As Major Labels Consolidate and Down-Size, Opportunities open Up For Indies and lnternet Businesses

By Alan Rhody

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon going into the last week of February and 1 was sitting there contemplating my gig that night as the feature writer on a show at a hardware store in what's known as Hillsboro village here in Nashville. Yes, that's right a hardware store. You know you're in a music town when the local hardware/antique store has started a writer's night. it's true and actually it was lots of fun. The proprietor, Jerry Mercer, wanted to create a place for aspiring songwriters to come and play each Saturday night and also make people more aware of his establishment, which he took over only a couple of years ago. On each show,. there are four or five up-and-coming writers and a feature writer. Yee-haa!

In this particular music town. along with, I'm sure, New York and L.A., it is common knowledge that record sales in country music are down and that the on-line offerings (as far as purchasing music) are growing like wild fire. Internet buyers and sellers are well aware of it. Be that as it may, the number of people who actually own home computers still represents only about twenty-five percent of our population in the U.S.

The major labels will be selling on the Net in the near future, you can count on that. They are waiting to resolve the security codes and similar problems to avoid a lot of pirating, which I'm sure they will do real soon. In the meantime, small independent labels such as Oh Boy!, Al Burette and John Prine's label, and Eminent Records, Emmylou Harris' newly established label, along with hundreds of others such as Rounder, Red House, etc. are taking advantage of that time to establish a relationship with internet shoppers, small in numbers though they may be.

In short, it's a great time to be an independent artist and/or label and take advantage of a great new marketing tool which all the experts are, at least right now, saying is the wave of the future.

Harold Shedd, known for his production work with the group Alabama, K. T. Oslin, the Kentucky HeadHunters as well as a stint at Mercury Records, has started a label strictly to do business on the Net. The organization I'm represented by at my own web site, songs.com, has issued it's first compilation CD which can be directly downloaded with the mp3 software for FREE as a promotional tool for over one hundred artists all doing one song each.

So the future is looking bright or at least hopeful for world of independent folks these days. However, I still think it'll be a long time yet before the conventional record store is a thing of the past.

Heck, I might even buy a computer be ore the year 2000!

Mr. Rhody is a free-lance writer, singer and hit songwriter in Nashville, TN. Reach him for comments, itinerary or product at: P.O.Box 121231 Nashville, TN 37212 Fax: (615) 298-5146 or at www.songs.com/ar