Paperless Record Deals

Like many artists scrounging for a record deal, Levon Louis of Lunatex has been through the time-honored task of shipping his band's demos to major record labels all over the earth. A few months ago, as he was preparing to ship another one of Lunatex's CDs out, Louis had an epiphany. It happened at the moment he was envisioning himself licking and affixing mounds of postage stamps. Louis was told by the executive at the receiving end to send the demo as an MP3 file. "And I thought, 'What a great idea,' " Louis says. Thus began Louis's mission to create the first on-line record label in town.

Technomassive.com has been about six months in the making. It finally went up this past Monday and offers the kinds of services music buyers are used to. In addition to pushing nine albums of original electronic music, by Louis's band and others on his Space City Records indie label, technomassive.com takes advantage of MP3 technology: Like at MP3.com or any other digital music provider, patrons can go to technomassive.com and make their own compilation discs. These discs, comprising material from technomassive.com's catalog and costing $1 per song, can be delivered either electronically or by postman. Also, what's more interesting, techno outfits or DJs can send their music to Louis, who, like some A&R man of the future, will create compilation discs and manufacture and distribute them electronically and the old-fashioned way (replete with CD jackets and album-cover art). "It's a cyberspace record label," says Louis. "Everything is e-mailed, and it's all done through e-commerce."

Bigwigs at the Big Five probably aren't shaking in their boots. Yet. But Louis's project represents another dent in their armor. Major-label artists such as Tom Petty, the Beastie Boys and now James Brown have all, in moves scripted by their publicity agents or not, ignored the warnings of the powers-that-be and released new material on-line. When economic power shifts like this, there is usually a good result and a bad. The good: Someone like Louis, who is sincerely dedicated to the music, has a chance to attain success, which he probably wouldn't get through conventional means. The bad: The idea of an on-line record label might catch on. If anything, major record labels have brought us a lot of great music. That Johnny Mathis album you grew up on? Columbia Records. That R.E.M. cassette that was so important to you during your formative high school years? EMI. And that Dr. Dre CD you've been groovin' to lately? Universal. As MP3 or MP4 or, possibly, MP5 systems and on-line labels become more numerous and viable, major labels, the only filter between you and quality artists, will lose much of their impact. Thanks to new technology and a democratic spirit, there's going to be a lot of crap junking up the cybermarket soon. Trying to find Bruce Springsteen records now is pretty easy, but just imagine how hard it's going to be to find the work of the next Springsteen once major labels aren't there to promote him, once they've conceded breaking new talent to on-line labels. That's sad and scary.

Louis says he spent about 60 hours over four days preparing to launch. "You can have the best-looking site," says Louis, "but until people hear about it, you aren't gonna have any business." To get the word out, Louis says, he plans to advertise in print and on-line. His DIY attitude has been shaped by observing the successes of South Park Mexican here in Houston and Ani DiFranco. Louis says he also plans to distribute technomassive.com's records by himself $agrave; la DiFranco. "I'm totally into that," he says. "The money goes to the artists. That's true independent music."

Big Dances

A dance club called Hyperia will be opening at 2001 Commerce on Thursday, December 16. It's a huge space, filled with three bars, two dance floors and, yes, two pool tables. For its grand opening, Hyperia has managed to bring to town Sasha, the guy who remixed Madonna's "Ray of Light" and gained fame as the first name in the London progressive house team Sasha and Digweed. Call (713)224-HYPE for table reservations.

Closer to the heart of home, a slew of Houston DJs plan on describing the evolution of breakbeat through their turntables. Each DJ at The Hangar on Friday, December 17, will play songs representative of various points in time in breakbeat's chronology, beginning with the form's earliest records and ending with its most recent, drum and bass. Zakaos will play old-school material (circa 1992), Vitamin A will play ragga (circa 1994), BMC/Reakt and Audio 3 will play jump up (circa 1995), Friendly will play dark (circa 1997), and Dizzy will play future sound (circa 1999). There also will be a house and techno area available. For more information, call (713)236-1911. The Hangar is located at Polk and Robbins downtown.

The following day "Bring Da Noize" takes place at the International Ballroom, 14035 South Main. Houston DJs Rand E, DJ 0045, BMC, B-Locke and DJ Friendly will be spinning. For more information, call Chemistry at (713)521-4797. And "The Love Fest" will also happen at the A&M Entertainment Center, 3917 Anderson Road. For more information, e-mail Gotta Move Productionz at info@gottamoveproductionz.com.

Backstreet's Here, All Right!

Don't forget to stake your claim on a nice warm spot at the local Kroger this Friday. You know your little Buffy-pie needs to see her Backstreet Boys. And be damned rather than give up your place in line to some other soccer mom for the comfy-ness of your Windstar and a cup of Celestial Seasonings tea. Tickets for the Backstreet Boys' February 28 performance go on sale Saturday, December 18, at 10 a.m. at all Foley's, Fiesta and Kroger outlets. Or call Ticketmaster by phone, (713)552-0223. -- Anthony Mariani

E-mail Anthony Mariani at anthony.mariani@houstonpress.com.

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