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TheStreet Open House

What's That Sound? Probably an Indie Label

Stock quotes in this article: SNE, WMG, P

Major labels just don't have the flexibility to provide that kind of musical innovation, he said. While they still provide people with music they want to hear, they can't make money on an artist selling 40,000 copies. But for an indie label with only a handful of employees, 40,000 is a very big deal.

As a result of the pressure for biggest selling products, major labels tend to be song-oriented as well as star-oriented.

"Our people sell a body of work," Bengloff said. "No one's buying Queens of the Stone Age because oh, that was a great song -- they're buying it because there was a dozen great songs. We're selling an album as opposed to what they're selling is a bunch of singles."

The Queens album he's referring to, ... Like Clockwork on Matador Records, is currently at No. 1 on Billboard's weekly charts. Since labels represent styles and stables of artists, that particular body of work translates into sales for other artists on the same label. Matador, for instance, also sports Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, Sonic Youth, Pavement and others. If you go for one, you'll probably be interested in the others.

"If you go to a independent metal label Century Media show, you'll see half the kids wearing a Century Media shirt instead of the bands on the stage," Bengloff said. The label is not just a motley collection of hit songs, but a brand of music that kids identify with.

"Indies have always been the brand, but we were limited in how big we could become so we were small niche market because we weren't able to get radio play," Bengloff said. "But now we're able to break out and do the crossover."

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park, N.J.

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