Chances are, you've heard the name River Jones thrown around, either surrounding the many artists his label represents (such as Courtney Marie Andrews, Sareena Dominguez or You Me and Apollo) or over his radio show National Local on KUKQ. Or, maybe you've just seen Jones at Long Wong's or Crescent Ballroom, enjoying the local indie scene.
We caught up with Jones to talk about his latest project, ArizonaTunes, a local alternative to iTunes. Already the site is gaining lots of attention from around town, with over 29 local albums and counting on the server.
Up on the Sun: What makes ArizonaTunes different from iTunes?
River Jones: What makes it different is that when you buy from iTunes, 30 percent goes immediately to iTunes. Plus, you have to pay a digital download service to get it in there. We upload for free and take 15 percent. In most situations, you make 25 percent more using the ArizonaTunes store.
Is there a screening process for artists to be added to Arizona Tunes?
That's one of the reasons I really like this project. Everyone's invited. I always wished I could have a service that everyone could be welcome to use.
So, how do you join?
Right now, it's all very grassroots. Send an email to email@example.com and we'll get the bands all set up.
Are your artists on River Jones Music Label still on iTunes? Which do they prefer?
Our artists will be on iTunes for the international and gift card reasons. In the future, we might experiment in having our American digital content come from the ArizonaTunes store. That would bring more national money into our state for art. Then, we can make more art with that money. I feel that if we can get more money into the art, the more depth the art will have in tools and quality, and artists can feel comfortable while making the art. Could you imagine being an artist and being paid for it? It's possible.
Are there sites like this in other states?
I'm not sure. I have never heard of one. I think there will be more and more rebuilding from within our communities. I wouldn't be surprised if more local digital stores pop up in the next 10 years. We need to do something to save and rebuild our local economies.
How many artists do you have on the site?
We have 29 albums and get about two albums a day as submissions.
Have you rejected any albums for any reason? Why?
Not at all. Everyone has been really good and professional.
What kind of reception have you gotten from the community?
This is more about getting exposure than money, I'm looking for a way to help get the word out about albums locally, and 700 people visit the site a day. So, people have been thankful and friendly. It's been really mellow and that's awesome.
Are you gonna streamline selling songs?
Yeah, we will be selling single songs also. We're using Spotify as a streaming source, because it pays bands something for streams, even if it's small amounts, it pays more than SoundCloud currently. If a band isn't on Spotify, we stream the music through SoundCloud.
The only problem I had with the site was previewing songs. It wasn't very uniform. Some songs had links to other websites or a SoundCloud track and others were links to Spotify. I don't have Spotify and don't want it, plus sending listeners to other sites is distracting in this ADD world. Were you planning on adding your own version of previews?
Yeah, eventually. The whole site is a work in process and will grow over the years. I had the site up three days after I had the idea. I like using Spotify, because it pays bands more than streaming albums on SoundCloud. But, if the bands aren't on Spotify, we have limited space to share it on SoundCloud.
Where do you want to take ArizonaTunes next?
I think digital downloads will be history in the next 10 years. So, this is a side project that will get local groups some exposure, everyone's invited to use it, it creates a new avenue for local people to use, it's fun to share that you've been featured on a store (that rarely happens on iTunes), and ArizonaTunes pays more than the international stores do. I'm interested to see what's next for ArizonaTunes also. I didn't really plan on starting another business, but it just kind of happened.
What do you mean "digital downloads will be history"? You don't think people will download music in the future?
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Yeah, with the introduction of streaming, cloud services, etc. The ownership of music will change to where you don't have to download what you're listening to. Downloading will be like rewinding a VHS tape. Everything will be instant.