Takes Bands On Tour

Music retail Web site has turned the reputation Indie rock band members have for wearing second-hand U.S. Postal Service uniforms into a marketing strategy by using bands as carriers of its catalogs.

As part of its grass-roots marketing strategy, the company has pressed limited-edition CDs for popular independent-label groups as part of its Tour Support program. The New York-based site has 10 bands exclusively signed to its Tiger Style Records label and plans its first album release in two weeks. The company also plans to become a distributor of independent film. Cofounder Christian Anthony said the bands will effectively be direct marketing tools when they go on tours, some of which are international.

“The bands are out there every night in front of a few hundred people that we're certain will be interested in our site, and selling CDs with our name on it,” Anthony said. “And, all of the bands show people our catalog. We don't even have to mail them.”

The touring bands also connect the site with an existing network of Indie labels that set up commercially congenial music booths at performances. Anthony said his company has benefited from word-of-mouth advertising by the Internet-savvy network of labels and fans. Since many ardent fans of Indie rock live in college towns, Anthony said buys radio spots on low-frequency campus stations, and hangs fliers bearing its URL on academic bulletin boards.

The CD promotions, college radio ads and fliers cost his company $20,000 last year. is expected to announce a software deal this month with an undisclosed New York Internet streamlining company that will allow the site to streamline movie trailers.

That deal was set off by's exclusive agreement last November to market and distribute movies for the New York Underground Film Festival. Keeping with its low-cost marketing strategy, will sponsor discussion panels at the festival, and initiate networking with directors and actors to promote itself in the film community. Anthony said his company's inexpensive promotions helped boost sales and visits 50 percent in the last quarter of 1999. So don't expect a high-dollar ad blitz to promote the new video selection.

“It wouldn't make much sense for us to put up a billboard in Times Square,” he said. “Our customer is the type of person who defines himself by the music he listens to and the movies he watches. The type of person who buys CDs with student loans.”

Other than music, the Web site currently offers an online newsstand of fan 'zines, as well as a modest selection of video tapes. Anthony said an average shopper at his site spends $30, typically on two CDs and a video or book. Indie shoppers come from an international mish-mash of subcultures that generally run slightly more male than female, and range from 15- to 30-years of age. More than half of the site's visitors return at least once on the same day.

Anthony said that, in two years, up to 50 percent of his company's revenue will come from percentage fees acquired from retailers who want to advertise in its divisions of music, magazines, films and books. He said his firm can corner the market on the Indie audience by supplying the best products of interest through its relationship with respected artists and organizations. Ed Halter, director of the New York Film Festival, said his company will expand its audience with's loyal market niche.

“We went with Insound because their clients are passionate about music and trust (the site),” Anthony said. “Shoppers keep coming back because they've presented a very curated and critically acclaimed music selection, and we thought that made for a good match with what we do. And, we've already found out that Indie shoppers like to buy CDs, videos and magazines at the same time. It's come together tighter and quicker than we expected.”

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