Roll over Napster and iTunes there’s a new kid on the music download block. It’s name is Bassmint Music, and it aims to shake things up both for major labels as well as other download sites.
Based in Columbus, Bassmint Music is the brainchild of Jerry Calliste Jr., who is also the CEO and President of Bassmint Music, Inc. and the newly formed Caldella Music Publishing company. Operating from the Web site www.bassmintmusic.com, Bassmint is an independent online record label and music publishing company that was launched Sept. 28.
Bassmint Music was founded with the aim of providing consumers with new independent music from artists around the world in a variety of genres. Members will be able to choose from alternative rock, drum and bass, trance, house, electro-funk, rhythm and blues, neo soul and others. Even some former major-label acts such as Virginia rockers W.”bilt and Ireland’s Mr. North can be found among Bassmint’s roster.
“By year’s end we plan to have about 75 artists and 750 to 1,000 songs available for download,” said Calliste, who old-school hip hop fans might know better as Hashim, responsible for the ’80s club hit “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul).”
“(Calliste) saw his niche. There’s a lot of artists who have a finished product that big companies weren’t promoting . . . People like to hear different kinds of music. They’re sick of hearing what’s being played every 24 hours,” said Taft Woodford, one of Bassmint’s advisory board members.
“If you want to hear Jessica Simpson, LL Cool J, or Jay Z, go to Clear Channel, iTunes, Rhapsody . . . if you want some cool independent artists come to Bassmint Music. We’ll treat you right,” Calliste said.
Artists on the label have their music distributed both through traditional ways – albums sold in record stores – as well as through the Bassmint Music Web site. Bassmint offers 192K CD-quality MP3s for $0.85 to $1.55 per download, depending on the artist. Memberships to the site cost $3.95 per month and allow members to receive 10 free downloads and discounted download rates.
In addition to selling music to its members, Bassmint is also actively seeking new talent at all times.
“We want to sign bands, rappers, club Djs. I keep an open- door policy, we even look at unsolicited demos – I listen to everything,” Calliste said.
By being completely Internet-based, Bassmint hopes to be able to reach many more potential customers than many of the other independent labels.
“(The Internet is) cost-effective. The overhead is much lower – we’re literally in a basement. Online sales will continue to grow as technology increases and people continue to embrace digital media . . . direct-to-consumer is the way to go,” Calliste said.
“The Internet makes you international automatically,” Woodford said.
“Internet space is everywhere no matter where you are – you can be in Pango Pango, and if you have Internet access it’s like you’re in Columbus. No major labels have the distribution that the Internet will provide,” said David Bowling, a music fan, as well as a fabricator for General Theming Contractors in Columbus.
What separates Bassmint from other popular download sites and independent labels, besides its use of the Internet, is Calliste’s insistence on building the company for the individual consumer.
“We’ll be a household name because I’m actually calling their homes,” he said.
Another trait that differentiates Bassmint is its “Music Finds You” feature, which allows customers to select three of their favorite genres. Each time the customer logs on to the site, all of the artists Bassmint has in those genres will appear, saving him or her from having to search the entire roster of artists for one that might interest him.
“Why should you have to sift through artists they’re trying to force-feed you?,” said Calliste.
Another unique feature of Bassmint is its decision to be based in Columbus rather than the entertainment hotbeds of New York or Los Angeles.
“No one’s out here with as much experience in the Midwest . . . the living is better, it’s a great place for me to stay grounded,” said Calliste, a resident of Columbus for several years.
“We love the family values and relaxed nature of Columbus – you can live a good life here, it’s not too expensive – it’s like a breath of fresh air,” said Woodford, who also resides in Columbus.
In addition to offering an internship cooperative with Ohio State University, he has also enacted the company’s First Step Initiative, which will offer scholarships to teens who excel in and out of the classroom, giving Bassmint a chance to give back to the community, said Calliste.
“(Columbus) has enough resources and people that you can do anything that you want to do,” said Bowling.
“I don’t think it’s about where you’re located. It’s about how you reach your audience. You don’t have to be on the coasts,” said Oulanje Regan, a member of the advisory council.
Of course that is not to say that there are not disadvantages to the Internet-based concept.
“It’s a new frontier. You’ll have your doubters and naysayers – we’re blazing a trail that’s never been blazed. Some people won’t trust it until they see success,” said Woodford.
” . . . only that it is new, we are in the Midwest, which means we have to do a lot of legwork to promote . . . also, it’s difficult finding talented people to work for you on a smaller budget. You have to have the drive to make it work,” said Calliste.
He said a lot of people want to get into the music industry for the glitz and glamour, but do not realize that there are still marketing, sales, distribution, accounting and legal decisions that must be made.
“It’s all about setting up the chessboard, surrounding yourself with the right people,” he said.
Still, despite the major hurdles facing a brand-new, Internet-based independent music label in Columbus, Calliste manages to maintain relatively simple aspirations.
“I like making people happy, giving them good entertainment,” said Calliste.