Copyright 2001 Playboy Enterprises

March 20, 2001

LENGTH: 458 words

SECTION: Arts & Entertainment

HEADLINE: Music After Napster

BYLINE: Ben Cramer


Solo artist Aimee Mann, formerly with the group 'Til Tuesday, has taken one of the roughest rides imaginable through the bowels of the traditional music industry. Mann now finds herself setting a course on which many artists hope to follow. Ignored and shackled by label after label, Mann scored an unlikely coup in 1999: She dropped six figures buying back her record Bachelor No. 2 from Interscope and began offering it for sale online -- direct from artist to fan -- and has since sold more than 200,000 copies. Now, Mann laughs last as major labels who once owned her scratch their heads and wonder how they failed to recognize what a good thing they had. You've become a heroine among artists for finding a way to sell your record Bachelor No. 2 directly to your fans using the Internet. How did that happen?

Aimee Mann: I've had a history of problems with record companies. When [Interscope, which inherited the rights to Bachelor No. 2] finally listened to the record, they thought that it wasn't commercial enough. We worked out a deal for me to buy my record back. I think they thought, "She'll take it, sell a couple copies on the Internet. What do we care?"

PB: And how has Bachelor No. 2 sold?

AM: It's been great. I sold 25,000 copies online [making it one of the most successful Internet-distributed records ever]. And I've sold more records than I ever did with a major label. I think my last record sold 120,000 and this one sold 150,000 [now more than 200,000, including stores]. You sell 120,000 on a major label and there's no money that comes to you. It's a solid-gold ream.

PB: It must be damn satisfying now to sell these numbers after having been snubbed.

AM: It's incredible. It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

PB: Do you think that MP3s and the Internet offer real options for undiscovered artists?

AM: It's really exciting. The whole trading of MP3s is like a meatier word-of-mouth process. Now, there's the pesky little problem of legality.

PB: You're thinking of the old Napster problem?

AM: Now that BMG has bought Napster, I'm sure they'll find a way to turn it into something even more evil. Maybe the technology will force a change.

PB: Which technology? MP3s?

AM: Yeah. To have free access to music has engendered this attitude that "music should be free because I'm able technically to get it."

PB: If 'Til Tuesday were starting out today, would you try to use the Net to make it?

AM: I'm sure I would. When you first start out, all you want is for people to hear you. And [the Internet] certainly is one way.