by DARREN LEVIN
IF YOU can't beat 'em, join 'em. It may sound like an unlikely solution to the debate over illegal file sharing but Tom Majerczak insists it's the way forward for his fledgling independent rock label Hobbledehoy.
Since offering several albums for free via digital download in late July, Mr Majerczak has noticed a surge in physical sales; not just CDs but T-shirts and vinyl as well.
"Sales have definitely increased, which I'm sure in part has been a result of our new digital model," explains Mr Majerczak, 22, who started the label from his Ivanhoe bedroom in 2006.
In partnership with US startup Gimmesound.com, Hobbledehoy offers virus-free, high-quality MP3s of complete albums at no cost to the listener. You simply sign up for a free account ala Facebook or MySpace and download the files straight to your computer. As for the artists, they're paid by the revenue generated from site advertising, with a portion of sales (about 2 per cent) donated to a charitable cause of the listener's choice.
"For a long time I searched for a digital-distribution model that would resemble free-to-air television, something that would allow music fans to listen to our releases before committing their money," Mr Majerczak says. "This model allows for this while still generating revenue for our artists."
Mr Majerczak says that while he's not the first to give music away for free — local labels such as Remote Control offer MP3s to fans as loss leaders, while you could download Radiohead's 2007 LP In Rainbows for whatever price you nominated — Gimmesound's profit-sharing model is unique to the Australian market. At present, Hobbledehoy is believed to be the only Australian label partnered with Gimmesound.com and Mr Majerczak doesn't expect those numbers to swell anytime soon. He says the service appeals mostly to niche independent labels whose audience is still interested in purchasing albums on vinyl or CD — even after previewing songs online.
www.brisbanetimes.com.au, to read full click view