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The Internet Underground Music Archive; Taxi A&R;

The Internet Underground Music Archive's streaming audio page, Radio IUMA.The Internet Underground Music Archive's streaming audio page, Radio IUMA.

Derek Johnson & Debbie Poyser find out how you can use the Internet for promoting, distributing and selling your music, and for getting it heard by the right people.

The Internet is turning into quite a useful place for independent musicians and songwriters — both those who would like to promote and distribute their own music, rather than trying to get signed by a commercial label, and those who are striving for a record or publishing deal and want to get their music to the right ears. There are now lots of sites that can be very helpful for both aims; here's a few to get you going.

Promotion & Selling

Taxi — one of the longest‑established and most reputable A&R sites.Taxi — one of the longest‑established and most reputable A&R sites.

BURBS (British Unsigned Rock Bands, is a very worthy site run by a music enthusiast and devoted to giving British bands some free exposure. The site hosts Demo pages which serve as a band's own web page, featuring audio, pictures, gig schedules, mailing lists, contact email addresses and biographies. The BURBS Soundroom is where you can find the BURBS tips for the top and check out what the site's creators consider to be the best demos of the moment. According to the site, bands featured have achieved airplay on Radio 1 and foreign stations, found overseas gigs and accumulated overseas fans via BURBS

Bands who want to get involved can be listed on BURBS free of charge, and can have an audio clip featured. If they have a web site, this can be linked to the BURBS site, and bands without their own web site can have a page created and maintained for £49.99 (this service used to be free, but there was, understandably, too high a demand for the creator to continue offering it for nothing). The site also has an area for anyone seeking collaborators or band members, or advertising their own musical services.

The Nashville‑based ( has quite a narrow musical focus (MOR/country/folk/acoustic pop) but is a polished site which acts as an on‑line record shop for independent bands and artists and small labels. More than 300 artists are featured at the moment, and the site has had over half a million hits since it was set up. Music can be browsed by categories and any artist featured gets their own page with a picture, contact information, news, audio clips and CD sales facilities. also put together sampler CDs of the artists they feature: the current one has 152 tracks from different artists in MP3 format so that the public can try before buying an individual artist's own CD. Getting yourself or your band onto the site involves sending in some material for appraisal and paying a $190 fee if accepted. Part of the fee is for membership of, and the rest covers the cost of setting up an artist home page. These, by the way, look very nice indeed. Even if you have your own web site, you can have it linked back to to make use of their secure ordering facilities.

Anyone whose music is folky or acoustic will also be interested in Folkweb (, another on‑line CD store for independent artists and labels, which also features audio clips. It's a screened site, which means that material is only featured if Folkweb feel it's of a sufficiently high standard. Artists who'd like to be featured send a CD for appraisal, and if Folkweb accept you, they'll sell your CDs on 'consignment' — basically, sale or return. Do note that sites which sell your CD for you will usually take a cut — they need to earn their keep, after all!

Heading in rather a different direction, there's the British Underground Things site (, which promotes unsigned bands in the hardcore, punk, alternative, noise, industrial, experimental and heavy metal genres. Inclusion on the site is free, but you have to complete an entry form and send a sample of music. Each band featured is given a page with picture, biography, reviews, contact information and details of how to buy their music. There's no audio on the site as yet.

Probably the best place to go if you're independent and have a CD of your own material to sell is the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA —, founded in 1993 by a group of college friends. This is a superb American site featuring no less than 3397 independent musicians in many genres. The musical focus is very wide and, again, each artist or band gets a page to tell the world about themselves, show pretty pictures and (we hope) sell their music. The site even has Radio IUMA, an audio‑streamed selection of 100 of IUMA's best artists which they recommend you listen to while surfing the 'net. Via a neat little old‑fashioned radio interface you can also customise what Radio IUMA will play, by genre, and then buy if you like what you hear. Any band would be happy to be featured on this great site.

Yet another site with similar facilities — though not as well developed — is Music & More ( as well as featuring music industry contacts, services and classifieds (the latter probably of limited use to UK musicians, as it's an American site), Music & More offer a free web page to unsigned artists.

While some of the really good sites are US‑based, we have a growing number in the UK. Check out the following: the Alternative Route (; The Unsigned Bands List (; MusicNet ( — this one is just for musicians in the North East); Curious Goods (; and SUBS (Scottish Unsigned Bands Site — The last two only cover Scottish bands. Promotion can be assisted by such sites as The Indie Index (, run from Colchester. This is a central point for listings for unsigned/independent bands, labels, e‑zines and their web sites, to which anyone looking for interesting new music can refer. Any band or label can be added to the list and the site also has a chat forum and a great collection of links for independent musicians.

