Bill Armstrong has a vision. The co-owner of Side One Dummy Records, a Los Angeles-based independent record company representing the like of Gogol Bordello and the Gaslight Anthem, believes that independent record companies, like the scenes they grew out of and help foster should be able to participate in a collective community and showcase the results of their hard work.
"Back in the day, labels were small businesses being run by music freaks, and they had a sound, distinct tastes in music," Armstrong says. "in the digital era that has been washed away."
His solution lies in TheNewRecord.com, a type of social network that allows users to create a profile, follow a number of independent labels and their individual artists, network with friends, and discover new music through these connections. The site, which launched in beta last Tuesday (October 11), provides independent labels with a way to tune fans into their entire roster of artists, harkening back to the days when labels like Blue Note was the place to be when looking for jazz or SubPop was fielding grunge bands. A few tracks per artist are made available for download, playlisting and streaming, with links to each label's store or to the iTunes or Amazon sites for track or album purchases. Playlists can also be shared via Twitter, Facebook or embedded into blogs.
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The idea is to drive people into our stores to buy t-shirts and other things that we have and make a big connection between 'hey, we're the label and we work with these bands, and we have more stuff by them, so come in and check it out,'" says Armstrong, stressing that by allowing users to download tracks the labels are offering their fans a gesture of goodwill. "Not everybody has high-quality streaming devices, and not everybody likes to listen to music that way. We want to get these songs into people's lives and let them discover things from there."
The site has signed up an impressive lineup of independents, from Armstrong's own Side One Dummy to others like SubPop, Epitaph, Anti-, Daptone, Rhymesayers, and plenty more, bringing in a wide array of artists and genres. And from their point of view, the community is all about spreading the word.
"People can come to this site to get free music before it's released on record, listen to it and share it with friends, all with the blessing of the labels," says Armstrong. "It's a place where you can follow SubPop, for instance, and say 'if I'm going to spend my time listening to music, I already know I like a few bands from this label, so why don't I check out some more?'"
TheNewRecord.com is slowly bringing much of Armstrong's vision of a community for independent record labels to life. Without a financial backer, Armstrong is running the site largely as a DIY project, with more bells and whistles to come in time. "I want to continue monitoring it, continue growing the community and really see if it resonates with people," he says. "I want to make the site better and all kinds of things like that, but right now I want to see if people enjoy the core functionality of it."
On just the fourth day after its launch, the site has 33 participating labels, offers tracks by 341 bands and can boast over 600 users, and is still growing fast. "We tried to create something by labels, for labels, and for the fans," says Armstrong. "That way, everybody can have a good experience."