Nashville songplugger Raleigh Squires, a 30-plus-year veteran of the music business, has announced the opening of a new Internet record label/music download store at www.VirtualMusicMarket.com.
According to Squires the store will serve as a platform from which independent artists and musicians can market their music in a different way than most of the other online stores. The label/store debuts with six independent artist products and also serves as a portal to Amazon.com’s mainstream music downloads in addition to movies, videos, books, and e-books. Squires’ daughter Sarah, a 10-year Nashville advertising and marketing executive, is also a partner in the venture.
The store/label will pick and choose the best independents they can acquire either through purchase of the master or on a consignment basis, and will release, service, and promote each act to radio through Squires’ digital radio promotion company, 1617 Virtual. The company will also market the store and the music to consumers via the Internet and through conventional advertising.
So far, the roster includes country duo Thompson Square, alternative/blues artist Kristen Cothron, two projects from Delbert McClinton’s son, Clay McClinton, singer/songwriter Toni Catlin and a digital reissue of an Allen Reynolds-Mark Miller-produced album by 2007 Musicians Hall of Fame inductees, The Memphis Boys, comprised of Memphis/Nashville studio players Reggie Young, Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman, Mike Leech and Bobby Emmons.
“All of these projects have been around awhile but because they didn’t fit any specific radio formats, they really haven’t seen the light of day,” Squires said. “Our quest for them is to expose the music because we believe if people hear what they have to offer, they’ll play it and buy it.”
Country husband/wife duo Thompson Square is the most recently recorded project and is a prime example, according to Squires, of the current condition of the music industry. Their self-written, self-produced and self-funded project has gotten little interest from Nashville’s major labels and publishers.
“These kids have the product, the music and the performance and they’ve done it all on their own. They have a story and they have the ?it’ factor we’re all looking for, in my opinion,” Squires said. “But the majors are handcuffed. The whole business is in a state of flux and panic has kind of set in. Most of them seem to be waiting for the next axe to fall. The label mergers and consolidations have all their developmental projects waiting in line to get a shot at the multi-million dollar radio promotion conduit which automatically sets almost all of them up to fail because they have to be multi-platinum sellers to recoup the labels’ money. Now TV popularity contests, MySpace and iTunes are the determining factors as to what becomes a hit. Radio keeps getting the same old same old from them and outside of Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Kenny Chesney, there’s not a lot for anybody to be excited about.
“If the majors had done this kind of thing 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have turned the music business over to the Internet computer gurus,” Squires said in his announcement. “The business would be paying itself, the artists, the labels, and the publishers the same way it always had been instead of finding itself in an ongoing battle over royalties for artists, publishers, and writers. They thought they had to apply the same distribution principle to the Internet as they did to the physical brick and mortar locations which is a good example of how they’ve misunderstood what was happening. Now the master and copyright owners really control all the content and they really don’t have to give up control of their work.”
“Internet entrepreneurs saw how the Web was a huge advantage by digitally distributing music. Unfortunately, they saw it as a way to steal music instead of sell it so the industry fought it tooth-and-nail. Where we are now is anybody and everybody can put their music in every store out there and every site seems like a big car wreck. The music industry itself has pretty much lost control of the whole ball-of-wax. We’re very unconventional and we’ve decided we’re going to beat our heads against a different brick wall.”
Squires has primarily been an independent songplugger for the last five years since leaving The City Paper where he was the startup’s managing editor from its outset. His songplugging service, HitMenSongpluggers.com, was one of the first to utilize the Internet to pitch songs and his clients averaged over 12,000 mp3 clicks per year over the past three years. He had previously been involved in the Mel Tillis companies as a songwriter and plugger on and off for nearly 20 years.
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