*Orbit Targets Small Music Bands for Online Stores

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Orbit Commerce Inc., Chicago, will build online stores for rock bands Stroke 9 and Joe Armstrong.

"The entertainment industry is not typically known as technical, but is starting to leverage the power of the Internet to communicate with their fans and grow their business," said Dieter Schuller, vice president of sales at Orbit. "Our solutions are designed to take small businesses online with an e-commerce-enabled store."

Orbit's sell-side Internet service focuses on demand generation, marketing, order management, payment processing and even building an online store. Two years old, the company's tools help merchants on Web sites to track and report hits, visitors and revenue, among others.

Once Orbit has designed or built a store on the official Web site, the band itself can upload images of merchandise through a simple interface or outsource the chore. When a consumer places an order, it is sent via e-mail to the band's site, which fulfills it.

"Since most bands are touring, Orbit is providing an interface to a fulfillment house where the band can send all of their merchandise," Schuller said.

Thus, an online store expands the band's reach beyond venue sales to hawk merchandise like CD albums, T-shirts, hats, stickers, posters and other knickknacks treasured by fans. Also, bands themselves can track sales or product inventory while on the road.

The online store does not require much technical expertise, Orbit said. In fact, the company not only helps open the store but also assists and educates authorized merchants with issues related to traffic generation, Web site development and customer service.

Bands pay Orbit a monthly fee for its service, but retain the revenue generated from online store sales.

The Internet foray seems to be working for some bands. Rock group Third Eye Blind, for instance, has recorded 15,000 unique visitors to its Orbit-created store at 3eb.com since the December launch. Sales of Third Eye Blind merchandise has tripled since the store's creation, claims Orbit, which did not reveal revenue numbers.

Orbit-powered online stores are currently live at Cincinnati radio station WOXY's woxy.com site and Chicago's Lake Stockton Recording Studio's Internet hub.

Ultimately, Orbit wants to build e-commerce-enabled destination sites for up-and-coming bands. A step in that direction, Orbit's online store for Chicago-based Joe Armstrong and His Band will launch later this month and Stroke 9 next month.

"Orbit needs to continue to educate these bands and show them how easy it really is," Schuller said. "This is a great opportunity for bands of all sizes, especially lesser-known bands where they can generate awareness and revenue."

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