Amoeba Records -- the amazing California music superstore -- has relaunched Amoeba.com, with a huge selection of downloadable music rarities, digitized from old vinyl. In some cases, the store has tracked down rightsholders for these out-of-print rarities, and cleared the music for sale for the first time; in others, it's escrowing the sales funds for payment to rightsholders when and if they present themselves.
"We've been digitizing a lot," says Jim Henderson, who owns Amoeba along with partners Marc Weinstein, Karen Pearson and Dave Prinz. "What you see now is the lost-between-the-cracks, underappreciated, undervalued (music) from dead labels, (obscure) artists, stuff that we really stand behind. It's mostly in the rock genre, with a lot of jazz, a lot of blues, some country, some spoken word. There are some oddities for sure."
Many of the LPs have been getting remastering upgrades from the original vinyl and shellac sources. Currently, there are only about 1,000 titles for sale, but Amoeba is adding 10 or 15 more every day.
Some Vinyl Vaults artists are readily familiar, and in some cases Amoeba's source material emanates from its owners' own collections. Some of Prinz's rare Louis Armstrong 78s were digitized and are being sold as downloads, while Weinstein's prized collection of 144 Sun Ra albums has also been ripped.
Some Vinyl Vaults artists have proven so elusive that even diligent detective work could not track them down. Henderson points to an unknown '70s country artist known only as C.J., whose album "My Lady's Eyes" is for sale on the site.
"We couldn't find C.J.; we couldn't find a label that put the record out," Henderson says. "But it's a compelling piece, (so) we said, 'This should be up.' "
Weinstein adds that if a sale is made, the money goes into an escrow account. "If (someone says), 'That's mine,' well, OK, we can either take it down or we'll sell it, and you've got this nice (digital) master. We'll sell it, we'll promote it; let's sign a contract."
Music retail giant puts tunes online [Variety/Christopher Morris]
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