Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lies, Liars, & Music Distributors?

It has been just over a month since I noted the sudden closing of Miles of Music, an online independent music distributor run by Los Angeles-based Jeff Weiss. Apparently, I was not the only blogger to notice the disappearance of the music service as well as the somewhat cryptic closing message of Jeff Weiss. Several sites, including Americana Roots, Blurt Online, and The Farmers Music, mentioned the closing of Miles of Music with as much shock, confusion, and disappointment as I felt. Americana Roots went one step further in saying the closing "seems to be a sign of the music apocalypse."

However, there appears to me far more to this story than the simple explanation given by Jeff Weiss in his announcement that the business was shutting down. There aren't just disappointed bloggers, fans of the site, users and customers of the site; there are genuinely irritated bands that have been peddling their merchandise through Miles of Music for some time. There are bands that may never get their product back. There are bands who spend everything they have to cut an album and now their distributor is gone, not only taking with him their outlet, but also their hard work.

I will not do the investigative work at Nine Bullets justice, so please take a look at Autopsy IV's story before reading any further. What I believed to be the story of a company that simply couldn't compete in this new digital music age and in an economy that is tanking is actually a much more complicated story of a man who has a mess on his hands as he loses not only his business, but in his telling of the story, also loses his home. In the process, Jeff Weiss can't even afford to ship merchandise belonging to bands back to those very bands so they can attempt to market them in other venues.

For those of you unfamiliar with Miles of Music, Jeff Weiss ran a distribution outlet that marketed less-than-mainstream music, what I've heard termed alt-country or Americana, via a rather effective website complete with newsletters and upcoming album release information.

Now, I have done none of the research, I am trusting Autopsy IV and the investigative work culminating from personal correspondence with Jeff Weiss.

This is what I do know: Jeff Weiss doesn't appear to be a sketchy character and we should not assume that this was a scam. Miles of Music had an excellent track record up until the last months of operation, slow as it seemed at times, and was praised by business insiders and outsiders alike. Jeff Weiss wrote superb reviews that were featured in various locations including the Los Angeles Times.

This is what I believe: Jeff Weiss and Miles of Music were victims of poor business management. As he pointed out in his now missing post, the company was completely broke when the message on October 10th announced they were shutting down. The claim that he was unable to receive another line of credit is plausible if not completely possible. I also believe that Miles of Music provided a service unmatched on the internet or elsewhere by an independent company. In the world of 24/7 iTunes, Ruckus, and Rhapsody downloads, it is nearly impossible to compete. In the world of free shipping and even overnight shipping, it was next to impossible for Miles of Music customers to be satisfied with the time it took to receive their purchases. Yet, despite the drawbacks, there were plenty of artists that you couldn't find anywhere else and there were plenty of artists who relied on Miles of Music as their sole outlet for introducing and selling their product.

What's my stake in this? Good question. Why would a political blogger in Idaho care about an L.A.-based music distributor? Well, the story goes something like this--back in December of 2006 I heard this phenomenal artist by the name of Mike Stinson featured in an episode of Cold Case on CBS. I checked all the usual places for his album. Amazon hadn't heard of him; iTunes was a miss; and, none of the local stores (pathetic as they are) stocked anything with Mike Stinson's name on it. Low and behold, Mike Stinson has a website! And right there on his website he says you can purchase his album from Miles of Music.

Turned out that tracking down this Mike Stinson and his Last Fool At the Bar album took nearly as much time as it did the CD to get from Los Angeles to my house. Despite the unusually lengthy shipping time, I had this CD in my hands and had it not been for Miles of Music I would have been stuck with a continuous loop of the YouTube clip from Cold Case. And on top of solving the problem of being without the album, I got signed up to receive the notices from Miles of Music about new music being released. I've missed those releases since the closing and I've yet to find a company or other service that provides an adequate replacement.

Given the number of bands that are wondering what happened and where their CDs are, I can't muster up much sympathy for Jeff Weiss and the now defunct Miles of Music. I do wonder if the money I spent, far more than I would have at a local store or big distributor like Amazon, even reached Mike Stinson's pocket. I hope that my purchase was long ago enough that it did make it to Mr. Stinson.

Whatever the case may be, all of us that supported Miles of Music and were fans of the service, we're all sitting around saying to ourselves, "wow, how did this happen?" Jeff Weiss is the only person who can answer that question.

1 comment:

Sage Word said...

CD Baby still lives.

No marketing, but they do small music providers pretty proud in terms of taking over the gruntwork of running a search engine and archive of sound samples, and of shipping cd's so the musician doesn't have to wear that 2nd hat.

My music buying habits came to a screeching halt decades ago, and as I write this I *think* I've bought more from them in the last 10 years than everything else combined. Or at least second to: from the artist at their performance.