When Nate Krenkel started his label Team Love a year ago with Conner Oberst, yes Bright Eyes himself, he wanted to put his emerging thoughts on downloads to the test. Simply put, indie labels, with lower break even points, could more effectively reach their goals with free downloads and proper marketing through the interweb. When Team Love CDs went on sale, every song would be available free of charge online. "We thought downloading could be used as a promotional item," Krenkel says on MSNBC.MSN.com. "There's something exponential going on. The more music that's downloaded, the more it sells."
While the record industry has been waging war against the Net and music pirates for years, arguing that such forces might destroy their business, Team Love had the opposite approach. "The Internet changes the dynamic," Oberst says. "It takes away the marketing advantage that the big labels have and gives people a chance to listen to music they couldn't hear on the radio or get in a Wal-Mart."
Oberst and Krenkel recognize that setting a precedent of free downloads may ruffle a few feathers in the music world. "We wanted to make a definitive statement that this is our policy, and we're not particularly interested in what people in the industry think," Krenkel explains. "First and foremost, we want to be a label that's good to our artists," says Oberst.
With early successes by initial signings Tilly and the Wall and Willy Mason under their belt, the ability to build grassroots awareness and create communities of like-minded people has been Team Love's barometer for things to come. So far their gamble has paid off. With the industry watching closely, let's hope the trend continues. It's a great time to be an indie.