March 11, 2004

Music Download

Mediaport offers one-stop shopping and distribution to local musicians-for free.

Scene & Heard - March 11, 2004
Distro Inferno
Mediaport offers one-stop shopping and distribution to local musicians-for free.
by Randy Harward

As the debates over online file-sharing, iTunes, etc., vs. brick-and-mortar stores, and indie vs. major labels continue, local upstart company Mediaport appears to have solved everything.

Mediaport’s big idea is a kiosk, roughly two-thirds the size of the standard arcade game. It acts as a vending machine; customers use a touch-screen to browse through many participating independent artists. Headphones allow the customer to hear samples from each; anything they like, they can buy instantly. Insert cash, and Mediaport burns the CD on the spot.

It alleviates some key concerns for the independent artist. Cost is eliminated—Mediaport is entirely free to artists. Distribution—the ability for an artist to get their music into stores, onto Websites, and in listeners’ heads—is simplified, allowing consumers call the shots.

Previously, the usual methods have been to sign to an indie or major label (built-in distro), self-release/promote/distribute (essentially no distro) or upload to such music sites as, iTunes or the now-defunct All of the options carry risks and cost money—and the end result is often a pile of debt. On top of that, without a label, there is no interference in the creative process and the artist retains control of the masters.

“Mediaport is all about independent music,” says Jon Butler, Mediaport’s executive vice president of strategy and business development. “Major labels censor artists, tell them what to play, control distribution and limit the independent artists’ ability to play. We have the ability to give independent musicians nationwide distribution so they can have the freedom to play music the way they want to.”

The kiosks currently hold up to 100 CD-Rs; a bin on the side of the kiosk holds jewel cases. The operation is exactly like getting a candy bar out of a vending machine, or a strip of photos from a booth. In two to three minutes, the kiosk spits out a CD with the artist name, album title and songs printed on the label side. The customer then grabs a jewel case, inserts the CD and carts it home (eventually, cover art will be available at

The CDs are burned from data (.wav files taken directly from the master recordings) on Mediaport’s server and cost $5 for EPs and $10-$15 for full-length albums (almost all of the participating artists have chosen to sell theirs for $10). The artist’s profits range from 50 cents per CD for EPs to $1 to $7 for full-length CDs (the amount depends on price and sales). Mediaport recoups costs from the remainder and, of course, takes some profit. But the artist’s take, says Butler, is “two to three times more than [Mediaport’s].”

Butler conceived Mediaport about two years ago—or, as he says, “put it to paper.” About six months later, he snagged Helen Seltzer, former president/CEO of the telecommunications company I-Link (and before that, Messageclick) as well as former executive VP of Bell Atlantic, as a consultant. She was sufficiently impressed with the business model and ethos, and agreed to become chairman and CEO soon after.

Mediaport plans to place the kiosks in record stores, clubs, and college campuses offering music from nearly 70 local bands (including Trace Wiren, Thunderfist, Magstatic, Tim Wray, Purdymouth, The Dirty Birds and Alchemy), many of whom have their entire catalogs available through Mediaport. They’ve also enlisted bands from Seattle, Boston and Dallas and have representatives in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas courting bands for a planned national campaign.

But for now, Mediaport focuses on Salt Lake City and its bumper crop of talent. They launch the kiosks officially March 11 at Sound with Mediaport artists SuperSoFar, Cosm and Gigi Love performing. Tickets are $15, but Butler says they’re making it very easy to get in free. For instance, you can get two tickets if you bring this page—go ahead, rip it out.

MEDIAPORT LAUNCH, Sound, 579 W. 200 South, Thursday, March 11, 9 p.m.

Salt Lake City Weekly - Distro Inferno

Posted by Craig at March 11, 2004 02:21 PM