CyTunes: The tale of a beneficent upstart online music provider | Cy Rawls | Indy Week
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CyTunes: The tale of a beneficent upstart online music provider 

Ed.'s Note: Throughout the next two months, we will be updating this story with news in the development of CyTunes.org, an unique online music provider whose profits will support Cy Rawls, diagnosed with a brain tumor last month. Writer Chris Toenes is a friend of Rawls, and they've both worked at WXDU and WXYC, though never at the same time.

click to enlarge cy_web.jpg

For those who know him, Cy Rawls seems like an omnipresent being. If one happens to catch him at a show, maybe backstage as part of the venue crew for Ozzfest, or up front at the Cradle, it is usually only one of his many stops that night. And not just in the Triangle. Rawls has supported local music in all possible ways; he's been a DJ at both WXYC and WXDU, worked as an intern at Merge, done time at Walnut Creek, and traveled the country to one-off concerts, band reunions and festivals.

Rawls has been seriously ill with cancer in recent weeks, and fundraising efforts are underway to help alleviate his mammoth medical bills. Unfortunately, he was not insured during the time of his illness.

So what better way for musicians far and wide to help out Rawls than donating their music itself? This is exactly what the ambitious project CyTunes.org proposes. Chris Rossi came up with the idea of a site where bands could donate original songs that aren't currently for sale elsewhere. All sales would go to Rawls' fundraising efforts. Via email, Rossi and CyTunes legal wrangler and consultant Janette Park (both WXDU vets themselves) talked about the inner workings and timetable for CyTunes.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: How did the idea of CyTunes start?

CHRIS ROSSI: Like a lot of people, I was thinking a lot about Cy, his parents and their situation and about the different ways people had come up with to help raise money for them. On the one hand, the idea seemed to just come to me from out of nowhere, but examining it, it's actually a pretty natural idea. Two things I do primarily for a living are programming, mostly web applications, and recording music in my studio, Spacelab Recording Studio (spacelabstudio.com). It's certainly no accident, then, that the idea I came up with involves web programming and recording music. I think everyone wants to contribute what they can, and everyone brings something different to the table in terms of talents and resources.

These are things that I happen to be able to do, and it happened to occur to me within about two weeks of my quitting my day job to go freelance, so I was uniquely positioned in terms of time available to do this. So, I just happened to have the time and the resources to do this project, and once I had the idea it seemed inevitable that I would have to do it. I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it alone, but luckily a lot of other people have come forward from the community to contribute their own skills and do the things that aren't necessarily part of my core competencies (like project management and public relations, etc.) It's amazing to me how everyone is basically able to concentrate on and do the things they're good at, and we're able to focus that energy and these talents towards a singular goal.

JANETTE PARK: I think Chris tackled the first part of the question... For me, Chris' idea seemed like the perfect complement to the effort that others were putting forth with benefits, etc. Because of logistics, schedules and life, bands that might want to help Cy might not be able to play a benefit, and everyone who wanted to show support for Cy (and local music) might not be able to attend a benefit or fundraiser, so it just seemed the next logical step. Cy has so many fans scattered across the country; it seemed natural to provide a way for people who weren't in the area to show their support for Cy, scratch their local music itch, and encourage their friends to do the same for a great cause.

Like Chris, I had recently made some decisions that allowed me to be in a position to volunteer my time and energy/ talent to this project. A few months ago, I set up my own shop, offering legal and consulting services, focusing on artists, non-profits and small start-ups. So when this came up, it was natural to want to offer to help. Although I initially offered to help with legal issues, I realized that my knack for managing and organizing might be needed, too. Since Chris needs time to create the Internet magic thingy that will make this crazy awesome idea work, I took on the Project Manager role to allow him to focus on the technical side of things; I figured I could handle the organizational structure and communication aspects.

Why does this form of fundraising seem most applicable to Cy Rawls?

JP: It's such an organic way to support Cy and his family to highlight the things he's supported and loved. I'd be hard pressed to find anyone else who shows his support, encouragement and love for music (local and otherwise) more than Cy Rawls. ... It's the community he's been an integral part of for years, so it's only fitting to raise funds by showcasing the music he loves so much. It would seem odd to do it any other way...

I've been blown away at the response. ... There's something in Cy that everyone can take away as an example of being a friendlier, kinder, more involved and more kickass person.

Was there a particular inspiration for how to do this?

CR: I'm not aware of a similar project as an antecedent.

What are you asking for in your submission requests?

JP: Here's the link to our submission guidelines: http://www.cytunes.org/doku.php?id=submission_guidelines. In terms of content, we're asking for original songs (no covers) that are not available for purchase (digitally or hard copy). Submissions can be singles or albums.

Bands who have singles or albums that were previously sold but are now out of print are acceptable (and encouraged). Bands who want to record something new for CyTunes should contact one of the three recording studios (located on the cytunes.org site) who are donating their studios and recording time/talents.

How will it work for people to visit the site and buy songs?

CR: It'll be your basic Web store.

JP: Our goal is to provide buyers with a store that is just as user friendly as any other online music site.

Janette, what legal ramifications will you need to take care of for this to work?

JP: Not too many. At least, not as many as I had feared. Obtaining permission from the bands (and former label, if necessary) to be the exclusive distributor of that music for one year. I'm hoping that we can draft waiver, license and permission language that will take care of most of the requirements. It's on my to-do list. Of course, I'd welcome any advice from anyone who has signed such agreements with an electronic merchant...

It's an ambitious project, to be sure. Is there any timeline for the site to be fully operational?

CR: We're all working as fast as we can. Our deadline is ASAP. It's hard to say when the site will be ready for people to start buying songs. My hope would be by Labor Day [Sept. 1], but we'll have to see what happens. The functionality for bands to start uploading submissions may be ready by as early as next week.

JP: We can always use volunteers. There's always stuff that needs doing. We're still looking for a good Web designer.

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