MP3.GONE

After the stroke of midnight Dec. 2, songs by Santeria, Victim of Modern Age, Odd Arnie and more Lafayette bands were flushed down the digital dumper as the new owners of MP3.com bulldozed its content.

When CNET Networks purchased MP3.com from media mammoth Vivendi Universal Nov. 14, it announced that the first minutes of Dec. 3 would see the beginning of the deletion of more than 1 million independent recordings. The elimination made way for a new site, loaded with new services and better, faster ways to find new music and discover new bands. There is no word on when it will be relaunched, but a sister page at music.download.com is slated for early 2004. Nationwide, yet-to-be signed bands scrambled in the days before the liquidation to get their digital files safely into new harbors.

Locally, the storm seems much calmer as locals have either already partnered up with similar services or aren't concerned about salvaging their material. Of the roughly 360 Louisiana-based bands on a similar site, IUMA.com, only 18 carry a Lafayette, Carencro or Scott zip code. A handful of others call surrounding Acadiana areas home. Even fewer artists on the sites appear regularly at local venues. It is not quite the flock of nearly 30 Lafayette bands, ranging from death metal to Rush-esque Christian rock, registered on MP3.com - which even provided a Lafayette page for local convenience. Other bands, such as The Object at The End of History, whose new site still provides a link to MP3.com, haven't made the jump yet.

For local fans, MP3.com provided a way to hear more of local bands and explore groups from outside the area. Before heading to a local show, they could log in and listen to the tracks posted by the up-and-comers. Now, it means that it will be a matter of months before a site should be back in working order.

After its launch in 1997, MP3.com rocketed in popularity and usage to become "the world's largest Internet music community" and the largest Internet music system in the world with 40 million subscribers, including this writer, and 1.6 million songs by more than a quarter million recording artists. The free MP3 access to members and the free membership and posting of songs for bands probably had a little something to do with this. For a price, artists could post more songs and avoid what MP3.com called a review process, which usually meant songs took a few months to post.

"They say it's to review the music, but it was obviously a ploy to make people consider buying the better service," says Allen Clements, current member of Victim of Modern Age and former member of Claymore. Clements admits to succumbing to the pressure to upgrade to premium status, eventually landing 6,000 plays for Claymore and 600 for VOMA. Other than his record company and VOMA's site, his marketing takes place at IUMA.

For local ska outfit Odd Arnie, MP3.com earned a decent amount of playback and, more importantly, exposure out side of Acadiana.

"We got almost 5,000 plays in about a year and a half," says Kris Clavier of Odd Arnie. "We had a record label from Japan, who, after hearing our song on MP3.com, wanted us to send them a CD for a compilation. We had people across the U.S. and England that we've corresponded with that heard us through the Web site."

The band is not fretting over their loss, but Clavier reports that MP3s will soon be available at oddarnie.com.

Other than free exposure to the masses and networking, MP3.com offered pay for play to its artists. Premium members received a check drawn from a fraction of a cent they earned every time a portion of their songs was played ... if there was anything left over after deducting their premium status bill.

Claymore, however, didn't initially log on to MP3.com to start a penny collection.

"We started marketing ourselves using MP3.com as a forum. At the time, a lot of bands were using MP3.com for a cheap Web site," says Clements. "Claymore just used it as a supplement to our Web site (www.claymorerock.com). We tried to channel all of our music traffic through MP3.com."

According to the site's statistics, fans placed Claymore on more than 25 MP3.com radio stations. Although it may put a dent in the number of fans that have a VOMA or Claymore song on their lips, Clements says he doesn't put much thought into the loss of the site.

"It was a nice side dish, but I don't think it will be the downfall of any band who is actually committed to promoting themselves and making good and honest music."

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