The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, February 12, 2001

In The Beginning, IUMA

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Like many online music companies, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) has fallen on hard times. Funding from Emusic, which acquired IUMA in 1999, has dried up; as a result, IUMA has closed its doors to new artists, and will no longer sell the CDs of artists currently in its archive. This is not good. I first read about IUMA in Billboard in early 1994. I didn't have access to the Web back then, so I couldn't check out the site, but it sounded really interesting. In late 1993, two college students, Jeff Patterson and Rob Lord, had created a Web site that featured unknown, mostly unsigned artists. One thing they were doing, along with another of their friends, Jon Luini, who became a partner shortly after they started their company, particularly intrigued me: you could download and listen to one or more songs by each artist included on their site. Not too long after I read about IUMA, I began researching an article for Details on how technology would change the music business. This site, I imagined, could expose "local" artists to music fans all over the world. In the pre-IUMA world, if you were a band in Dayton, Ohio without a record deal, it was almost impossible to build an audience beyond the region where you were based; in a post-IUMA world, anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser, anywhere in the world, could check out your songs. Both for the article, and to satisfy my own curiosity, I headed down to the UC Santa Cruz campus — IUMA's headquarters at the time — to see for myself what these music-loving geeks were doing. (I later enlisted IUMA to help produce my online music site, Addicted To Noise, which they did for the first ten months of its existence.) I found Lord and Patterson in a room that they had somehow convinced the university to let them use (the IUMA site was at that time housed on another university's server). It had kind of a "Wayne's World" vibe, what with the empty pizza box and other signs that college students spent most of their waking hours here. Lord, with his hair cut short and preppy/slacker dress, came across as the more business-minded. He had quite an amazing rap about the future of music. Patterson came across as the company freak, with his long hair, grunge/slacker look and love of Primus and other outré rock bands. Both were hardcore music fans, both really wanted to make the world a better place for unknown musicians, and both believed in the power of the Internet to change the world. They showed me their site, the first Web site I'd ever seen. I was impressed. Yeah, the music that I checked out wasn't that great, but the concept! A few years earlier I had spent quite a bit of time turning a Macintosh computer into a digital recording studio. I knew that you could create excellent-sounding recordings in a home studio at relatively low cost. Now IUMA seemed to present the possibility of international distribution with no strings attached. An artist could be completely autonomous of the established music business, I thought. Still, even as I let myself enjoy this fantasy, I foresaw a problem. See, most people don't want to listen to a bunch of artists they've never heard of, and if they do and they hear lousy music (or even music that takes more than one listen to take hold), they quickly become bored or frustrated. I wondered how the site was ever going to be successful. Once popular artists made their music available online, who was going to spend time trolling a site filled with music by unknown artists? Napster, one can assume, contributed mightily to IUMA's current situation, just as it has caused problems for many online music sites that suddenly seem quite irrelevant. These days, only Patterson remains of the three original IUMA partners, but his spirit seems to have kept the site true to its roots. One can only hope IUMA finds new funding soon. It was the first music Web site; it inspired many of us who have spent the past six or seven years in the online music space (and, indirectly, many more). It deserves to live on.

Datastream: Napster must stop its users from sharing copyrighted song files, the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday, Feb. 12. However, the company can keep operating until a lower court revises the injunction it issued last fall. For music fans, the days of logging on to Napster, typing in, say, "Beatles" or "Limp Bizkit," and getting instant access to those artists' songs at no cost will end faster than you can say Shawn Fanning. Napster claims 50 million people have been using its service in recent weeks. A lot of music fans are mad as hell and not gonna take it. Freenet anyone? ... A re-formed version of the Soft Boys, including founding members Robyn Hitchcock and Kimberley Rew, will play shows in a handful of cities in March and April. The tour will coincide with the March 17 release of a new version of the English psychedelic-pop group's 1980 album, Underwater Moonlight. The new version will include nine of what Matador calls "bonus tracks" plus a second CD of "rehearsal recordings." The touring band will also include Morris Windsor and Matthew Seligman, current members of Hitchcock's band, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. Confirmed shows include one at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on March 28, San Francisco's Fillmore on April 7 and L.A.'s Knitting Factory April 9. ... Jurassic 5, the excellent MC/DJ crew whose Quality Control was a 2000 hip-hop highlight, will be headlining a handful of West Coast club shows this month. The five-member crew plays Santa Cruz's Palookaville Feb. 20, Humboldt State's Arcata Feb. 21, San Francisco's Maritime Hall Feb. 22, Santa Barbara's Club 634 Feb. 24 and San Diego's 4th & B'way Feb. 25.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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