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Will it Click?

When Grammy-nominated band Matchbox 20 released their fourth album,Exile On Mainstream,over a year ago,they did so by launching their music on USB flash drives.

Written by Pallavi Jassi |
March 28, 2009 2:34:05 am

Delhi band Jalebee Cartel releases music on pen drives and Them Clones goes for a listeners’ vote before compiling an album. The indie music business looks at new ways to create a buzz

When Grammy-nominated band Matchbox 20 released their fourth album,Exile On Mainstream,over a year ago,they did so by launching their music on USB flash drives. The Americans were the pioneers. Now,Delhi-based electronic act Jalebee Cartel is following suit. The band,which recently launched their first album Onepointnothing,has released the music conventionally on CDs available across stores and also,unusually,on pen drives that can be bought over the Net. “In the next few years,CDs will become obsolete. I have friends who don’t have CD players anymore. Given that this is the digital age,we thought the idea was futuristic and inevitable at the same time,” says Arjun Vagale,who does the laptop,mixing and scratching for the band.

While the 12-track CD is priced at Rs 300,the 2-GB USB is available at Rs 500,with a few bonus tracks and video of the song Tough cookie. “The good thing about the transition of music into the digital arena is that it allows labels and artists to easily combine the audio and visual media. You can buy the videos and the songs through USBs,” says Anand Kanwar,business head of Dada Music that has released the album. Gautam Sarkar,head of the digital team at Saregama,too says,“We are all looking at ingesting our respective content in servers across the globe and retailing them without having to manufacture CDs.”

The indie music scene certainly needs to create some buzz,but not everyone is convinced about the success of the pen-drive phenomenon. “Pen drives might work as a marketing gimmick,but they will not be a physical replacement for the CD. As a consumer,I wouldn’t want to collect a large quantity of band pen drives because I would need only two or three,” says Neysa Mendes of Counter Culture Records,which too is working on new marketing tools for Them Clones’ first album. Of the 17 tracks the band has composed,only 12 will make it to the CD. Initially,all 17 tracks will be streamed on myspace.com and a dozen will be selected,depending on the listeners’ vote.

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“Streaming music online widens our reach globally and brings in new audiences,which is important for a niche genre like electronica that is still trying to become mainstream,” says Vagale,whose show at Blue Frog earlier this month was streamed live on in.com.

Meanwhile,music labels are welcoming the idea of the customer choosing her favourite songs to create a personal CD. In early 2000,Saregama started humaracd but didn’t fare well. Now Dada music is allowing you to buy songs online,each of which costs anywhere between Rs 15 and 30. But,as Sarkar says,“The download model is still to pick up in India primarily because the broadband capabilities are weak.”

Those bold souls who go ahead admit that the transition to the Internet requires a big initial investment,but they are optimistic. “The manufacturing cost of a CD is negligible,but there is no profit since there are hardly any sales. On the other hand,the digital medium calls for investments on the server and formatting the data. But once it takes off,the revenue is good,” says Kanwar.

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