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Finally, Music Industry Innovation

Gwen Stephani of No Doubt.
AP
Gwen Stephani of No Doubt.

It's about time.

The music industry has been the example of what NOT to do in the face of technological change for so long. Now some artists are realizing that they've got to try something new, and the solutions are pretty impressive.

Two very different bands, Gwen Stefani's "No Doubt" and the "Allman Brothers," have found two very different ways to manage the music industry's fundamental problems: the rising cost of concert tours and the dramatic decline in music sales. And, these new strategies also tackle the challenge of driving spending despite the recession.

"No Doubt" is giving away the its entire digital catalog β€”FOR FREE (yup, every single song) to fans who buy top tier tickets for the band's upcoming concert. A pretty good incentive to buy the pricier tickets, which aren't even that expensive. Starting at $42.50 plus ticketing fees, these tickets are chump change when compared toBritney's $550 concert tickets.

Fans can download over 80 songs from No Doubt's seven albums starting one month before the ticket date, and one month after. The band clearly recognizes that the big money comes from concerts, not albums and wants its fans to stay loyal and keep turning out.

Allman Brothers Band
AP
Allman Brothers Band

In dramatic contrast to No Doubt's pop-rock sound, the Allman Brothers is the ultimate 60s country rock band. Even though the band hails from long before webcasts existed, that's exactly the tool its using to distribute its 40th anniversary concert series. Allman Brothers fans no longer have to travel to New York and fight (not to mention overpay) for a seat at the band's yearly series of sold-out Beacon Theater shows. From March 9 through March 28 the band will webcast fifteen three-hour performances on the Moogis website.

Fans still pay up β€” its $125 to watch all of the concerts, but they can be viewed for up to six months.

It's too bad you can't pay less to just watch one concert β€” $125 isn't cheap β€” but if you're a hard-core fan with a sweet home theater, it may seem like a good deal. And it's certainly less expensive than travelling to New York, though the experience is certainly far different. And to further entice fans to foot the steep web bill? Allman Brothers will feature a surprise guest musician at each performance.

The biggest winner, though, is the band itself. There's no middleman, no travel or production costs, so it's a great way for the Allman Brothers to generate additional income and satisfy fans without hitting the road. Moogis is hoping other concerts will webcast as well. I bet if the Allman Brothers see success, many others will. Nothing will replace the experience of being surrounded by swaying throngs at a concert, but if you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a couple hours in a mediocre seat (or worse yet, standing), this is a decent recession-era alternative.

Most of all, I give these bands a standing ovation for trying something new.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.