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Insound
1999-2000:

A ten-year history

How did it all this happen?

(Editors Note: I can't imagine that many of you (other than my mom...hi, mom) want to hear this whole story. So, I'll make it as short as ten years can be. For every great story I've included, there are probably a dozen others I've omitted. For you real Insound completeists - don't worry - the movie is slated for 2011 and stars Topher Grace.)

Three of us started Insound in the summer of 1998. It took us about 6 months to develop the website and the content so we didn't launch until March 1, 1999. With all the anticipation and labor, It was kind of like we were pregnant for 8 months. At the time, the world of online retail was not very sophistocated. There were some online stores for pop music, but almost nothing for indie music. Additionally, indie music had not penetrated the mainstream yet. There were no platinum selling Modest Mouse, Death Cab or Shins albums. Built to Spill and Yo La Tengo were giants. There was no Itunes. Amazon hadn't started selling music. And I still ordered 7" vinyl from small printed catalogs and mailed in money orders. Fanzines didn't have websites. The word "blog" wasn't used. Nobody used IM. There was no such thing as MySpace or Facebook. File sharing was still way, way underground. And every company (except Insound) seemed to be getting a gazillion dollars for quarter-baked ideas.

Of the three of us who originally started Insound, exactly zero of us knew how to build a website, charge a credit card of properly pack an LP. We did know the names of our favorite labels and zines, though. So, we started there. Within a year, Insound had a database of reviews and features from over 200 fanzines. In fact, Insound was the default website for many of those zines. We would call and email the zine publishers, get zip disks from them or literally hand transcribe old reviews. Similarly, if we heard something we wanted to sell but didn't have it through our normal distros, we'd email the label and see if they would send us copies of the record, along with an invoice.

None of us slept much during those pre-launch months. We were transcribing album interviews with June of 44 and running to Kinkos to use Quark to re-size ads for Badaboom Gramophone zine. By some grace of god, the website took shape and launched on time -- March 1, 1999. 67 people ordered from us that day. We were certain 670 more would order the next day. We were wrong.

On March 2nd, 8 people ordered from Insound. On March 3rd, 3 people did. In spite of that pathetic trend, we celebrated our hard-earned website launch. In mid- March of 1999, two weeks after our launch, we had a party in Austin. I don't even remember who the headlining band was. But I do remember that the opening band, whose music we hadn't yet heard and who we let on the bill as a favor to a friend. That band was Death Cab for Cutie.

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