A quirky Canadian folk-rock band called Moxy Fruvous is mostly unknown in the USA, but you'd never know that from the scores of fans who rave about them on the Net.
Like many other independent performers, Moxy Fruvous uses a Web site to spread the word about upcoming concerts, new recordings and other band news. Fans keep a newsgroup going with dozens of messages a day and often congregate electronically in a chat room.
''Hardly a day goes by on tour when somebody doesn't come up to me and say that they've found out something about (us) on the Net,'' says Jian Ghomeshi, a singer and drummer in the group. ''The Internet has been really important to our growth.''
Virtually every CD released by a major record company gets a Web site to go with it. But hundreds of performers who have yet to sign a recording contract have Web sites, too, and are using them to improve their careers.
Webmaster Chris O'Malley, a software engineer, runs the Fruvous site (www.fruvous.-com) as a hobby and updates it frequently with fan-written show reviews and photographs.
Interaction via the Web site, a newsgroup (alt.music.moxy-fruvous) and e-mail extends the band's reach far beyond the Northeast and Midwest, where they have toured extensively.
Nicole Carlson, 20, of Davis, Calif., became a Fruvous fan after hearing about them on an e-mail list dedicated to a group called They Might Be Giants.
''The thread was, 'What other bands do you like' and Moxy Fruvous came up a lot. I figured it was worth a shot, so I got Bargainville,'' Fruvous' first CD, Carlson says.
Since then, she's flown across the country to see them live once and ''lives vicariously'' through other fans by reading reviews they post on the Internet.
The fan-to-fan and performer-to-fan contact possible via the Internet shifts music industry power from record labels back to performers. Or at least, that's the potential.
''There's a lot of music that's being missed'' because major labels control what is sold at music stores, says Herbie Herbert, a music industry entrepreneur and former manager of groups such as Journey. Now, he's started Muzic.Com, which he wants to be a one-stop shop for independent artists to do everything from creating Web pages to distributing music and selling concert tickets via the Internet.
''If you can get a Web presence, you can take your case to the people,'' he says.
That's exactly what many are doing. Ani DiFranco, Phish and Live are among performers that have used the Internet to communicate with new and potential fans.
''It's a word-of-mouth mechanism that never existed before,'' says Todd Steinman, director of on-line and new media for Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, Calif. ''Now, we release a record and a sixth-grader is e-mailing 50 friends around the country about it.''
There are Web sites for country music veteran Johnny Cash (http://www.johnnycash. com); Bob Dylan (www.bob dylan.com), which sold concert tickets on line; and Tori Amos (www.tori.com). David Bowie distributed a song via www. davidbowie.com and offers his lithographs and other art on www.bowieart.com. Warner Bros. has just set up a Web site for Rod Stewart (http://www. rodstewartlive.com) to coincide with his new album and tour. It was launched with a live concert broadcast via the Web site.
The Internet ''is removing a few layers from the music experience,'' says Steinman. Fans go to the Web site and ''feel like they are somewhat in touch with the artist themselves.''
Indeed, a growing number of artists take their Internet activities very seriously. Steinman says the mellow-voiced Seal has a high-speed data line into his home so he can go on line regularly. Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, Garth Brooks, Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Jewel and others put on-line chats on their itineraries
For fans, the on-line world opens up avenues to new music. ''It's so much easier to find out about new artists from people who already like someone I like,'' says Kathryn Gullo, 25, of Los Angeles. Not everything about music on the Web is great for musicians. The Recording Industry Association of America has been aggressively targeting Web sites that archive and distribute songs from Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, the Eagles, Meredith Brooks, Kenny G and Elton John without permission. ''The Internet can't be a viable avenue for distributing music unless artist and record company rights are respected,'' says Hilary Rosen, the trade group's president.
Contributing: Mike Snider
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(c) USA TODAY - FINAL EDITION - BONUS - TUESDAY - JUNE 16, 1998 - 02E