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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Like many industries, the record business has been turned on its ear since the Internet. Universal web access has created a massive democratization of rock and roll. It's also created cottage industries of all shapes and sizes. Since the kid next door can sell his CD on iTunes and Amazon, now he wants to tour the country, playing venues befitting of his talent. In the past his chances of getting a gig outside his neighborhood open-mic night was slim. Talent booking practices have been the slowest to change in the music industry. So in 2001, an agent named Panos Panay set out to make a difference. He founded the online music agency, Sonicbids. For $6 a month, Sonicbids help artists put together their presentation kit for talent buyers. If the artist is willing to pay $11 a month, they can also stream their music videos, get extra on-site storage and more.

But regardless of the plan they choose, every time they want to be considered for a gig with a nightclub, a festival, a conference or a special event, the artists have to pay additional money to be submitted. And the venues that offer gig opportunities with Sonicbids earn a percentage from each of the artist's submission money, regardless of whether they are chosen for the gig. All the venues have to do is open the band's digital file.

So what often occurs is that the artists' investment in Sonicbids, may have little to do with the actual results. Sonicbids argument is that they are giving artists an opportunity to be considered by insiders.

While figures are not public, the revenue totals between the membership packages and the individual submission costs must be sizeable. Organizations like CMJ Music Festival, SXSW's Music Festival, Billboard Events and the International Midem, are among the thousands of partnerships Sonicbids touts. This means that bands must sign up with Sonicbids in order to be considered for performing at these events. Sonicbids claims to have over 14,000 promoters listening in, and are responsible for generating 60,000 gigs a year. That in fact may be true as there are thousands of neighborhood nightclubs and corner coffee shops from around the world that participate in this site.

The real winners of Sonicbids are the promoters, who sit in their offices and earn income off the backs of well-intentioned artists. In the 30 years I've been in business, I've always listened to what came through my door. I don't get paid to do that. This radio station wouldn't be the unique station it is if the deejays didn't listen to the music sent to them.

Listening to artists' music is a privilege, not a chore.

This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW. 

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