Darrin Bradbury s music CD is titled “Boy Without a Plan.”
But the 17-year-old Dumont (N.J.) High School junior actually has a carefully laid out strategy for becoming a famous musician.
The singer/songwriter/guitarist is using new Web-based music companies to market, promote, and distribute his 10-track album in hope of getting attention from a major record label.
“Everything is on the Web,” said Bradbury. “It s real easy to just give out a Web site.”
And his plan just might work.
Record companies are increasingly looking online for new talent.
Gone are the days when music talent scouts frequented dimly lighted clubs in search of the next big thing. To get a label s attention in the Internet age, independent artists must create a buzz over the digital airwaves by promoting and distributing their music online.
Scott Stampflmeier, of Toledo, designs and produces T-Townmusic.com, which highlights music in and around northwest Ohio. Stampflmeier says that T-Town helps bands and their fans network and stay in touch. Most use the sites forums and event schedules. The site also shares a band-site standard - MP3 downloads.
Jeremy Lublin, 21, of Toledo, singer of The Hearsay Tao, says that there were 30,000 downloads a month of his band s material on MP3.com before that site shut down.
“Instead of going through some middleman or distributor or the press we can go one-on-one with people that have similar tastes,” Lublin said. “We can talk to them personally.”
The Hearsay Tao gets word out with their own Web site, a link to their CD distributor and a link from T-Townmusic.
“It starts with a dynamic Web site,” said Dave Roberge, president of Everfine Records in New York City, a label affiliated with Lava Records and part of the Warner Music Group. “If you are an artist, you want individuals to go to the Web site and get everything that they could get at a show.”
Mr. Roberge said music scouts - known as artist and repertoire representatives, or A&R people - typically will visit a Web site to hear music, view pictures, and check out band chat rooms or press clippings before deciding to go to a show.
Mr. Roberge picked up the Maryland-based band O.A.R. after executives at his company learned that it was the most downloaded band on the Internet. Mr. Roberge said the band developed a nationwide following by spreading its music through Napster and its own Web site. Now O.A.R., or Of A Revolution, can be heard on radio stations around the country.
Sites for Toledo-area bands like Glinda s Bubble, Lollipop Lust Kill and The Safety of Routine offer entire songs to download, and clips to listen to. Just about all sites, The Hearsay Tao and Five Horse Johnson included, will direct you to their own CDs for sale.
The new Internet-reliant system of finding bands has in some ways created a more egalitarian industry. Produce great music that sells on the Internet, and record executives will notice. But the system also puts pressure on musicians to think like the executives as they record their own albums and try to sell them online.
“The Internet changed the way bands work,” said Matt Coban, 20-year-old lead singer and guitarist with The Better World, a band based in Allendale, N.J. “Web sites, putting up links to the band site, promoting and selling your CD - it s just something that you got to do.”
“We know we are not going to get signed playing in his basement,” said bandmate and fellow guitarist Justin Miskowski, 19.
The Better World recorded a self-titled debut album in 2002 and now sells it on the Web. It has spent more than $6,000 to record, produce, market, and sell the CD.
Bradbury and his mother/manager, Donna Bradbury, have spent $4,500. The demo tape makes up the bulk of the cost. With the new emphasis on marketing and promotion, independent artists must spend more money than before to produce a professional-looking product.
Donna Bradbury spent $1,500 for a package from Oasis CD in Virginia that included the packaging and printing of 500 CDs and a Web program that teaches how to make a professional-looking online media kit.
Darrin Bradbury said he was naive before receiving the lesson in marketing.
“I wasn t sure if you just threw the CD and bio into a bag and passed it out,” he said.
In response to the recent demand for help in promoting music online, dozens of companies that specialize in selling independent music have emerged in the past few years.
Portland, Ore.-based CD Baby is one of them.
The company, which was started in 1997 by musician Derek Sivers to sell his own CD, is now the largest seller of independent CDs on the Web. More than 54,053 artists, including The Better World and Bradbury, sell their CDs on the company s Web site, www.cdbaby.com.
Customers can search for independent artists by famous bands that they sound like and by genre, among other things.
The company takes a $4 cut from every album sold, and independent artists can set their own price for their CDs. So far, the company has paid more than $6 million to musicians, Mr. Sivers said. To sell a CD on the site, a musician needs only to contact CD Baby and mail some CDs to its offices.
Mr. Sivers says it s great that major labels are looking online for new talent.
“Instead of playing favorites and who you know, the companies are saying, Sell as many CDs as you can, ” said Mr. Sivers. And whoever creates the biggest buzz wins attention.
Even small independent labels are relying on the Web to choose which bands they will sign.
Independent record producer Joe D. Martinez started the Web site www.stateofmusic.com to find independent bands that he may want to sign to his new label 1Two8Records.
Mr. Martinez, of Neptune, N.J., allows bands to put their music on his Web server free of charge while also providing links to bands Web pages.
He tries to sign the best musicians to his label. His goal is to eventually get his bands signed to a major label in exchange for a cut of their new album sales.
“There are sites out there now that break down bands into two groups - bands with money and bands without money,” he said. “I want to find a way to level the playing field.”
Mr. Bradbury said that while the online music industry can be complicated to navigate, it has already helped him chase his dreams.
“It s really weird to sell CDs and walk down the halls of school and know that people have your CD,” he said. “This is what I ve always wanted.”
- Kevin Cesarz contributed to this report.