Calling all rocker has-beens
Internet auction site eBay has a reputation as “the world’s online marketplace”, but may soon be making a splash as a different kind of record label. The idea is the brainchild of KJ Kjelgaard, an eBay employee with experience in the music industry who realised that a lot of his favourite bands had no outlet for their music.
“At the moment in the States, Duran Duran are packing out enormous venues, but there’s absolutely no record labels looking at them here,” he explains, from his base in Salt Lake City. “But even though the record companies may cast artists like this aside because they’re no longer hip or whatever, the fans haven’t gone away.”
Kjelgaard approached his bosses. Initially, his UberSonik label is on a trial basis, but if it works it will be launched as the music arm of eBay. The ideal is to focus on artists with established international followings but no record deal, whose new CDs can be “advertised” on eBay’s pages, which have racked up a global audience of 105 million people, searching for everything from secondhand hi-fis to John Lennon’s old pianos.
Despite the website’s usual business, the CDs won’t be auctioned; they’ll retail just below shop price including shipping, which will all done by eBay. The artists get 100% of profits after eBay deducts its listing fees, meaning that an act could see several times what they would from a conventional release. “It’s a way of empowering the artist,” says Kjelgaard, who is further excited by the prospect of tapping into renewed interest in his favoured music —
UberSonik’s first release, set for June, is Item, a mini-album from Onetwo, featuring Claudia Brucken of Propaganda and one of Kjelgaard’s all-time idols: OMD’s Paul Hum-phreys. “I can vouch for the fact that it’s really good,” he says. “It’s very electronic, with those trademark hooks you find yourself humming.” Online fever is being helped enormously by the presence of Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore on guitar.
Meanwhile, Kjelgaard already has an eye on future releases and is clearly excited that a new Tears for Fears album remains unreleased. “I like the idea of selling electronic, computerised music this way,” he says. “But we’re open to anything. I might even consider a remix of Jimmy Osmond.”
The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and Clarifications column, Friday May 21 2004
We said in an article about UberSonik records, Calling all rocker has-beens, below, that the label, which is selling its wares on the auction website eBay, was “on a trial basis, but if it works it will be launched as the music arm of eBay”. Although UberSonik’s KJ Kjelgaard is an employee of eBay, UberSonik has no official connection with the website and eBay has no plans to launch UberSonik or invest in it as a music arm.