UMe Digital, Blues Traveler, Gang Of Four

Tangled Web: A weekly column featuring intriguing online music-related issues & destinations. This Week: UMe Digital, Blues Traveler and Gang Of Four.

ANOTHER STEP FOR THE DIGITAL AGE: Universal Music Enterprises, a division of major label Universal Music Group, is launching this week a new imprint that will release music exclusively in digital form.

UMe Digital has a host of initial releases today (Nov. 23), including material by the likes of Ken Stringfellow, Rusty Anderson, Parthenon Huxley and Will Owsley. The company will deliver digital music in song, EP and LP forms to services including iTunes, Napster and Rhapsody.

This would seem par for the course by now, except for the fact that UMe Digital releases will not be distributed in physical versions, either on- or offline.

Warner Music Group is rumored to be working on a similar digital-only label division, and this move seems to be a step forward in the industry's embracing of digital distribution. The label will make less money if people only buy 99-cent songs instead of paying $13.99 for the album at a local record store, but the reduction in overhead costs of physical production should help to offset this.

Other labels, major and independent (as well as the rest of the industry) will no doubt be keeping an eye on UMe Digital releases in the coming weeks and months as a potential harbinger of the future in the digital-music space.

BEG FOR BLUES: Pop-leaning jamband Blues Traveler has a nice trove of free MP3s on its official Web site.

Blues TravelerIn addition to three entire concert recordings from 1990, 1998 and 2004, the band is offering MP3s of four studio recordings created "solely for free online distribution to fans." The quartet -- "The Traveler Suite," "Sun and the Storm," "12 Swords" and "The Path" -- was originally intended to be part of a concept album that the band never finished.

THE GANG IS BACK IN TOWN: As previously reported, post-punk progenitor Gang Of Four is set to reunite in January for a string of live shows.

Guitarist/vocalist Andy Gill provides a primer for newcomers to the group on his Web site, with MP3 downloads, video clips and some historical context.