Indiehitz.net is music to artists' ears
The Spring Hill Web site gives independent musicians a place to showcase their songs. Listeners can tune in and download for free.
By LOGAN NEILL
Published August 21, 2006
SPRING HILL - The throbbing, guitar-laden music that booms from the speakers in Marty Hallo's living room sounds vaguely familiar.
The crunching chords and gravely vocals are reminiscent of the early music of Texas rockers ZZ Top. But it isn't. The band, Texas Boogie, isn't from Texas. The members are from Sweden. And their song Back Trackin' has been gaining popularity in recent weeks.
The interesting thing is that you're not likely to hear Texas Boogie on the radio - or anywhere. The band doesn't have any CDs out and rarely performs outside its hometown. But it is one of the most popular guitar rock bands to hit Indiehitz.net since the Web broadcast service debuted in March - all of which proves to Indiehitz's founder that there is plenty of great music out there looking to find an audience.
Hallo is hoping that his business will be the one that the bands use to find it.
Throughout the day, Hallo's Indiehitz.net pumps out original songs by independent artists, including hard rock, Christian and techno dance music, to a collective worldwide audience. And anyone with a computer can tune in for free.
"It's the ultimate community radio station," said Hallo from his comfortable home in Spring Hill, where he and his wife, Nancy, have set up the operations center for Indiehitz. "Our goal is simply offer musicians an opportunity to get their music out without all the typical music business hassles. We leave it to the listeners to judge of whether it's good or not."
In addition to providing free space for artists to post audio and video clips, Indiehitz also broadcasts around-the-clock radio, a daily portion of which is hosted by live DJs, featuring artists whose original music is available on the site.
Despite its global scope, the actual physical size of Indiehitz is rather compact. Hallo, who is a longtime computer buff, set up the system to be as maintenance free as possible. A single Dell computer serves as a processor to send digital audio and video files via high-speed signal to the Internet. Four other computers store downloaded songs and data from the 126 artists whose music is featured on the site. A color monitor displays all of the information that Hallo needs to keep his Web site up and running.
"The technology behind it is mind boggling, even for me," Hallo said.
To help with the operation, he gets technical advice from Dale Forsythe, who operates a similar music site in New Zealand.
Hallo, 55, said the idea behind Indiehitz grew from his own frustrations as a musician. Years of playing clubs in Tampa soured him to the idea of ever being signed by a major label.
"The problem is that a lot of them don't really care that much about your music other than whether it will sell," he said. "People who put their hearts and souls into their music - record companies don't always respect that."
When the Internet music boom took hold in the late 1990s, Hallo began seeing more independent bands abandoning the merry-go-round of record label politics in favor of posting their music directly to the Web. Interactive sites such as MySpace.com and SongPlanet.com quickly found popularity with artists eager to broaden their audiences.
On the outside, Indiehitz may not seem all that different from popular MySpace, but Hallo insisted that it is. Unlike MySpace, his site doesn't allow advertising on musicians' pages, which are maintained by the artists.
Artists on Indiehitz are allowed as much as 500 megabytes to post their audio and video work. Consumers can download the songs for free.
There are some rules, however. All songs posted must be original and free from publishing conflicts. Music that contains excessive profanity or violent lyrics is also forbidden.
About three-quarters of the bands on Indiehitz are from the United States, including Central Florida bands Rebound, Graveyard Boogie Band and Betty's Not a Vitamin.
Hallo, who screens every audio and video submission, is constantly impressed by the quality he finds.
"Some of the bands sound very professional," Hallo said. "Some of them are every bit as good as you hear on radio these days."
Hallo estimated his startup costs to be about $30,000, including computer equipment and software. Though the venture has yet to turn a profit in its six months of operation, Hallo sees that changing once Indiehitz establishes itself in the marketplace.
Revenue, he said, will come from advertising on the site's home page and through offering marketing and production services to artists.
"Right now, we're still taking baby steps," Hallo said. "The important thing has been to make certain that we make good decisions for ourselves and the artists we have so that everyone will benefit from it."
Future plans for Indiehitz include expanding its live DJ radio broadcasts, and Hallo plans to add daily podcasts this fall.
Perhaps more important, Hallo thinks that Internet music sites such as Indiehitz might someday become the norm as to how artists convey their music to the public.
"It would be great to see that happen," Hallo said. "It would help to put control back into the hands of the people who actually make the music."