LPs and EPs, make way for free MP3s

How sweet does music sound without the corporate baggage?

Becky Lang

If you could make eggs appear instantly in your fridge, it’s doubtful that you’d bother going to the market for your omelet needs. Chicken farmers might start peeping in your windows, but eventually they’d hook up with a patty processor and be on their way.

Limerick Records Launch Party

WHEN: 7 p.m., Oct. 11
WHERE: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. N.E., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $5, www.ritztheaterfoundation.org
Albums available at www.limerickrecords.com

So goes the flow of a supply-and-demand economy in a parallel universe of solely material goods. However, with intellectual property rights, this analogy can’t be easily placed on top of the recording industry’s downslide into the heap of digital music. Now’s the time for music producers to either sue college students across the nation right back into their parents’ basements, or else change their business model.

Limerick Records is a Twin Cities-based label that has taken the daring step of embracing the peer-to-peer pirates out there who can no longer part with the $16.98 of the average CD. Featuring a catalogue of three bands and growing, Limerick provides their CDs in easy-to-download MP3 files straight off their Web site.

Creator Ozzy Dahlstrom believes that most record labels will eventually switch to this model. Major-label artists currently make between $.50 and $2 of royalties from every CD they sell, while about $10 of it goes to label and distributor profits, with the rest straight into advertising and packaging.

When you see Fiddy out-blinging Kanye, they are probably affording their glitz via live shows, stints on commercials and other paid appearances. If they didn’t get CD royalties, they’d probably still be rich enough to own two vehicles for every day of the week, but their label might not have enough left over to have frequent lawsuits with 19-year-olds.

By providing the music files online, listeners can discover artists in between their visits to Facebook and Wikipedia, stick them straight onto their iPods, and save their cash for a show.

“The CDs themselves become almost more of a promotional tool, rather than a product,” explains Dahlstrom.

The bands on Limerick get to record for free, creating albums made with relatively no expenses. By sharing the same equipment, the bands become pretty tight. “It feels like more of a community,” explains Simon Fuerstenberg, the lead singer of Gazillion, which recorded its last EP as a co-project with fellow Limerick band Sonicate. “We’ll often end up sleeping at the other band’s house.”

Just like Starbucks doesn’t have a patent on better espresso, Sony Records doesn’t have a patent on quality recording. The songs on the EP are clear and layered, creating a product not discernibly different from the final effect of the average John Mayer song. “Terrified,” by Gazillion, pairs driving drums with subtle sonic slides, creating the rushed melancholy of a lone taxi ride in the rain.

Sonicate’s brand of ranting, nostalgia-filled rock contrasts with Gazillion’s finger-picking eclecticism to showcase the diversity of the label’s capabilities. All that differentiates it from pricey production is the lack of a price tag.

As Dahlstrom explains, “We tried to take the greed out of it. We might be missing out on a little bit of money here, but we’d rather have people hear the music.”