The Tangled Web

The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week:, the Dismememberment Plan and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

REBELLION AT WHAT PRICE?: One of the biggest music news stories to break last week was the filing by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of 261 lawsuits against individuals accused of trading digital music files on peer-to-peer services. The move once again highlighted the world of digital downloads, thrusting into the public eye the popularity of P2P "sharing" and putting a face on the industry's attempts to curtail the copyright-infringing activity.

This environment has created publicity opportunities for many licensed digital download services, as they try to educate the public about the existence of legitimate online options for music downloads. Terre Haute, Ind.-based downloads site stepped into the fray by pledging to give $2,000 in free music to 12-year-old New York resident Brianna LaHara, the first individual reported to have settled her lawsuit with the RIAA. LaHara, who was accused of distributing over 1,000 files over P2P services, paid $2,000 to settle the suit, and MusicRebellion saw the opportunity to raise awareness of the legal digital music download options it offers.

MusicRebellion has licensing deals with all five major labels and a number of independent artists, and currently offers more than 200,000 tracks for download in Windows Media and MP3 format. But the service's primary distinguishing factor is the dynamic pricing system that MusicRebellion employs. The system, designed by a team of economists, fluctuates according to demand, with the aim of reaping the most possible profit for the artist.

As Jeremy Eglen, VP of licensing and operations, explains it, the labels and artists initially agree upon maximum and minimum prices for each downloadable track, as well as a starting price. Then the system adjusts itself automatically based on how many times each track gets downloaded. Current prices on the site range from 15 cents to $1.03 per song.

"From the starting price, we change the price of the music to find the price at which the artist makes the most profit," Eglen says. "The costs fluctuate according to what people are willing to pay."

Dismemberment PlanREVEALING AUTOPSY: Washington, D.C.-based indie-rock act Dismemberment Plan disbanded earlier this month after an acclaimed four-album career, but the decision wasn't a devastating loss for fans, as the band obliged them with a two-month farewell tour. An album of remixes by fans, "A People's History of the Dismemberment Plan," is due later this month on DeSoto Records.

The group has also populated its Web site with a number of aural goodies, including RealAudio streams of each of its studio albums and the "People's History" set. Two tracks from that disc are also available as MP3 downloads, as are assorted cuts from throughout the Plan's career as well as hard-to-find rarities originally released on compilations.

Brian Jonestown MassacreMP3 MASSACRE: At this point it seems like common -- or at least accepted -- practice for bands who haven't broken nationally to post free MP3s on their Web sites for download, hoping that a taste of the music will convert Web browsers into fans. But even in underground rock circles, it would be considered a bit odd for a group to give away its entire catalog in MP3 form. Nevertheless, that's exactly what San Francisco-based band Brian Jonestown Massacre has done on its official Web site.

The site's "MP3s" section offers the group's entire catalog, from 1995's "Methodrone" album (Bomp) up through "And This Is Our Music," set for an October release from Tee Pee Records. A 2001 live concert from Seattle is included as a bonus. And the entire catalog is also available as a continuous RealAudio stream, for truly devoted fans with hours to spare.