Radiohead started this earlier this year: end-running traditional music labels and releasing its album directly to fans via the Internet, letting them determine how much to pay. Nine Inch Nails followed suit. Madonna signed with LiveNation. Jay-Z will leave Def-Jam and likely join LiveNation as well.
Not to be outdone, former Motley Crue member Nikki Sixx, with his new band Sixx A.M., are also trying their hands at new media. They're exchanging heavy metal for something a little lighter -- in the form of a notebook computer and their new relationship with one of the hottest things going on the Web right now: iLike.com.
If you haven't heard of iLike yet, you will. The site is combining two of the hottest things going right now: social networking and digital entertainment. It's an online community offering a new marketing and distribution tool for artists; an easy, one-stop shop for their fans to share and talk about music.
And iLike is already partnering with e-powerhouses Facebook and Apple's iTunes.
Sixx and his band are now card-carrying members of the social networking craze, combining all that it has to offer with the power of digital music online. Sixx A.M. is now relying on the Web to reach its fans directly, using technology to do what had always been done by traditional labels: letting musicians turn their bands into brands.
"Record companies are becoming not so important. It's about the artist and the community," Sixx told me from the studio he owns in West Hills, Calif.
"When you try to live by the same model in 2007 as you did in 1967, it's obviously not going to work," says Sixx.
It's no wonder Nikki Sixx and his band have chosen iLike despite a contentious relationship between the recording labels and the technology community. iLike's growth has been explosive: zero users a year ago -- and 18 million of them today.
Co-founder Hadi Partovi, a serial entrepeneur who co-founded TellMe Networks (which was later acquired by Microsoft for an estimated $900 million), tells me: "If you want to know, oh, what was that song I heard when I was over at your house...I can visit your page and see what are the playlists you have on your iTunes account are and I'll figure it out."
Hadi, and his twin brother Ali (chief executive at iLike), are blown away by the enormously fast rise to fame the site has enjoyed. Hadi says, "The best part about it is we trust each other a lot and very often we're on the same page."
iLike is now the top digital destination for all things entertainment, including some of the biggest acts around, who are now choosing the site to release music and videos first. Already, acts like Keith Urban, 50 Cent, Beyonce, John Mayer, Evenescence, One Republic and hundreds of others have signed on.
Sixx A.M. is merely the latest. And make no mistake: behind the heavy eye-liner and tatoos are some extremely savvy businessmen. I was stunned at how much these guys recognize the power of this technology and what it can do for them as artists and business people. Maybe the reason why Nikki Sixx is still around, making millions more, while others, like Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose have faded.
Says Sixx A.M. guitarist James Michaels, "I love the fact that a lot of very small bands can get their music to a lot of people" on a site like iLike.
Hey, they're talking about a music revolution here. Sixx tells me, "It seems like a hundred years ago when people didn't use this stuff, and people are just discovering it now."
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