A&R Assistance

Another significant trend seems to be the appearance of A&R sites on the web. We all know there's little chance of a large successful record label listening to demos that arrive unsolicited in the mail, so organisations such as Taxi ( act like a middle man, introducing material to those in a position to make use of it. There's potential for skullduggery and ripping off innocent and desperate musicians here, but the US‑based Taxi is one of the most reputable organisations of its kind, founded by Michael Laskow because of the "deep personal satisfaction" he derived from helping unsigned bands when he worked as an engineer, producer and studio manager. Every two weeks, members (who pay quite a few quid for membership — US$299 for the first year and $199 for renewals, to be exact) receive a list of song and artist requests from labels and producers. These requests are a result of direct contacts between label personnel and Taxi. Members who have material they think fits one of these requests send it to Taxi, whose screeners listen to everything submitted, and forward the tracks considered worthy to the labels and producers as 'solicited material'. Other tracks are returned with a critique.

Taxi's membership has doubled every year since it was launched in 1992 and now numbers in the thousands. Several dozen screeners are employed (all, according to Taxi, heavyweight professionals, some of them top A&R people from labels such as Columbia, RCA, Warner Brothers and Virgin), and the number of what Taxi call 'active listings' at any one time has grown to almost 60. This is partly because of the Taxi screening process. As a Taxi employee explains: "Over the years, there have been lots of tip sheets [insider listings] for songwriters. But the A&R people would get deluged with hundreds of poor‑quality tapes, so they'd stop soliciting work, and the tip sheets would fold. The industry has come to trust Taxi to forward only the cream of the songwriting crop." According to the site, Taxi works: over 450 deals have been done over the last seven years, "ranging from single‑song contracts for albums or films to staff‑writer jobs to major‑label deals for bands." See the Taxi site for a couple of full features from print magazines on the service, with some good hints and tips, plus monthly interviews with industry professionals and a newsletter. Plans are also afoot to give every Taxi member a page on the site, including up to three songs, and eventually direct sales facilities.

The Bandit A&R Newsletter is a similar service, more like a tip‑sheet and not quite as extensive as Taxi, based in the UK. It too has been going for several years, which should say something about its quality, and has an active web site ( It's a monthly publication highlighting 24 companies (labels, publishers, management and production companies) each month which are currently looking for new acts. Most of the featured opportunities are British, but Bandit say at least six will be American companies, and they also publish other international contacts. The newsletter, which costs from £15 for three issues, can be delivered by post or email, and it's possible to get a free sample before committing yourself. There's a sample of the kind of contact feature the newsletter provides on the web site (replaced with a new one every month), and also an area for checking out the comments of existing subscribers.

For advice and information, pure and simple, check out the Beats e‑zine ( This is the "music industry resource and archive" for a magazine called Music Dish. It carries interviews, with artists labels and record company executives, insights from music professionals on all aspects of the business (including touring, copyright and demo promotion), plus legal information in the 'Industry Tips' section.

Before sending out any of your music to anyone, make sure you've safeguarded your copyright by lodging a properly‑labelled copy of your material with an institution such as your bank (a small annual fee will be payable) or your solicitor, or sending a copy to yourself by recorded delivery. When it arrives, be sure not to open it! Also, while we've tried to include only reputable sites here, it's a case of buyer beware if you decide to subscribe to any Internet sites which charge for their services.

Opportunity Knocks

As well as helping you to distribute your music and get it heard by more people, the Internet can also help you discover musical opportunities you might not otherwise have come across. For example, did you know about the 1999 USA Songwriting Competition (, which is apparently "the world's leading international songwriting competition"? It's going on right now, with a top prize of over US$20,000 in value, and is sponsored by companies which include Mackie, Fender/Guild Guitars, Digitech, D'Addario Strings, Cakewalk Music Software, Rane, Presonus, Quantegy, Line 6, and Audix. Songs can be be entered in 15 different categories, and judges include music industry professionals from Arista Records, EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music and Peer Music. You might be tempted to think of such competitions as rather naff: well, OK, if going on to record one of the top 12 US independent albums of the year and being nominated in the preliminary rounds of the 1998 Grammy awards for record of the year and best new artist is naff. That's what happened to 1997's Grand Prize winner, while '98's winner was offered a recording contract with Atlantic Records after she won the competition. Find out more about this competition at the web site, but don't waste any time if you'd like to enter, as entries for this year must be postmarked before May 31st. By the way, there is a fee for submitting a song.

Sonic Foundry are offering an opportunity to get some music to a wider audience via their Acid web site ( This gives anyone who uses the loop‑based Acid "music creation software" (reviewed in SOS November 1998) the chance to post tracks on a site which is sure to receive lots of hits. According to Rimas Buinevicius, Sonic Foundry's Chairman and CEO "We view the site as merely the first step in our ongoing effort to develop an interactive community of musicians who are interested in using the Internet as their primary vehicle for discovery."

Amen to that!