“That’s the value of a brand. They’ve got the domain name.”

Like MP3.com’s Michael Robertson, James Gambale runs a San Diego-based Internet music-distribution company. But unlike Robertson, Gambale has a much harder task to bring attention to his website called CableMusic.com. A former engineer with General Dynamics, Gambale and four others man the Sorrento Valley company. He cofounded Cablemusic.com without — what he claims is MP3.com’s huge advantage — its name.

“That domain name is extremely valuable. CableMusic.com is a good name, but it’s not MP3.com. When you think of bidding on the Internet, what do you think of? eBay.com. There are seven other sites, but you tend to just think of eBay. Everybody associates the technology of putting CDs on the Web with MP3.com. They have the mind share of the masses. We don’t have the brand, but what we do have is insights into the technology.… We launched virtually the same thing as MyMP3 months before he did. It’s frustrating we didn’t get credit for it, but it’s great to see validation of the idea.”

Gambale said he beat MP3.com to the punch with JACK, which preceded MyMP3.com.

“We were the first company to deliver it to the Web, in October of last year. [MyMP3.com was introduced in January.] But the big difference is when we deployed that technology, we left the instant upload out because we knew it was problematic from the licensing point of view. We want to take our time with the labels and figure out what the licensing issues are.”

Gambale maintains that the instant upload feature is what helped trigger the lawsuit against MP3.com by the Recording Industry Association of America. He suggests that his company may win in the long run because he has worked with the record companies, not against them.

“We are very respectful of the industry that has invested in their product. More than $400,000 was spent on Sarah McLachlan when she was 19 or 20 when she first started out. I can think of no other business except for maybe the oil business where you would gamble so much money on an unproven commodity.”

It is Gambale’s contention that music distribution on the Web is inevitable but that record companies and artists have to be both protected and involved.

“We obtained a license from the RIAA to do Internet radio. We know of two other larger sites that have done the same thing. We took the slower, conservative, cautious approach. We want to create incredible convenience without trampling the rights of copyright owners. I’m not implying that MP3.com is trying to trample rights.”

In fact, Gambale said he hopes MP3.com, which has 10 million registered clients worldwide, will survive. “They have a huge bully pulpit to do the whole industry a lot of good by clarifying issues. If they continue to vilify and fight the labels, that’s bad. It does a disservice to the consumer. If MP3.com goes down, if their stock goes to nothing, and they sell off their assets, that would be terrible. All the people who were loyal MP3.com listeners would be left hanging.”

One challenge to both CableMusic.com and MP3.com might come from the music labels. Last week it was announced that Sony Music and Universal Music, two of the big five conglomerates, would join forces to launch their own subscription-based digital music service.

“It’s going to be in the interest of the labels to have a third party involved. When people buy CDs, they don’t go to a Sony Records store. Why would that be any different on the Internet?”

Gambale said he’s been in discussions with major labels. “I don’t want to comment directly on who we’re talking to and who we’re not talking to.… I don’t think it’s bad for the consumer that the copyright issues are being flushed out. The consumer needs to understand that the music isn’t free.”

—Ken Leighton

“St. Cecilia’s is sacred to me because I met my wife at a Chinchilla show there over five years ago,” says Eric Neilsen, Maquiladora’s guitar player. St. Cecilia’s Church, an old funeral chapel that has been home to Sledgehammer Theater since 1992, has also been a recording space for Maquiladora.

“The sound is fantastic. The stained glass windows shine rays of purple and…adds to the ambience. There’s even a camera obscura from a hole in the front door. If you make the area a little bit smaller [lessen the focal length] with a piece of paper, you can see all the action on Sixth Avenue, upside down, people walking and cars flying by on the walls of the lobby.… We are mainly using the space to inspire our performances. It’s thrilling to be singing at full volume or overdubbing a dirty guitar and have it fill up that space.”

Maquiladora’s Lost Works of Eunice Phelps, an album about a friend’s “encounter” with a dead country singer, got the band a gig on KPBS. “It was a lot of fun playing live…but the interview was fairly torturous.”

The band’s new release, White Sands, is now out on Lotushouse Records.

—Robert Nutting

The Ships and Salsa excursion is just the latest local radio promotion that didn’t turn out as planned.

“One time we had six brand-new Yugos that we were giving away,” said one former employee of 91X. “We had them in a parade. I think it was St. Patrick’s Day. During the parade three of them broke down. [The station manager] made us push them for the rest of the parade.”

There were other promotions that went bad. The second Mission Beach roller-coaster promotion staged by Star 100.7 in 1998 backfired as many blamed the station for exploiting its listeners. Then there was the time [a local station] took two buses full of skiers to Big Bear. “One of the buses crashed into the other,” said one who was on the bus. “The listeners were stranded for hours waiting for a ride down the hill. Then there was the time we had the Expose the X contest.” The listener who displayed a 91X logo in the most conspicuous way won $25,000. “One guy painted his house with the logo. The only problem is he was a renter and he didn’t have permission from his landlord. He was fined by the city for violating a sign ordinance.

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