Hungama Digital Media has launched ArtistAloud.com, a digital platform for artists that provides access to the consumer to unreleased music for sampling, sharing and purchase.

The site showcases and monetizes content from independent artists, who may not have albums with record labels, but want a platform for selling and promoting their music. The content will be promoted on Bsnl.hungama.com (but not Hungama’s own digital store Hungama.com?), at iTunes, Amazon, through domestic and international mobile operators, to Tata Sky customers and IPTV providers, in the form of MMC Cards and by bundling content onto handsets. The site also offers mobile ringtones, wallpapers and full song downloads for the mobile at m.ArtistAloud.com.

Given the number of talent shows and talented singers in India, and the reticence of labels in India to promote independent artists, this platform has potential for aggregating music; promotion is necessary, else it will die, so tie-ups with talent shows would be a good idea. The artists are handpicked, though: Hungama has signed on 30 independent artists, some of them fairly well known: Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Shibani Kashyap, Hema Sardesai, Suneeta Rao, Jatin Pandit, Himani Kapoor (from Saregamapa). Among the rock artists: Dhwani (Hindi), Dream Out Loud (English), Ek (Hindi), regular gig players Soul Fusion and Thermal And A Quarter, as well as the golden oldies of Indian Rock, Parikarama.

Note that, as a concept, this isn’t new: as far back as 1997, MP3.com was promoting independent artists (though it doesn’t anymore), and now there are sites like TuneCore and Amie Street. There’s a comprehensive list here. I wonder if we’ll come to a situation where a label is not needed anymore. The key role of a label has always been production and distribution of the content, and with the Internet, the distribution is taken care of.
A Label In The Future?

This is an initiative from Hungama that is independent of its relationships with record labels, and, according to a Hungama spokesperson, a direct digital distribution arrangement between Hungama and the artists. Hungama appears to be keen on stretching its mandate beyond its label partnerships to direct arrangements and ownership of content: earlier it signed a co-ownership agreement with BIG Music and T-Series, though the company never responded to MediaNama’s request for an explanation of how this co-ownership has been established, and whether a joint venture has been inked. I wonder if either ArtistAloud or Hungama has future aspirations of becoming a label.

Radio

On the desktop front, there’s a 3.3 MB downloadable radio, for live streaming music from ArtistAloud.com. I quite liked the desktop radio, but it only streams songs from ArtistAloud, and I can’t integrate other sources of music, something like, say, Radio Paradise or Radio Verve (also for independent Indian artists); not really my type of music.