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Interest in music nets new company

It's a record company, radio station, web site and information center about music, wrapped into one, and it's in our back yard.

It's VibrationNation, a locally based site (www.vibrationnation.com) which helps musicians, local and national, buck the establishment.

VibrationNation founder Louis Demetri describes his creation as ``an alternative to the regular channels of exposure and distribution for bands who choose to record and market their own CDs rather than sign with a record company. Unlike a record company, we don't `buy' that music and `resell' it. We're an Internet carrier service for the musicians.''

It's a service that can help music acts bypass a record industry that treats musicians as commodities rather than creators.

``That's why so many record companies are locked up in lawsuits,'' Mr. Demetri said. ``The record companies buy that music from the artists, then it's theirs. They make the artists minimum partners in their own careers. And often the artist falls victim to the hidden agendas of the record companies.''

A musician himself, Mr. Demetri played in bands around the Quad-Cities throughout the 1970s. He moved to California in 1981 and began teaching recording at a college. While continuing to perform as a musician, Mr. Demetri began working as a recording engineer for major record companies like Capitol and Warner Brothers, and with acts like Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, The Toadies and The Knack.

``When I went more into the industry side, as opposed to the musician's side, that's when I started my education on how the music business works,'' he said.

The affordability of new technology made it possible for unknown acts with little money to produce recordings comparable to their deeper-pocketed major-label counterparts.

Suddenly, musicians like Better Than Ezra and Liz Phair were cutting hit albums in their garages and bedrooms.

The popularity of the Internet further fueled the ambitions of unknown artists seeking freedom from ``creative accounting'' and the lowest-common-denominator mentality of not only the major record labels, but commercial radio as well.

Via Web sites, sound clips and e-mail, unknown artists can get their music directly into the hands of fans while retaining creative and financial control over their recordings.

With this in mind, Mr. Demetri and his associates launched VibrationNation in September. For what most bands would earn in a single night's work, Mr. Demetri and his company offer clients a listing on their site, a Web page, e-mail service, and mail-order distribution for CDs ordered via the Internet.

Understanding that exposure (specifically radio airplay) is the key to sales, Mr. Demetri and crew also founded the Tribal Radio Network, which broadcasts 24 hours a day on the Internet. Artists signed up through VibrationNation receive worldwide air play on any one of five radio stations -- formatted acoustic, rock, blues, techno and world.

In addition, a Tribal Radio Chart was created so fans of the bands can e-mail their favorite artist to the top of the playlist.

``When you hear an artist on the VibrationNation, you can push a few buttons, link to their home page, e-mail them, buy their record, find out about them and where they're playing,'' Mr. Demetri said. ``It's interactive. It's now.''

He said the site averages 100 to 200 hits a day and receives e-mail from as far away as Australia, South Africa, Japan, Canada and Italy.

Currently, more than 60 national and international acts subscribe to VibrationNation. Several are prominent local bands, including Einstein's Sister, BurntMcMelbaToast and the Ellis Kell Band. Artist-owned record companies like Bob Dorr's Hot Fudge Music and High & Lonesome singer David Zollo's Trailer Records also are clients.

VibrationNation also has released records via the Internet. Last fall the Ellis Kell Band became the first local act to release a single via the 'net on VN when they put out ``This House of Blues.''

However, Mr. Demetri said, VibrationNation is not meant to fill the role of record companies. ``There's so much music out there. It's not like we're stealing bands from record companies.''

Who knows whether that will continue to be the case in the future? We could see the birth of the next great record ``company'' right here in the Quad-Cities.

``Last year, the music industry reported a 1 percent growth rate. Their method is wearing out,'' said Mr. Demetri. ``In the old days, before anybody began making independent recordings, the major labels were it because they were the only game in town. Today, bands are developing whole catalogs that they themselves own. The bands are not waiting for the record companies to give them permission to make a record.

``The myth is that the record companies are the only ones producing great music. If they're signing one out of 50 bands, what about the other 49?''

For information about VibrationNation, call (309) 736-1716 or e-mail to Id@vibrationnation.com.

--By Brad Harvey (January 22, 1998)

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