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Industry Standard

New music site drops a bomb on major labels


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February 19, 1999
Web posted at: 12:31 p.m. EST (1731 GMT)

by Lessley Anderson

(IDG) -- Al Teller is a testament to the way times are changing in the music biz. Teller, ex-CEO of MCA Records and one-time board member of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), has gone digital. His new company, Atomic Pop, will double as a music lifestyle site and digital record label. Teller hopes it will compete with the major labels by luring artists into a world where they will get a greater share of the profits, as well as provide a more direct way to reach fans.

Responsible for guiding the careers of music heavyweights like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Billy Joel and Elton John, Teller believes that the Web's unique promotional benefits outweigh the need for huge marketing budgets when it comes to representing rock stars.

"It's part of the mythology surrounding the music business that spending huge amounts of marketing monies will ensure commercial success. This simply isn't so," said Teller. "If the music isn't compelling from the audience's perspective, no amount of spending will make it a hit."

The Atomic Pop label has signed indie rock band L7, and as part of the promotional package the company offers to its artists, has created a music video even people on a 28.8 Kbps modem can enjoy. The band's new single, "Freeway," will soon be available on the site through Liquid Audio's digital download technology and as a limited-edition 7-inch. Atomic Pop plans to do the same for its other artists.
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"Web-centric labels have the advantage of being able to promote artists' music without having to first overcome the barriers of getting added to commercial stations' play lists." And they don't have to get their video aired on MTV: Atomic Pop will also broadcast artists' videos online.

Atomic Pop is privately funded with investments that, to date, measure only "in the single digit millions," according to Teller. The company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., presently employs 12 people, and Teller says he's looking forward to poaching talent from the major labels.

Signing and promoting artists is only part of Teller's business plan. The Atomic Pop site is designed to earn merchandising dollars, and not just from record sales. Edgy makeup company Urban Decay is selling its black nail polish and other cosmetics on the site, and indie comic-book publisher Hyperwerks will offer titles like Diety, Catseye and Weisel Guy to the under-30 demographic Teller hopes to attract.

But it's not all about e-commerce: "You won't feel like you have to buy something," Teller stresses. Atomic Pop's free content will include downloads of Panic and Quake, a Web radio station and articles about bands and albums.

Lessley Anderson is an assistant editor for The Industry Standard.

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