The FezGuys
Is It Really A Paradigm Shift Or Merely An Account Transfer?
[ No. 14 - December 1997 ]

Things That Are New

Nordic Entertainment has been busy: they now boast a menu of 3,000 downloads, their ad banners have been linked, they are using only high-quality MPEG Layer 3 for encoding and they are netcasting radio station KQST-FM (Sedona, AZ). Nordic also sells collectors vinyl carefully inventoried on the site. <>.

Progressive Networks has changed its name to Real Networks and released v5.0 featuring MacroMedia Flash animation funtionality, improved video quality and more efficient commerce capabilities. <>.

Xing technologies has a new CEO, Hassan Miah, formerly with the Hollywood-based talent behemoth CAA (Creative Artists Agency), freeing founder Howard Gordon to return to the trenches and focus on product development and strategy. For information, player and encoder (which soon will be supporting MP3) go to: <>.

We thought, in this column, that we'd return to a subject near and dear to our hearts and yours - money. Let's assume that digital download sites are not quite up to speed yet. Let's point out the obvious: distribution of physical product is in greater demand and therefore offers a greater revenue source than electronic distribution. Amusing statistic #1: If you make your music available through electronic distribution, a listener can download your song for 25 cents. That money is split between the host site, the web credit company handling the transaction and you. It could require somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred downloads to equal the money you make selling one independently-released CD at a show or through mail-order.

Here, then, is a round-up of ideas and information to assist you in creating, augmenting and streamlining your Web presence (and more importantly, your Internet fan-base) and maybe making a few dollars on the side.

Amusing statistic #2: The Artist Formerly Known As You-Know-Who posts, on one of his sites (<>), an 800 number for a mail-order CD. There are no soundclips to preview. There is no other way to find out about or purchase this particular album. There is no press or promotion. The album is not even manufactured yet. 84,000 CDs are pre-sold within a few months.

This is a picture-perfect example of a successful direct-marketed fan base. No label, distribution, radio or promotion outside of a mention on the website. No middlemen. The Internet is a tool for the independent musician to easily interact one-on-one with his/her listeners and to fulfill orders for physical product on demand -- all without layers of unnecessary commercial bureaucracy! Hell, if Kenny Rogers can sell 400,000 albums in one hour on QVC to a tight little American demographic (amusing statistic #3), imagine what the potential worldwide reach of your Internet presence offers.

Of course, some of these artists have control over their music. If you enter the major-label maelstrom, you'll most likely be forced to give up these opportunities.

Things That Are Litigious

Real change often isn't seen until the first major courtroom dramas. It looks like we're starting to get close, though. For starters: Microsoft is being sued by the U.S. Government for anti-trust violations. 'Nuff said. Next up is the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America - the support group for the beleaguered major labels) which is threatening to sue a handful of website owners who were offering full MP3 (MPEG Layer III) songs made available without permission from the artist or label.

We feel these points bear repeating: If you do not have one already, get or create a website. Most local music or arts-oriented print publications have classifieds that include offers from small website development companies. Shop around, not only for price but for emotional affinity. It's an underrated commodity. To create your own homepage, download website building tools (try looking on ) or use search engines to locate HTML editors. Use the acronym "HTML" (HyperText Markup Language) in the engine's dialog box. Or try a mainstay such as NetObjects, Adobe Pagemill or Netscape Composer (which is free). Constructing your own website can be a total creative gas. You have your music, artwork, words, video and who knows what else to play with. Go off.

Call attention to your site by promoting it. Start with your local geographical area. Find local music websites and politely offer to trade links and information with them. It benefits everybody and builds community. Use a search engine using the name of your town and the word "music" or "arts." Go to and search in your town to see if there is any relevant information. Find out who's doing what on the Web in your area by asking everybody; at shows, music stores, recording studios, etc. This approach creates a foundation in your locale that, once established, can be extended around the world. Music need not be the only common ground here. Get with web-based organizations that share your political, ideological, artistic or ecological views. Go to and find out about having your Internet existence included by major search engines (Lycos, Yahoo, Excite, etc.) Finally, place the URL for your website everywhere. On your letterhead, business card, albums, faxes, t-shirts... we've even seen it tattooed!

Breathe life into your site by maintaining it. Alter, manipulate and update your site frequently. Aesthetically, it encourages people to return, and usefully, it becomes a tool which actually does something. Answer email promptly and politely. Thank someone for contacting you. Offer to place them on a mailing list for updates about shows, music and subjects relevant to you. Get an "ok" from the person contacting you before adding their email address to your mailing list. Create a separate fan list for your listeners to post emails to each other. If you feel it's justified, create a chat area for realtime conversation among your listeners. Update your itinerary immediately upon confirming shows and events. Offer free stuff to fans through oddball contests. Most musicians think nothing of sending CDs to already swamped record label employees. Why not give free CDs to your fans? These are the people who really matter.

If you like to perform, play a LOT. Tour like hell. Nothing can replace the experience of live music. Promote yourself shamelessly from the stage. Build your following and pay attention to them. Without them you are alone. Of course, if the solitary environment of the studio is your preference, you can still benefit.

Amusing statistic #4: 97% of major-label releases sell less than 700 albums in their first year. All the promotion in the world, a fat advance and a nice haircut will not guarantee you anything. And, if you sign with a major label, they own the rights to your masters. Forever. We FezGuys have heard of contracts so severe that technically, even voice mail messages and home videos are owned by the label!

Another Case History: A band with a local following makes a live CD and sends out an email message to fans announcing the album's release. In three weeks they sell 200 copies, through mail-order. Email announcement only, and only to the fans who agreed to sign up on the list. No other form of promotion is used. It generally costs less than two dollars apiece to manufacture 1,000 CDs. If the band sells 200 CDs at fifteen dollars apiece the gross is 3,000 dollars. In three weeks! The Web presence of the band has justified itself.

musicians is an extremely positive one. Next month we will discuss the state of Electronic Distribution, which has had a microscope placed on it by the media in recent months. Where it is, where it's going and how the musician can benefit.

Letters To The FezGuys

Dear Fezguys - Greetings from the frozen wilds of Canada! I own a recording studio and I really appreciate your columns since they relate to where I'm trying to get. My studio is operated in tandem with a coffeehouse where we bring in live entertainment. I record live to 16-track analog while mixing FOH. The next step in this chain is to transmit live over the Internet. Most of the artists I bring in are up and coming (broke) players and when I read your column I knew that was where I had to be since I also have a management company and a record label. Any additional info you come across would be greatly appreciated! Keep up the great work. I've linked you to my web site. - John Reid/Twisted Grooves Entertainment/Analog As Art Studios

Dear John - Thanks for your letter! We highly recommend you take a look at (or re-read) our July 1997 column ("The Grok Sessions") in which we discuss the technical ins and outs of transforming your standard studio (or live performance) setup into an Internet live broadcasting station. If you encounter any hurdles, join us on our threaded discussion area at our website. All columns and the discussion area are awaiting you at <>.
-The FezGuys

May the Fez be with you!

The FezGuys encourage participation in the Internet audio community. Please stop by: <>



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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