The Tangled Web

The Web's Most Intriguing Music-Related Issues & Destinations. This Week: KarmaDownload, and

INSTANT KARMA:, launched last week, is not the first record label to utilize the Web as its exclusive route of distribution, but it marks another step forward in the search for a new record label business model for the Internet economy. All of KarmaDownload's operations are Web-based: collecting recordings from artists, evaluating the music and providing downloads to consumers for profit.

Think of it as with an A&R department. The U.K.-based KarmaDownload solicits music from any genre, and prospective artists can upload music to the site at any time. All submissions are reviewed by an in-house A&R team, which selects the best music and offers it via the site to consumers.

Individual tracks in the MP3 format are 99p ($1.68) with 3-track/EP purchases averaging £2.50 ($4.24), and the artist gets a 50% cut of the profit (streaming QuickTime samples of each song are also available). Deals with artists are not structured like traditional long-term label contracts, but are open-ended, so artists or bands can remove tracks from the site with 30 days notice, giving them freedom to seek deals with traditional record labels.

The site's wares are organized by genre, as well as through charts that reflect the most popular downloads. KarmaDownload launched with a stable of 25 acts, ranging from Britrockers the Barbs to African-born, U.S.-based dance artist Oba Funke.

"With the fast growth of broadband in the U.K. and the demand for cost-efficient music downloads, the way consumers discover and purchase new music is changing," says label co-founder Jamie Estrin in a statement. "We feel this is the right time for a new-age record label, writing a whole new set of rules."

JAM ON IT: Speaking of, musicians' resource site is offering free memberships to disenfranchised members in the wake of the latter's recent sale to CNET Networks.

Broadjam will allow former members to upload eight songs and create a personal Web page that can display a bio, contact information and the song downloads. Each uploaded song will be registered in Broadjam's catalog and be eligible for the site's top-ten lists and user reviews. At the time of its sale, featured music by about 250,000 independent artists.

STRAIGHT OUTTA THE GARAGE:, which gives exposure and tutelage to independent musicians, has expanded its services. The site, with a roster of 75,000 listed bands, has launched an "expert reviews system," which allows musicians to submit new songs -- for a fee -- for review by an industry professional. The site's first expert is Warner Bros. Northwest A&R representative Braden Merrick.

Also new at is a huge calendar listing upcoming performances of independent musicians. The site sends out periodic E-mail newsletters targeted to users within 25 miles of a particular gig, and also offers for a fee the option to spotlight a concert or tour, with a bigger listing on the site and more prominent placing.

Among the site's other features are its independent music store and its charts. The latter rank the site's independently submitted music based on listener recommendations. Garageband lists songs in 15 genres, from pop to rap/rock to dance, jazz and metal, in both "current week" and "all-time" categories.