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Sunta Says: Is Bobcom the Future of Music Distribution?

Introducing our new columnist, XFM’s ‘first lady of Music News’, the lovely Sunta Templeton. Sprinkling her DJ magic across the airwaves every Sunday and monthly at the Queen of Hoxton in the heart of bleeding-edge Shoreditch, Sunta knows her shit. She’ll be bringing a bit of that magic to you, with a regular slot on PlanetNotion where she’ll be talking insider goss, music industry movements, new bands and sharing those eartickling moments that we’re all looking for. Take it away Sunta!

As someone who works in commercial radio but also spends much of my week trawling blogs for new music, I was pretty intrigued when an invite for the official launch of Bobcom landed on my desk. I arrived in Hoxton Square with the promise of free drinks ringing my ears to be entertained by fire displays, a naked orchestra and waiters wearing fishbowls on their heads, as Bobcom.com encouraged unsigned bands and musicians to ’declare their independence’ and Morning Parade and Mystery Jets took to the stage.

Turns out that Bobcom.com is the latest in musician-controlled distribution, allowing bands to sell their songs, showcase their videos, sell merchandise and advertise gigs without the need for a record label. Chief Exec Mike Feeney describes it as a “an alternative to the accepted music industry approach – where musicians can network and collaborate, sell their music at a significantly better revenue split than anywhere else in the UK, and find a new audience”.  One of the main features of the site is a ’Fasttrack’ function: essentially a competition with ’money can’t buy’ prizes for the bands with winners chosen by fellow bands and fans on the website. The first winners are Banned Sauce, a funk-rock band from London who played live in Hoxton Square for the launch, as well as winning a week’s recording at Abbey Road Studios – something the band say after playing music for 20 years is the best opportunity they’ve ever had.

The concept of using the internet to get your band’s music heard and establishing a fan base certainly isn’t a new one, but belief that you can be a career band away from the labels seems to be growing stronger. Similar websites (like Bandcamp.com) seem to be about more than creating a big enough buzz that the labels sit up and listen to you. Bobcom reckon they can provide a real alternative to signing on the dotted line, a place to sell your music and sell yourself without selling out.

Mike Feeney says “With Bobcom an act doesn’t need a manager, an agent, a PR, a record label marketing division or anything else, except a broadband connection and a handful of songs”. It’s a great call to arms, but instead of taking the power back from the majors, I suspect that like other online music and networking sites, it just streamlines things more for them, making it easier to separate the wheat from the chaff of the unsigned world.

Rather than the ‘power to the people’ message I suspect it’s the ‘Fasttrack’ incentive that will get bands signing up to Bobcom – and why not? The top scoring band on the site this week are the Dirty Crawlers – a bluesy pop guitar outfit from Staines who I can instantly tell I’d like live. They‘ve uploaded a selection of their songs, pictures and gig dates – so I can organise that live show – and are currently on course to win a TV appearance thanks to Fasttrack. Of course a quick Google search shows they’re also on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and lastfm – covering all online bases.

I’ve added Bobcom.com to my favourites list – another site I’ll check for new music. It’s credibility as a music distribution site will rely partly on the quality of the artists it provides a platform for. Any opportunity for artists to sell their songs directly to their fans has got to be a good thing and certainly encourages a stronger unsigned community, but whether your average unsigned band will stick around to ‘declare their independence’ once the music industry does come knocking with a contract remains to be seen.

- Sunta Templeton

Catch Sunta presenting XFM on Sundays from 6-10pm, and DJing every 3rd Saturday of the month at Mat Horne’s ‘Session’ at The Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch.

One Comment on “Sunta Says: Is Bobcom the Future of Music Distribution?”

  • Lewis Flude November 11th, 2010 5:31 pm

    It’s pretty good, definitely room for improvement. Is it a Silicon Roundabout startup?

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