- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

You can own a song. But not for free.

The rights to the song “The Gravity Situation” by Katherine Schell were posted for auction on EBay yesterday. Bidding is up to $305 and won’t end until July 20.

The winner will receive the “exclusive right to use ‘The Gravity Situation’ in a commercial format for one year,” the auction site says. The 2005 VH1 International Songwriter of the Year and a Billboard Songwriting finalist, Ms. Schell will be the first musician to auction the exclusive rights to a song on EBay, according to Recessive Gene Records, her label.

“Budding artists have to go to considerable lengths to get this kind of promotion and attention,” said Don Gorder, chairman of the Music Business/Management Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “This is really doing it.”

Based in Chicago, Ms. Schell’s record label recently began pursuing the “innovative use of the Internet to promote Katherine,” said manager Matt Campbell. That includes two sites on MySpace.com, which feature free streaming of several of her songs, an artist Web site, and a page on Facebook.com, geared for college students. ITunes is selling the songs from her debut album “Emptier Streets,” released in March.

Now one of her songs will go to the highest bidder on EBay.

“We were looking for ways to expand our Internet base — for Katherine and for her music,” Mr. Campbell said. Inspired by the man who sold advertising space on his forehead and driven to find a non-traditional way to promote her music, the label worked with its attorney to ensure selling the song was legal. It was, and EBay approved. Ms. Schell said she is waiting to see how the auction goes before deciding whether to try it again.

“Songs have always been bought and sold as commodities,” said James Kenler, the co-founder of Chicago’s Flameshovel Records. “The fact that it’s so mass market is unique.”

EBay spokeswoman Catherine England said this type of auction is rare, although there is no way to be sure that it hasn’t happened before. There is no complete sales history of EBay, especially of the early years, as about 89 million items are on the site, with 6 million added each day.

Adrian Adams, a record producer, famously auctioned off a 7 percent share in Britney Spears’ song “Everytime” in November 2005, and European musician Andy Martin is currently offering on EBay a “guaranteed hit song” — “Can’t Love No More” — for the fixed price of $1 million. So far, no takers.

Ms. Schell, 21, didn’t begin writing songs until 2000, though she was a member of her church choir and played the piano since age 6. Her brother’s diagnosis with leukemia motivated her to write her emotions in songs and pursue her music.

“It was a big thing in my life,” Ms. Schell said. “It sort of launched this whole idea of me as a songwriter — ever since then I’ve been songwriting.” At 16, she performed her first song “Come to Me” at a Relay for Life event. “I couldn’t see a dry eye in the audience. Right then I knew it was something I wanted to continue for the rest of my life.”

For aspiring artists, the Internet is “limitless possibility for the amount of people you can touch,” said singer-musician Joy Daniels, 20, whose first album “Set Free” is coming out in the fall.

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