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"We found that we were able to work efficiently and inexpensively, while allowing the artists greater control and better economics than they'd traditionally receive."
—Marc Geiger, company founder
IMUSIC ON THE SCENE
Label Promises new Business Model for Compensating Artists
As the battle between artists and labels continues to be fought in and out of Sacramento, word of a new label that promises a new direction for the music business—one that is more sympathetic to the artists needs—has emerged.

ArtistDirect has launched iMUSIC, which claims to offer a radically simple-and-fair new model for signing, promoting and compensating artists.

As part of its deal with artists, iMUSIC’s plans to share net profits with the artists equitably. In addition, the artist will retain ownership of their masters. BMG will distribute iMUSIC product internationally.

The label has already enlisted such performers as Blues Traveler, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Speech (of Arrested Development), John Doe (X), Sir Mix-a-Lot, Tre (of The Pharcyde), Lou Barlow's Folk Implosion, Gene, Tom Tom Club and Berlin.

"The iMUSIC concept was developed through our early forays into releasing Internet-only CDs," says company founder Marc Geiger. "We found that we were able to work efficiently and inexpensively, while allowing the artists greater control and better economics than they'd traditionally receive. With iMUSIC, we have the added value of brick-and-mortar distribution through BMG, but essentially we're following the same model that we used in our online-only releases, which proved to be tremendously successful."

Rather than attempt to "pirate-proof" discs and attack online file-sharing with litigation, Geiger says he prefers to offer some music from each release online as free, unrestricted MP3 files, counting on the viral distribution to spread interest, and to allow the music to speak for itself.

More importantly, iMUSIC will do away with expensive major label marketing tactics in favor of online initiatives. The savings enable both label and artist to achieve a profit selling far fewer copies than a traditional label must sell to break even, according to the company.

In addition, iMUSIC agreements with artists cover only one release, providing greater freedom for the artist than under typical multiple-album deals.

"It was initially something that my manager suggested, and I checked into their philosophy on music and agreed that this is the label for me," said Speech. "My company, Vagabond Productions, had already been distributing my music on the Internet, and I was already licensing my albums to different labels. iMUSIC was a great opportunity because they allow me to keep artistic control and, in essence, became an extension of Vagabond. It's like a brotherhood."

The company's maiden release, Gene's Libertine, will be out on Tuesday (Aug. 6), and Berlin's Voyeur will hit Aug. 20. New discs from Speech, Tre Hardson and Doe are due Sept. 10, while street dates for a live Blues Traveler set and albums from Marr, Tom Tom Club, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Folk Implosion are expected shortly.

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