SARA FISHER

Staff Reporter

While most major record-label executives hem and haw over how to harness the Internet as it begins to transfigure the music industry, Al Teller has jumped right in.

Santa Monica-based Atomic Pop the new music company founded by Teller, the former head of MCA Music Group and one-time president of CBS Records is entirely online. It shifts the real-world functions of a music label such as marketing and promotion to the Internet, where the overhead costs are lower and the potential audience reach much greater than radio or print.

"Just as in any industry, the leaders of a major change won't be the major players," said Teller, who helped shape the careers of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, among many others.

"It's usually a small venture that will push the envelope. And that's what we're doing. If the Web is used properly, it opens up enormous opportunities in the music industry rather than limiting it."

Officially launched last month, Atomic Pop follows the more-is-better philosophy of online content and runs a sensory-overloaded site crammed with pop culture and music offerings. The company features an online radio station, video game section, music news, and an online store selling everything from comic books and clothes to DVDs and CDs.

For artists signed to the Atomic Pop label, there are Web pages filled with the latest news about the band, snippets of their videos and interviews, and songs that can be heard on the site or digitally downloaded. There also are plans to produce and sell albums both online and at music stores.

While a formal advertising campaign is several months off, the site already draws about 5,000 visitors a day, even though it faces competition from sites offered by MTV for music news, House of Blues for live concert Web-casts, and San Diego-based MP3.com for digital downloads.

Still, there are many imponderables. "A lot of what Teller is doing is untested: No one has shown that an artist can reach comparable exposure via the Internet rather than the traditional radio play and advertising push route," said Mark Hardie, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc.'s entertainment and technology group. "(Atomic Pop) wants the consumer to take on the burden of seeking out their music amid the jumble of the Internet, which is like going to a flea market as opposed to going to the mall. I find that difficult."

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