The Web's most intriguing music-related issues and destinations. This week: Independent labels selling downloads and Stock and Roll.

INDIES IN THE MIX: The new, legitimate Napster digital music store is set to launch later this month, and will initially be stocked with 500,000-plus tracks for a la carte download, 150% more than were available in the Apple's iTunes Music Store at its April launch. More than half of those 500,000 are sourced from independent labels, a class that will make itself heard more loudly on the major online download services in the coming months.

Matador Records recently became the first independent label to make its music available on the iTunes Store. The label, whose roster includes Interpol, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Guided By Voices, Mogwai and Pretty Girls Make Graves, said a "major chunk" of its catalog as well as all new releases were now available at the iTunes Store, and in the coming months it plans to make exclusive materials available through iTunes, including previews from forthcoming albums, live tracks and outtakes.

In related news, the Digital Rights Agency (DRA), a distributor of independent music, says it has inked licensing deals for its content with Musicmatch, MusicNet, Napster, Rhapsody and Audio Lunchbox. DRA acts a middleman between digital music services and 35 independent labels, including Barsuk Records, Ubiquity Recordings, Gammon Records, Tiger Style Records, Om Records, Better Looking Records, Paper Recordings (U.K.), Dim Mak Records and Coup D'Etat Entertainment.


STOCKIN' UP: Steve Wynne admits that his new record label concept is in its infancy, but says the music industry's current state has created a market for radical ideas about music promotion, and Stock and Roll is indeed that. The label, which currently has four acts and is soliciting more, is primarily Web-based and is modeled after the stock market.

Stock and Roll is encouraging fans to buy $10 shares of stock in its artists, allowing the fans to legally download all the band's music and access interactive Web events, win free concert tickets and other similar perks. In addition, the shares would work like any common stock -- if the band becomes successful, dividends will be shared with all stockholders.

The company currently has four groups on its roster -- rockers Jon Tierney & the Truth, R&B/funk-leaning Superhoney and jam bands Just Before August and Fungus Amungus. Wynne says he was recently contacted by a hip-hop artist in Nigeria who is interested in joining the label.

"We are just getting the word out," he says, "so there have only been a few reservations in our bands to date, but the word seems to be spreading fast."

Free downloads by each of the bands are currently available at the label's site, and an Internet TV station is in the works.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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