THE BOSTON GLOBE - 05.10.99
"Launch a Music Career Online"
So you want to be a rock star? Then get out of the garage and get yourself a computer. At least that's what some folks are doing, thanks to a technology called MP3, an audio format that enables users with minimal computer experience to distribute their music over the Internet.
Ginny Weaver, singer with Boston Indie band Star Ghost Dog, is one of the believers in the new format. About six weeks ago, she and her band posted two songs on MP3.com, the popular Web site that features free music by more than 10,000 groups, most of them unsigned and unknown beyond their own basements.
To put it politely, a lot of the music offered for free on the site proves the maxim, "You get what you pay for." But that's not the case with Star Ghost Dog. Its two songs, Plus de Vaches and Downer, are smart pop tunes with a witty, subversive edge. The band was featured as a "Hot New Band" on the site, and their songs have hit the MP3.com charts. That's not to say Weaver has any illusions that MP3 is going to turn the band into an overnight rock sensation. Let's be realistic.
"This is not the story of the century," she says. "It's not like we're expecting a big deal. We hope to get more fans, more attention, but we don't expect to be noticed by A&R (artist and repertoire) scouts surfing the Net for new music."
Weaver has received e-mail from all over the world since she posted the songs. And, there's a fringe benefit: the service is free. And it's easy. Weaver, who isn't likely to be mistaken for a computer engineer, says it takes about 30 minutes to convert regular CDs into the MP3 format. It's even easier to listen to the tunes: click, download and you're in business.
This ease of use, however, has blood pressure rising in the offices of industry executives, who foresee massive music piracy and fear a realignment of the entire industry. The Recording Industry Association of America tried to block the technology, but eventually realized that it had to get in touch with the times. As such, the association is working on developing its own standards for online distribution.
But for bands like Star Ghost Dog, piracy is hardly a worry. "To be honest, at our level it isn't even a concern," Weaver says with a soft laugh. "Any new exposure is good." She's glad her group's songs have done well on MP3.com's charts, although it would be easy to manipulate the record-keeping by having your friends download your songs repeatedly. "A lot of bands do that, but I'm really interested in getting the real picture of what's going on. I don't try to influence the system."
The industry is changing faster than musicians can keep up with it, and it's essential to stay on top of technological innovation. Some day, some band is going to break through and make it big using the Internet. "It's inevitable," Weaver says. "We're just a small part of a huge phenomenon."
- Patti Hartigan