If your ear is hungry for Hawaiian music and other local artists, you might want to check out a new online music store — but read the fine print first. OCTunes offers yet another way to legally download tracks by folks like Na Leo Pilimehana, Henry Kapono, Hoonua, and dozens of other popular and less-well known island bands and artists. OCTunes is backed by Oceanic Time Warner Cable, which launched the site last week with a big party in Chinatown. Like Apple’s iTunes Music Store, individual songs at OCTunes will be priced at 99 cents. However, the store is based on the Windows Media format and requires Internet Explorer to browse, so you’re out of luck if you’re using an iPod, a Mac, or otherwise shun Microsoft products.
OCTunes is actually an affiliate of the BurnLounge network, and therefore benefits from the deals BurnLounge has inked with the major record labels, including Sony, EMI, Warner and Universal. Oceanic brags that OCTunes offers over 3,000 “island tunes” and over two million songs altogether. Additionally, the company notes that independent artists can add their music to the store, effectively putting a Waianae garage band on the same shelf as Kealii Reichel.
However, the BurnLounge link has soured a few music fans, since the company has garnered a reputation as a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) outfit, like Amway and Avon. (BurnLounge calls it “concentric retail.”) The real money, critics say, is in signing up others to set up their own stores, and Oceanic has already promoted that angle as well.
Jason Miller, a local music promoter who also works at Oceanic, said he thought BurnLounge was “super shady and lame,” and that he was embarrassed for his company. “I’ve yet to meet anyone that uses it, but no less than two dozen people trying to sell me on it,” Miller said.