Candy ravers everywhere will hate me for saying this, but Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want album In Rainbows isn’t that progressive. A band of millionaires released their seventh record as a free download – so what?
Fishtown’s Eric Harms has been doing that for years. Since 2005, he has provided hundreds of free digital albums on apolloaudio.com.
His Web site is advertisement-free and doesn’t require a membership. Its selection includes nationally known musicians Devendra Banhart, Yo La Tengo and Peaches, as well as local acts like Bardo Pond, Plastic Little and The Cobbs.
I spoke with Harms over e-mail about why iTunes doesn’t cut it, his issues with authority and how a neighborhood known for its chunky teenagers is home to such an innovative business.
The Temple News: This is your baby, but it’s a pretty unique baby. Where’d you get the idea?
Eric Harms: Originally, it was built to help get more exposure for my group on a global level, as we felt we weren’t getting our promises fulfilled from our own label. The Internet has no boundaries, so why should my music exist within someone else’s definition of a “territory”? With digital, the rules are changing, as are these boundaries. I guess it all comes down to one thing: that I hate people telling me what I can and can’t do. There’s no rock-and-roll in that.
TTN: What will Apollo Audio look like in the future?
EH: I’d like to focus on partnering with labels directly themselves and becoming more of a first-choice stop for consumers, rather than sending them to iTunes, which I don’t use and won’t use. I refuse to let a huge company regulate how and when I can listen to and rip my music. That’s insanity.
TTN: What other choice do artists have?
EH: Artists need to learn how to take back control of their music from the labels, or at least educate themselves on how they don’t have to relinquish 100 percent control on a promise. Unless there’s $1 million behind your brainwashing – sorry, I mean advertising campaign – you’re going to be in the same boat. So why not take on some of the work yourself?
TTN: How does a business without ads or customer-raised revenue bring home the bacon?
EH: Everyone asks this question. Most people think this is actually my day job. The thing is, the service itself is so cheap that even after I pay my clients for sales, I make a profit. But my goal was never to be a distributor; I wanted this to be about exposure first, then sales.
TTN: Your site is so progressive. What’s the next step for the music business?
EH: My greatest wish is for all music to be catalogued digitally somewhere on some giant server farm, unregulated by any one government or corporate entity. I would be able to access this music wirelessly from anywhere in the world, and either listen to it on my wireless headphones or transmit that signal. All via some brilliant technology some brilliant person comes up with.
Holly Otterbein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.