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Riffage music site pulls its own plug

The would-be online label plays its last notes, closing its services after an unsuccessful hunt for a buyer.

Would-be online label Riffage.com played its last notes Friday, pulling the plug on its services after an unsuccessful hunt for a buyer.

The company was among the most creative of the online music start-ups, buying an offline, independent music label and San Francisco's venerable Great American Music Hall venue in an attempt to diversify its business.

That wasn't enough to keep the vultures from the company's doors, however. The company shut its Web site Friday afternoon with a terse farewell message to visitors.

"Having reached out to a million fans and tens of thousands of bands, we cannot continue to service these fine communities in the current economic marketplace," the site said. "We would like to thank the artists, fans, writers, labels, and partners who helped us over the last 18 months."

Riffage got its start as one of several companies, including MP3.com, that offered unsigned artists a place online to post their music for the masses. With funding from Bertelsmann Ventures, Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment and America Online, among others, it slowly expanded its ambitions with a vision of itself as a full-fledged music label.

To that end, it made moves to support artists in other aspects of their careers, buying label 1500 Records and the San Francisco venue. Executives said they would Webcast shows of Riffage artists from the club, allowing each of the company's assets to support the artists in a different way.

But as funding sources dried up and online music sales failed to catch fire, a cloud began looming over the company's future. For the last several weeks, chief executive Ken Wirt had sought a merger partner, but the search didn't pan out.

"Nothing was a good fit," said spokeswoman Andrea Sausedo. "Ken decided this is what he wanted to do."

Sausedo said that 1500 Records and the Great American Music Hall would be sold. About 60 Riffage employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

Sales of assets are being handled by Diablo Management. The company has not yet filed for official bankruptcy protection.