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Even aspiring pop stars can telecommute

Stephen Beard May 29, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: You might think the life of a young pop singer means long hours on the road between gigs. But from London Stephen Beard has the story one of British chanteuse who made a name for herself staying at home.

STEPHEN BEARD: Not an obvious venue for a pop concert: A small house in South London. One fan arrives on the doorstep and troops down the stairs to a tiny basement.

He’s one of only four fans who will watch this performance in person tonight. Another rather bigger audience will be watching via the Webcam.

SANDI THOM: It’s really surreal in this tiny little basement in South London. The Webcam is behind us. We’ve got to remind ourselves that there are like 60,000 people out there watching it.

Sandi Thom is a 24-year-old singer. Recently she and her band were about to set off in her clapped-out old car for yet another cheap gig in a pub in North Wales. Then she phoned her manager, Ian Brown.

IAN BROWN: She said that her car had broken down. We had a gig about 120 miles away. Out of frustration she said, “This gigging would be a lot easier if we did it on the net!”

Sandi spent $200 renovating the basement and buying a Webcam. The band went online hoping to attract an Internet audience of two or three hundred. Night after night the audience multiplied until after two weeks, 60,000 people from 16 countries were logging on.

BROWN: It’s mind-boggling. It does blow you away, you know, it’s fantastic. And they’re all watching through a little $60 Webcam. It’s wonderful.

Sandi isn’t sure why the Webcasts have been such a hit. Because they’re free perhaps. Because people feel they are eavesdropping on a private rehearsal. Whatever the reason, her fortunes been transformed. She’s been inundated with bookings at home and abroad and she’s won a record contract with RCA. Her debut album is due out next week.

THOM: The Internet has opened a massive avenue for musicians and artists who are Struggling, to be able to reach masses of people and market themselves without having to go through the middleman or the media or the record companies.

And Sandi’s tour manager Lizzie Brown has found her life a lot easier when the band was confined to the basement.

LIZZIE BROWN: At least we know we’re going to get to the venue everyday by just walking down the stairs, so it’s been quite nice actually.

But Sandi still craves a large, live audience and can’t wait to hit the road again. With more gigs and more money, she says at least she’ll be able to afford a decent car. In London this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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