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Damon Evans Arena Music

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Fair Play

By Riki Altman-Yee

Photography by Jody Domingue

08.23.17

Arena Music founder Damon Evans has an indie spirit.

EVEN BEFORE TAYLOR Swift had a spat with Spotify and Jay Z took a bite out of Apple Music, musicians and streaming services have seemingly never seen eye to eye when it came to putting a price tag on tunes. Music platforms are even less generous when it comes to supporting independent artists, but indie music insider Damon Evans is doing his part to help.

Evans, who has been in the music industry since the ’90s, began his career managing international sales accounts for a New York-based distributor and eventually founded a consulting firm, 101 Distribution, which, he says, became the top music distribution site in the digital realm. Moving to Scottsdale in 1998 made him realize just how many songs are hidden among our saguaros. “Arizona is the epicenter of the world’s indie music scene,” he says, overlooking Camelback Road from the floor-to-ceiling windows gracing his white-on-white office. “I have so many relationships with indie bands struggling to monetize. I wanted to create an environment for artists to make more money.”

Evans explains platforms like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music might pay artists three-sixteenths of a penny per play but Arena Music, the online broadcasting service he co-created in 2012, intends to pay 1 cent per play when it launches in September. “We package major label content with unknowns using an algorithm,” he says. Not only does Arena give indie bands the exposure they so desperately seek and pay artists exponentially more, but it also offers artists 50 percent of revenues earned from the sale of print-on-demand merchandise bearing their logos.

“I believe there’s a lot of creative talent and ability out here. It’s just never been organized,” he says. “The thought was always, if Arizona had something like Arena where anyone in the creative process can participate, then it’s something they can rally around. I think it can happen.”