Web sites help local bands spread their sound

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    By ADAM DUNFORD

    Chump is opening for Fuel in Harrisburg, Pa., thanks to their Web site on the Internet.

    Opening for Fuel is only the latest opportunity Chump has had since going online with Chump Sucka Central (www.chumpsucka.com) three years ago. The band opened for the Aquabats in Salt Lake a couple years ago and hit No. 2 in New Mexico after a music director saw the Web site and e-mailed the group.

    Chump band member and webmaster Mike Farr, aka Ruperick, said having a Web site gets the word out for any local band.

    “I get e-mails all the time from people who first heard us on the Net,” Farr said. “It’s a way to enhance the overall image of the band.”

    And Chump isn’t the only band benefitting from going online. Moxie Tonic’s Scott Van Wagenen said people who surf the Internet find it convenient to use to find out when bands are playing.

    “Any local band should have a Web site if they have the means,” said Van Wagenen, whose current band Moxie Tonic is adding photos, sound and interviews to its Web site (www.abcdrecs.com/moxie).

    The Internet is shifting the trend from large record companies who dictate what will be popular and what won’t be. Bud Scoppa, vice-president of A&R at Sire Records Group, home of Depeche Mode and Ice T, agrees.

    “(The Internet seems) to level the playing field for artists who may be outside the mainstream record business,” Scoppa said in an interview with getsigned, an online magazine (www.getsigned.com) devoted to helping musicians make contracts.

    Another such online resource is TAXI, an independent A&R company that connects unsigned artists, bands and songwriters with major record labels, publishers and film and TV music supervisors. For a one-year subscription fee of $299.95 and a $5-per-song submission fee, artists can submit their own work to TAXI.

    TAXI’s screeners then listen to the music and either forward it to studio personnel or submit a critique to the artist on what they can improve.

    According to the Web site (www.taxi.com), typically 40 percent of TAXI members get something forwarded in any given year. In terms of success, the members who gain contracts is around five percent, but TAXI emphasizes that “(this) number is probably higher, but not all members who get deals remember to call and thank us.”

    Companies contact the artists directly when interested, so TAXI has no reliable way to track how successful the service is in connecting artists to success.

    The Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) also charges a yearly subscription for artists to have a Web site in its archives. For $240, a band can have a song, text and a few images on their own IUMA Web page. With more than 1,000 independent bands currently listed, the concept of a one-stop source for independents is apparently enticing.

    But like TAXI, IUMA does not have specific gauges of its service’s success, even though the IUMA “Signed Bands” page lists Space and Sublime as members who have since achieved greater fame.

    Kevin Ratner, vice-president of Operations and Business Development, admitted, “We are not sure how much we had to do with these bands’ success.”

    With online companies’ steep sign-up fees and unproven success, local bands Chump and Moxie Tonic aren’t biting.

    “Anyone that’s contacted our band about joining some Web site or having our merch distributed through their site want to charge an arm and a leg,” said Chump’s Farr. “Their promises of results are always very grand and so I’ve always been hesitant to go with any of those types of companies.”

    Moxie Tonic’s Van Wagenen said most people use distribution companies because they are overwhelmed by the idea of doing the work themselves.

    “If the band has a great product, there are a dozen better ways of getting signed than through the Internet. I am not saying a band has never been signed this way. I just don’t think this is the way to go,” he said.

    Both artists agreed that having an appealing Web site with pictures, stories, and e-mail responses allows fans to know what’s going on.

    In Chump’s case, offering songs on its site has proven to be an added bonus for fans of the band.

    Chump’s first album sold out in nine months. According to Farr, “The album is so hard to find that I actually buy it every time I see it in a used CD shop.”

    Farr said the only way most people can hear the songs from the first album is by going to the Web site, making Internet presence especially useful for the local band.

    And Farr said music on Chump Sucka Central is only the beginning.

    “A Chump desktop theme, a Chump screen saver, and a Chump digital video are all partially completed but with no end in sight.”

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