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Indie Bands Rock, and Sell, on MySpace

Social networking giant MySpace is the place where any unknown band can feel like a star. Bands can add songs, music videos and pictures and spread the word through viral marketing with “friends,” a revolutionary platform for music groups with no major label deal.

Now, the Fox Interactive Media Inc.-owned site has added a download music option through a partnership with digital licensing and copyright management services company Snocap, challenging Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the leader in the space.

“Using Snocap, MySpace artists and record labels can easily manage all aspects of digital distribution, set pricing and maintain full control and ownership of their content,” said Alex Rofman, vice president of business development at Snocap, San Francisco. “They can promote their music for free as well as sell it.”

Anyone wishing to sell their music can create a Web profile at www.myspace.com and network for fans from the 90 million-member database.

MySpace takes 45 cents from the artist for each download, which it splits with Snocap, whereas Apple takes only 35 cents in order to drive the sales and need for iPods.

The MySpace offer is a tool for independent record labels that historically have lacked access to such a large audience for distribution, as Apple iTunes hosts mainly the major independent labels.

Jeff Fare, founder/CEO of Princehouse Records, an independent label in San Francisco, calls it a great thing.

“It creates a new channel to sell your music on a site with many applications and users,” said Mr. Fare, who also is lead singer of The Paradise Boys. “Unlike iTunes, where one would have to be looking for a band or music to download, people are just on MySpace doing all sorts of things and can be exposed to new music naturally.”

All major labels have put their catalogs into Snocap’s database, which prevents people from selling songs they do not own through an audio fingerprinting technology. But none of these labels sells on MySpace, as the MP3 offering carries no copy protection. Anyone who buys a song can copy it infinitely. However, The New York Times reported that EMI is in talks with MySpace.

But for The Paradise Boys, which sells 5,000 records a year through indie distribution firm Revolver USA, copy protection is less of an issue.

“Being a smaller indie band, for us any exposure is good exposure,” Mr. Fare said. “And it’s not as if we would be in much better a situation if the downloads were trackable unless the numbers were in the tens of thousands.”

According to Bob Kohn, CEO of RoyaltyShare, a company that helps labels deal with complexities of digital distribution, the MySpace offering illustrates the increasing number of ways music is being distributed to the public.

“Over the next few years, music sales will take place in many forms and from virtually anywhere,” he said. “The power of this is that music can be consumed in ways never imagined, opening up significant new revenue opportunities for labels, artists and music publishers.”

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