Most musicians want to concentrate on writing, performing, and recording. The first two are like breathing and eating, and the third has become much easier in the last decade thanks to the ongoing revolution in digital technology--you can set up a decent computer-based recording studio for a few thousand bucks. But once you're done recording, then what? For artists without a record label, promotion and distribution are two of the thorniest tasks--they take a lot of time, and you learn a lot of lessons (and meet a lot of rip-off artists) in the process.
Launched today, HyperDIY attempts to provide an all-in-one resource to help independent bands accomplish many of the nuts-and-bolts tasks that must accompany a new release. For $579, they'll take up to 12 of your finished mixes and master them (which means balancing the equalization and levels so they sound more like a professional radio-ready recording), press your music onto CD-Rs that (they claim) look and sound indistinguishable from traditional audio CDs (which cost a lot more to manufacture at low volumes), create MP3s, distribute the CDs through CDBaby's one-stop distribution network (which includes placement in both retail and online stores), distribute the MP3s to iTunes and all the other big online services, and create and distribute an electronic press kit to their opt-in network of contacts in the music industry. Other packages involve greater degrees of promotion, such as contacts with radio stations and a professional photo shoot, and there's a one-track "appetizer" for $195 that lets you try the service before committing to releasing a full album with them. They'll even handle mixing for you as long as the basic tracks are in good shape.
As a musician, I'm always hesitant to pay money up front for intangibles such as promotion, but HyperDIY avoids promises of rock stardom--they'll get your material out there, but if it's no good, there's no "suck button" they can turn off. The prices seem in line with what you'd pay to do such things on your own, especially if you budget your time in. Unlike a label, once you've paid the up-front fee, they won't take a cut of your sales revenue (although they might take out some administrative expenses, such as 10% from Amazon.com sales, or CD manufacturing if your disc takes off). Of course, their first sales will involve a lot of trust on the part of artists--as a new company, they don't have any track record yet.
What don't they handle? Booking. Getting gigs and arranging tours is probably the hardest and most thankless task faced by any beginning band, and one of the great benefits of working with a label--they usually can hook you up with a booking agent who can accomplish these tasks much more quickly and effectively than musicians can themselves.