NEWS- Dream come true: Dreaming Isabelle wins online battle
The ballots are in, and the winner of the Hook's Charlottesville Online Battle of the Bands is the young rock quartet Dreaming Isabelle.
The Hook co-sponsored the competition with Snocap, the newest brainchild of Napster creator Shawn Fanning, as a way of announcing Snocap's new sales partnership with social networking and music promotion juggernaut MySpace.com. Subscribing to Snocap's services gives bands access to a customized Flash store through which they can sell mp3 files, and total sales for participating Charlottesville area bands were tallied on January 28 to determine the winner.
Guitarist Jon Thompson masterminded the band's participation, along with singer Daniel Lipton. "The two other guys didn't even know we were doing it," says Thompson with a laugh. "For two weeks, we pushed it really hard."
Pushing consisted mostly of spirited bouts of messaging on MySpace and rival social network Facebook, mass e-mails, and personal phone calls to friends and family members.
"One thing I loved about Snocap is that you can paste the HTML into any HTML code box. I just randomly dropped the Snocap browser into someone's comments," says Thompson, "and then I started getting on everyone's pages who I knew liked us. It was viral."
But things got a little more difficult when the instant messages, phone calls, and e-mails finally began to work– some of Dreaming Isabelle's would-be supporters didn't have a PayPal account, which Snocap's system requires, and others reported trouble connecting PayPal to their Snocap accounts.
Doug Burns of Charlottesville-based investment team Court Square Ventures, one of Snocap's owners, ascribes the problems to user error or unfamiliarity.
"All I know is that I got several calls from several different folks saying that they were unable to download, and they wanted to do it," says Thompson. "When your wallet is open, it needs to be as simple as possible."
"It's real easy for me to use it now, so I'll probably continue to use it myself," Thompson adds. "But that initial buy is challenging."
Whatever happened, Dreaming Isabelle has won an opening slot at the Charlottesville Pavilion this summer as well as a weekend of studio time with ATO Records, including consultation with noted producer Bruce Flohr.
Currently, the largest online music distribution outlet is the iTunes Music Store run by Apple. Snocap launched with a system that was highly flexible, but financially on par with the terms offered by CDBaby, which is far and away the most important gatekeeper to the iTunes Music Store for independent musicians. But thanks to a surprise price drop announced on January 20, Snocap officially pulls into the lead, with 61 cents on the dollar ending up in the artist's pocket, compared to CDBaby's 55. And that is, of course, assuming that the songs are priced at $1– artists are free to set prices as they see fit, so the sky's the limit for profits.
Dreaming Isabelle, for example, priced their songs as low as they could– eschewing profits in favor of the Hook's prizes.
"We made it as low as possible. It was 99 cents on iTunes, and we made it 50 cents [via Snocap]," says Thompson. "We ended up selling the whole album more than just one song."
In addition to the pricing flexibility, Lipton says he's also into the instant gratification. "I think they offer something awesome in that we can just put music up and sell it," he says. "It took iTunes six months to get our stuff up there."
Dreaming Isabelle initially offered only two songs for sale, but eventually decided to add the rest of their most recent album as well as one previously unreleased song. Making the changes was easy enough.
"The nice thing about Snocap is that, just as they advertise, it's really in your hands," LIpton says.
And with a little pluck and a sense of self-promotion, what's also in Dreaming Isabelle's hands is a new title: Most Downloaded Band in Charlottesville.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Most Downloaded Band in Charlottesville: Dreaming Isabelle!