SXSWORLD November 2012


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Page 29 of 35 Connects Labels and Fans U "Th ere's a lot of DNA from that in this service," says co-founder Sam Valenti IV, who also heads indie label Ghostly International. "You need human curators: like the indie labels, like Sub Pop. Fans like that personal touch. It's almost like going to the record store and the clerk saying, 'Oh, you like Mudhoney, you'll probably like Tad.' People like to be told, 'Hey, check this out'." nwittingly, when download subscription service launched earlier this year, its closest music business model was a pre-digital age vinyl platform, the Sub Pop Singles Club. Using Digital Twist on an Old Model by Linda Laban idea," says Jeff Janks, art director for Los Angeles-based indie Stone's Th row, which came on-board for's launch last winter. "First one was iTunes; second one was drip. Everything in-between has been built by and for corporations to serve mass audiences. Drip's a platform built specifi cally for labels like ours … indie labels, niche labels, call them what you want. Although it's not a social platform, the service seems to be built with this community in mind, and on some occasions the direct feedback and interaction [from fans] has been a great benefi t." Two digital age music business myths that clearly debunks is that fi rst, fans want what they want. "Th is takes away that choice," shrugs Valenti. And second, that they expect downloads to be free. "We assumed just because it could be free that it had to be," says thetic. It's a pretty open-platform that you can jump into intuitively and mold to the particular design of your label. Th e most important aspect for us is to be able to deliver product directly to fans and to do it in a way that we can curate and control." "Th ere are only two digital platforms that I ever thought were a good Miguel Senquiz (L) and Sam Valenti IV. are not trying to reinvent any wheels with the simple idea that sub- scribers choose a label, pay a monthly fee, and are "drip-fed" high quality downloads. Each label chooses frequency, content and, along with new releases, some added back catalog selections along with extra goodies. Valenti says intends to add independent artists as clients, too. "It's kind of like a conveyor belt," says Valenti. "You choose your label Based in New York City, Valenti and partner Miguel Senquiz or artist, and they do the curating. Th e most successful 'drip' labels are the ones who interact the most with subscribers. Th ey might give away concert tickets, or they give out test pressings or record store day vinyl mailings. It's almost like a fan club." It is certainly a club that is growing fast. Including Ghostly International, 13 labels were on board by summer, as well as indie heavyweights such as Domino and Luaka Bop. "When we launched, we got demand from over 100 labels," says indie rockers Of Montreal and Deerhoof, joined "It was a unique idea for us because it allows us to reach the fan who's interested in the label as a whole rather than just an artist," says Polyvinyl co-president Matt Lunsford. "We really liked the whole aes- 28 SXSW ORLD / N OVEMBER 2012 Valenti. "But we're just letting them in slowly, learning what their needs are and pushing development real-time. It's a measured approach that's had a good result." Th is fall, Champaign, Illinois-based Polyvinyl, home to arthouse The Stepkids at Stone's Throw Records' SXSW 2012 showcase. Valenti. "Free music is available and that helps discovery. But we're interested in seeing more great music come out on great labels and the only way to do that is to create a healthy economy." Valenti is not touting as the future of the music business but rather a valuable service augmenting existing favorites such as iTunes, Spotify, or Rhapsody: "A lot of people are curious as to what the future holds and how we're going to be digesting music. I think it's going to be a lot of things. It's going to be a la carte. It's going to be streaming. It's going to be YouTube and videos. It's going to be physical. But it's also going to be patronizing the artist directly. Th e direct-to-fan model is very exciting; fans feel the money is going to the artist, as it should. "We want to create the best platform for music fans to create the best possible sustainable relationship with the artists they love. Th ere are so many great services out now, but we thought there was a missing piece in the puzzle for the super fan who wants everything an artist puts out. Th at's what is about." ■ WILL CALCUTT STAN MARTIN

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