Elisa Bray: Caught in the Net

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The Independent Culture

Virgin, Sony and Coca-Cola tried it. But not even these giants could create download stores capable of competing with Apple's near 80 per cent share in the digital music market. Virgin's Digital Music service fully shuts down three weeks from today, and last month Sony announced that it is phasing out Connect Music. Of course, those suffering most from the tough online music world are the musicians, but new-style download sites are helping them to hit back.

One such site is the new Alldigdown.com, where artists can design their own pages, earn revenue from track sales and even get royalty payments from streamed songs. Klaxons, Jamie Cullum, and the Verve have all signed up.

Ex-Grange Hill star Ricky Simmonds and Stephen Jones (aka The Space Brothers) set up Audiojelly.com, a dance music download store, in 2004 in reaction to internet piracy. Simmonds said: "We realised we had to attempt to sell our music online or basically die as artists. Sites like ourselves tend to thrive more than mainstream sites because we've got a different consumer base – the majority of our customers are DJs."

Audiojelly has also teamed up with ageing pop musician Paul Young to launch a multi-genre site. Muse and Arctic Monkeys' latest singles will be available on Etopiamusic.com when it goes live next month, but unsigned bands will be able to upload their tracks for sale, too. They will be featured side by side with signed musicians on the site's front page and have the opportunity to receive 80 per cent of sales profits and maintain control over their music – perhaps offering them a better chance at making a decent living than they'd get signing with a record label offering no advance.

When a rock band of mammoth proportions starts releasing their songs for download only, you know that the CD market must be pretty low. Oasis are releasing their first ever download-only single, "Lord Don't Slow Me Down", on 21 October. It will be available at their site, Oasisinet.com, along with live versions of "Don't Look Back in Anger" and "The Meaning of Soul" recorded at City of Manchester stadium in 2005.

The Rifles and Okkervil River have freebies to offer. The Rifles have just penned a new deal with 679 Recordings and are releasing "Talking" as a free download single from 29 October ahead of their second album's release next year. For a taster of Okkervil River's album The Stage Names, which is out here on Monday, the Canadian band have a free download of the glorious "Our Life is Not a Movie or a Maybe" at www.scjag.com/mp3/jag/ourlifeisnot.mp3.

Liveroom.tv records and films up-and-coming bands in its north London studio, and broadcasts the shows free online. They have filmed bands such as Lethal Bizzle, Pete & the Pirates, Lightspeed Champion, and Scouting For Girls.

Early this summer, the gig promoters Hidden Fruit started the Black Cab Sessions, in which musicians take a London cab ride while they play one of their songs. Johnny Flynn was the first aboard, and was followed by Daniel Johnston and Bill Callahan; rising star St Vincent (www.ilovestvincent.com/) is one of the latest episodes. Catch them all at youtube.com/justsofilms.

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