Business Matters: Is Intocable The New Radiohead?
Business Matters: Is Intocable The New Radiohead?

Intocable Is the New Radiohead
-- Add Tejano/Norteño band Intocable to the list of successful bands that have left the major label system and gone independent. It's not a household name among the music cognoscenti, but it should be.

A handful of artists - too few, frankly - are routinely brought up as examples of the new music business: Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and OK Go. Each left a major label for more creative and artist-friendly ways to sell and distribute music. (There are others, such as country star Gretchen Wilson, that tend to get overlooked, too.)

Intocable also left a major label and assumed financial risk in exchange for its freedom. As Billboard's Leila Cobo reported in the April 9 issue of Billboard (subscription required), Intocable spent 14 years on EMI Latin before they left to release music on its own record label, Good Eye Music. "They begged and they pleaded, and you know what?" says bandleader Ricky Muñoz. "We knew the future was going independent and we did it."

After leaving EMI, the group released "Classic," a collection of covers that was distributed by Sony Music Latin. But it opted not to sign with Sony, "becoming the most successful Latin act to voluntarily leave a major label in its prime," wrote Cobo.

The group's new album, "Intocable 2011," has scanned 14,000 units in three weeks - all in the CD format and nearly all at mass merchants - according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Classic" has sold 38,000 units since its release in December 2009. Its many albums for EMI Latin have sold anywhere from the 100,000s up to 372,000 for its 2003 album "La Historia."

Unlike most rock bands that leave major labels to self-release music, Intocable is not putting an emphasis on digital delivery and new technologies. But the band knows its fans. "Intocable 2011" is being distributed by Texas-based Dasma Distribution, and nearly all its sales have come from mass merchants in the South Central, Mountain and Pacific regions. "We're visiting all these Walmarts," Muñoz said. "We're visiting radio. We're doing festivals. We're in the record-selling business."

Is Dangerbid Endangered?
-- Not even an indie with some popular artists is immune to financial troubles these days. Case in point: Dangerbird Records has dropped five of its 13 staffers and put more focus on its licensing and art departments. Two of the five departing staffers will remain with the label on a consulting basis. "While this was a difficult decision, it is necessary for Dangerbird to effectively service our artist roster to the best of our abilities," co-founder and chief executive Jeff Castelaz told the Los Angeles Times. Dangerbird is the home to Silversun Pickups, Fitz and the Tantrums and Beady Eye (the new project by Liam Gallagher from Oasis).
( Los Angeles Times)

Vevo & Hulu: Now Better and Worse Than Before
-- VEVO had 52.6 million visitors in March, according to comScore. The music video site/ad network amassed 241.2 million viewing sessions. Its 79.6 minutes per viewer was better than most peers except Hulu, which had 215.5 minutes (3.75 hours) per viewer.

These March numbers were both better and worse than VEVO's January numbers. That month VEVO had 51 million visitors and 121 million viewing sessions - so both March numbers were improvements. But VEVO viewers watched an average of 91.9 minutes in January, about 12 minutes more than they did last month.

So, in a nutshell, VEVO viewers spent less time watching more videos in March than in January. Hulu experienced a similar trend: viewers and sessions were up from January to March, but minutes per viewer dropped (to 215.5 from 236.4).
( Press release)

The Atlantic: How Copyright Hurts Music
-- The ongoing discussion about copyright change tends to include the topic of sampling. A good overview of the pertinent issues can be found in an Atlantic interview with Kembrew McLeod, co-author of "Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling." (I just started reading the book, but I'm really enjoying it so far.) This is a controversial subject since controversy tends to surround any discussion about the way in which rights holders are paid for uses of their recordings or compositions.

Here's an excerpt from the interview where McLeod explains his support for a compulsory license system in which Congress would set the level of compensation rights holders would receive for the use of a sample:

"Rather than a rights holder hitting the jackpot because their manager did a great job of negotiating this one license, getting $20,000 out of the deal once every few years, you'd have a new model that guarantees new creators who sample can get their music out and heard by millions of people. Under this system, yes, the record industry would get less money per transaction-but by creating less friction, you generate more total transactions. Record companies and songwriters would still make royalties, and musicians would be able to appropriate more freely."

When asked if history provides any examples of copyright owners benefitting from reduced friction, McLeod points to the provision in the 1909 copyright act that made possible the recording of cover songs. "That freedom generated tons and tons of fantastic recordings-and revenue."
( The Atlantic)

Ever Hear of a 'Start-Up' Called Spotify?
-- Spotify is the winner of the Startup 100 Awards, which recognize the most promising technology startups in Europe. SoundCloud won the audio and media category. Huddle, a group content management system, won security, storage, collaboration, databases category.
( The Telegraph)

Completing Epitonic's Vision-Thing
-- Even though Epitonic, a pioneer in free digital music, re-launched last month, the new features added Wednesday create "a more complete version of what we had envisioned for launch," writes co-founder Justin Sinkovich. Among the new features is an audio player that always sits in the lower-right side of the screen (that could be a good or bad thing depending on how annoyed you get by immovable widgets) and the ability to create custom playlists.
The company's founders undertook a Kickstarter campaign in August of 2010 to create a new version of the web site by the end of the year.
( Epitonic)