Standing (Digi)Tall

Philadelphia Weekly
December 19, 2007

Opening Riff

By Joshua Valocchi

Standing (Digi)Tall

Since its inception in 1999, Ropeadope has been somewhat of a maverick among record labels. From the demonstrated propensity to sign unknown acts based on little more than the strength of a single live club set to mixing genres through unlikely artistic collaborations, they’ve never quite subscribed to the conventions set forth by industry wonks.

It’s no surprise, then, that Ropeadope’s venture into the depths of digital downloading brings some revolutionary concepts to the bargaining table. Launched in February with a core group of seven artists, Ropeadope Digital (www.ropeadope.com/digital) marks the first step in the label’s ultimate plan to become a completely digital operation. While the practice of offering exclusive mp3s is certainly nothing new, especially considering it’s the artist-friendly business model that sets Ropeadope apart from the pack.

Artists on Ropeadope Digital essentially retain all rights and ownership of their masters, signing over to the label only a short-term license for exclusive digital distribution. The length of that license is currently one year, during which time the label and the artist share an even split of all profits.

The project is proving to be an early success, offering established acts an easy way to get side projects off the ground in a quick fashion as well as presenting an ideal forum for distributing B-sides and select live cuts. Conversely, new acts benefit from the simple fact that the label is more likely to sign an unestablished band knowing that the lack of production expenses and advances leads to a pure profit situation for them.

Currently boasting an impressive stable of 20 artists, Ropeadope Digital is preparing to march into its first full calendar year of existence.

While it’s unlikely Ropeadope will completely forgo producing physical CDs and vinyl anytime soon—especially considering their more established clientele like DJ Logic and Dirty Dozen Brass Band—they continue to forge ahead, blazing a trail toward digital Valhalla. True to its name, Ropeadope always rolls with the punches.

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