Finding new channels for independent music

Ryan deBiase

Whether it’s a CD or an MP3, independent music is available to the masses in Kent

Historically speaking, the independent music fan has never had many options in terms of the traditional channels. FM radio churns the same pop songs day after day. Big box retailers like Best Buy and Virgin Megastores focus their retail efforts toward promoting artists on major labels.

Still, alternatives exist for the independent music aficionado, and they are multiplying rapidly.

With the advent of downloadable MP3 sites such as iTunes and up-and-comer eMusic.com, independent music is finding an outlet for the masses.

In particular, eMusic is effective in promoting indie music, as its constantly expanding library is comprised solely of independent labels.

“EMusic now counts 4.5 million downloads per month,” said Justin Kazmark, a representative from eMusic. “Last year (the site) had only 400,000 tracks. Now they have close to one million.”

EMusic’s basic subscription service costs $10 per month and provides 40 downloads in that span. That equates to roughly 25 cents per song, a thriftier buy compared to iTunes’ 99 cents, Kazmark said.

Unlike Napster and Rhapsody sites, in which songs disappear after a user’s subscription is terminated, eMusic songs are the buyer’s permanently.

“There’s no digital rights management on eMusic tracks,” Kazmark said. “They are all MP3s – when you buy them, you own them. You can share them with as many friends as you like.”

EMusic’s library consists of older musicians, such as Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, and contemporaries, including Sufjan Stevens and the New Pornographers.

“It is strictly focused on independent music, so it really caters to the music aficionado,” Kazmark said. “It’s not turning out the same pop songs. (EMusic) contributes to promoting independent music, which is such an important part of the music scene.”

EMusic is not the only option afforded to the indie music fan. For those of the more traditional mindset, another possibility exists and it’s much closer than one might think.

Turnup Records, located at 257 North Water St. in Kent, contains a variety of independently released CDs and much more.

“We carry vinyl, magazines and ‘zines – independently, small-scale produced magazines,” said Charlie Loudin, an employee at Turnup. “We have had several bands play in the back. We hang (local) art. We try really hard to promote local artists.”

The independent atmosphere pervades the store. Local art adorns the walls and the place is cozy and intimate. Customers stop by just to chat about music. This personalized aspect is one of the draws to shopping at Turnup, Loudin said.

“I think that Turnup Records as an independent store offers a wider selection of more obscure releases,” Loudin said. “As a fan of music and a buyer of music, I prefer a place like Turnup Records. It’s certainly more personalized.”

Loudin acknowledges that much of the music available on mass channels is not very entertaining. Turnup Records tries to do its part to promote the lesser-known artists, he said.

“We are trying to provide music that is good,” he said. “Oftentimes, in this day and age, a lot of the good music is more obscure and independently released. It’s not on the radio.”

As a business venture, Loudin said, Turnup Records is not particularly concerned with profit margins. Instead, the store takes pride in providing art to the community.

“It is very important to promote independent music because if you don’t, then a lot of good work goes unheard and unrealized,” he said.

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan deBiase at [email protected]