StoreFront Behind Steal My Music

By Patricia Fusco | Posted November 20, 2003

Based in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Steal My Music is a division of Thrive Audible, an innovative company formed by musicians Cliff Spence and Joshua Kiewel in early 2003. Through the use of online applications and other methods, Steal My Music promotes new, independent artists and bands by giving away their CDs. Music lovers simply pay for the cost of shipping and handling.

Steal My Music leverages the LaGuarde's StoreFront e-commerce system to distribute new artists' CDs. The system is legal, free for musicians and free to Indy music-lovers as well.

Steal My Music accepts CDs from recording artists and then makes them available to shoppers for free — when they cover the cost of shipping and handling. The site gives emerging artists a way to get their music into the hands of listeners looking for something different.

Shoppers are able to take advantage of a professional Web store that features a generous selection of streamed audio from unknown artists. Would-be buyers can preview songs prior to buying a CD. The automated distribution channel is facilitated by the flexible nature of StoreFront e-commerce software.

"Steal My Music is about getting quality new music into the hands of shoppers, creating new distribution channels and promoting independent artists," said Cliff Spence, co-founder of Thrive Audible. "StoreFront makes it all possible by allowing us to do what we wanted with the Web store very inexpensively, without worrying about programming and allowed us to implement everything quickly."

Steal My Music gives listeners 30 seconds of every song on the CDs they carry, rather than just one or two tunes, like most major label music sites. Naturally, the Indy music site notifies would-be listeners if an artist's lyrics contain what may be offensive material.

Visitors to the site can search for artists, listen to tunes, then click 'Put In Pocket' for each CD they want to buy. When a user is done browsing the store, they can review their selections by clicking on 'View Pocket' to see a summary of their orders or go directly to the 'Checkout.' From there users can click the button on the bottom of the page to 'steal' what's in their pocket. After shipping, payment and billing info are entered, the order is complete.

The ordering process is secured by 128-bit SSL encryption, so no one can see private details for payment information. Currently, Steal My Music accepts Visa, Mastercard and Paypal as forms of payment.

Steal My Music operates as something of a farm club for sister site Transit CD, also powered by StoreFront. Transit CD provides independent music artists with a traditional Web store presence in which shoppers can purchase the artists' CDs at standard prices. The site was developed for bands with more of a fan base than those found at Steal My Music, since these artists can draw music lovers to the site.

"A great example of a TransitCD artist is Alex Bach, who has independently sold 29,000 CDs and has three #1 Billboard hits so far," Spence said. "The artist brings the fans, and Transit CD provides another distribution channel so shoppers can get the music. Needless to say, the artists we promote every single day are happy and shoppers are excited to find a source for original music."

E-commerce has matured to the point where it is now reasonable for nearly anyone to deploy a sophisticated Web store presence with a limited amount of expertise and start up resources — even upstarts like Steal My Music and Transit CD. Online consumers benefit from the expanded line of products available and the ease of shopping online. And, more importantly, new concepts in distribution can be tested out  without raising large amounts of capital.

"I think we've invested about $2,000 total for Steal My Music and Transit CD, about half of that in StoreFront and the other half in hosting," Spense said. "If you think about it, that's an amazingly trivial amount of money to launch a couple of very popular e-commerce stores, and wouldn't have been possible without LaGarde."

Spense added that he chose StoreFront because of its versatility, not price.

"I chose StoreFront because it seemed to offer the most features for the cost. The major selling point for me was how incredibly customizable it was," Spense said. "I was looking for a solution that I could use to build several stores and make each one look entirely different. Steal My Music and Transit CD, both personal projects of mine, are a great example of this."

Growing pains are part of business as usual for a small startup. But Spense remains happy with his decision to go with StoreFront to build the e-commerce sites.

"You know, every single solution out there has it's quirks and StoreFront is no exception," Spense said. "But my experience with this piece of software has honestly been a very good one. Any problems I came across were quickly resolved by LaGarde or the StoreFront community."

Founded in 1996, LaGarde is a leading global provider of e-business solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses. LaGarde's StoreFront powers nearly 50,000 Web stores in over 70 countries around the world.

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