced songs will be a great fit. It is her second year in a row playing this festival. In addition, she has also gained significant momentum on OurStage, with almost 15 months of placing in the Top 10 within one of our channel competitions. Not to mention that she has won this honor in many different channels, ranging from singer/songwriter to indie pop, displaying her diversity as an artist.

Get a taste of what this unique artist has to offer. Mieka just announced, as a gift to all of her current and soon-to-be fans, that she is offering her entire CD, Elijah Drop Your Gun, for free download from Amazon. After downloading the album, let her know what you think by heading over to her fanclub and dropping her a line.