Topspin and TuneCore Announce a 'Technical Integration'
Digital sales and marketing has gotten easier and more affordable as two leaders in their respective fields announced a partnership Wednesday. Digital distributor TuneCore and direct-to-fan provider Topspin Media will unveil a "technical integration" in the late summer that will allow customers of one service to have their music and information delivered automatically to the other service. To sweeten the deal, Topspin customers will receive up to a 30% discount on TuneCore distribution and TuneCore customers will receive a free month of Topspin Plus worth $49.99 value.

The partnership makes sense. If you drew a Venn diagram of the two companies' services, there's not much overlap. Topspin doesn't - and shouldn't need to - focus on digital distribution to an array of stores and services around the world. Recent TuneCore additions include Deezer, Simfy, iHeartRadio, Google Play and iTunes Latin America. Business is good - CEO Jeff Price revealed last week that year-to-date artist revenues are up 68%. And while TuneCore is a popular distribution platform, it doesn't offer the tools for artists and labels to sell their digital and physical goods, collect email address, stream audio and video, and manage marketing campaigns.

The deal is more good news for Topspin. The company had previously partnered with MTV to power the direct-to-fan elements of the MTV artist pages that are set to launch in June. That puts Topspin clients into an online property that gets 60 million unique visitors per month and is connected to a global television network.

New Digital Media Fund Could Help Finance Startups Like StageIt
A digital media executive and a venture capitalist have launched a fund to finance and assist the digital media startups of the future. Alan McGlade, former CEO at MediaNet and Video Jukebox Network, has teamed with Michael Yang to form Digital Entertainment Ventures, or DEV. Yang was previously with Divine Interventures and Sandbox Industries.

DEV says it will focus on startups in music, TV, film, games, publishing and social media with a focus on "new business models" and connected devices (TVs, tablets and handsets). The firm has already made investments in web-based live performance platform Stageit and mobile gaming company Mad Humans.

Stageit is a potentially disruptive company with a very interesting model. The site allows performers to make money from private webcasts, effectively reducing the distance between fan and artist and eliminating the barriers involved with performing in various cities. Think Skype for music, or Google+ Hangouts with a ticketing element. Fans actually buy tickets for a live streaming show and can provide additional support through a virtual tip jar. The platform creates new opportunity for the songwriter with limited ability to tour, a band with little means to tour and artists between tours.

Some musicians are making good money on Stageit. Austin-based artist Bob Schneider told BusinessWeek.com he recently made about $1,200 from a Stageit performance - money that will help fund his next album. Glen Phillips, the former singer for Toad the Wet Sprocket, does regular performances and makes about $800.

Stageit, the creation of musician Evan Lowenstein, could end up being targeted by Facebook one day. The Stageit Facebook app allows artists' performances to be streamed directly to a Facebook page created for that particular show. Facebook wants people to spend more time at the site, and it needs new ways to implement its Facebook Credits payment system. Hosting paid live performances could solve both needs. ( Press release)

360 Models Move Away From Radio Emphasis for Country Artists
It's no secret that country music depends on terrestrial radio. Any time somebody tells you radio is dead, ask how many country artists have built a career outside of radio. Not many - and no superstars - can do without country radio.

But the 360 model - the name given to expanded rights contracts - put less emphasis on radio and recorded music sales - even in Nashville. Average Joe's Entertainment founder and CEO Shannon Houchins explains his company's approach in an interview with MusicRow:

"We obtain the sponsors, do the alcohol, manage the inside and outside merch, everything. Our circus of five buses and a semi-truck can go anywhere and set up like a field of dreams... When we started the label the whole point was to be able to operate regardless of what radio does. That's why we have artists who will never see the light of day on radio, but regardless are making over $2 million a year. These guys have full-on careers and don't need radio. Yes, they'd love to have it, it's the career accelerator, but the last thing we want to do is spend a million dollars running a record up the charts to find that nobody cares, which happens every single day in the music business."

The Average Joe's roster includes Colt Ford, Montgomery Gentry, Josh Gracin, Rich O'Toole, Corey Smith and Kevin Fowler, among others. The company offers management services and houses three record labels: Average Joe's, AVJ and Back Roads. ( MusicRow.com)