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LOS ANGELES, CA – In conjunction with its exhibition at the International Music Products Association (NAMM) trade show, announced today that it has retained Carl Thompson Associates to launch a national public relations program.
“ is quickly emerging as the premier website for performers and music aficionados to buy and sell music gear and memorabilia.  We hired Carl Thompson Associates to help focus the company’s story and direct it to the national music trade media and investment community. The firm’s expertise in investor relations was crucial in our decision to retain its services as is preparing for its second phase of private financing and is contemplating an initial public offering within the next 12-18 months,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Kersten.
“While the Ebays and Amazon.coms of the world try to cover the entire online auction marketplace, we believe our strategy to provide a one-stop shop marketplace for the music enthusiast is the way to tap and dominate this multi-billion dollar vertical industry segment,” he added. “You won’t find any dolls, coins or Pokemon cards on our site.”
Kersten also noted the company is intensifying its use of direct mail and e-mail to subscribers of various music-related magazines in order to drive more people to its web site. “We will also ramp up our print advertising in our target publications, increase billboard advertising in key markets such as California, and do more telemarketing and trade show presentations,” he said. “We are also in the preliminary stages of contracting with a celebrity musician to help promote”’s aggressive marketing plans include achieving a 7% market share of online music sales over the next few years, along with 75% name recognition. “We see a niche market with worldwide annual sales of at least $15 billion in the used music equipment industry. Currently, only 1% of that is going to e-commerce, but analysts project that to jump to 9% or $1.35 billion by 2005,” Kersten said.  “We plan to seize the opportunities presented to to dominate this niche.”
Based in Louisville, Colorado, Carl Thompson Associates is one of the nation’s leading full-service investor relations firms, providing public relations, graphic design, automated mailing services and Internet design and hosting. is the largest online auction web site dedicated to providing a forum for buyers and sellers of musical instruments, equipment, memorabilia and recorded music.  Headquartered in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was formed by key management of Heartland Communications Group, Inc. to leverage the value for consumers of Heartland’s Musicians Hotline publication that has been bringing buyers and sellers of music equipment together since 1995. utilizes Heartland’s extensive database, mailing lists, equipment inventory and dealer network.



LOS ANGELES, CA – While exhibiting at the International Association of Music Products (NAMM) industry trade show, announced today that it has experienced a rapid  increase in demand for its auction web site from buyers and sellers of musical instruments and equipment.  Since the web site went “live” last September, the number of registered bidders has grown from 0 to 15,000.  The number of items listed for sale has grown from 0 to over 41,000 per month.  In addition, is currently averaging 100,000 unique visitors to the site each month.  The site is currently averaging 1.8 million hits per month, and site usage from visitors, buyers and sellers is growing at an average rate of 30% per month.


Jim Kersten, President and Chief Executive Officer of, remarked, “I am not at all surprised by the tremendous growth our company has enjoyed in its first few months of existence.  The management team at has worked very hard to provide a user-friendly site that appeals to both buyers and sellers of musical items.  The music products market is estimated to be $15 billion, and analysts believe that online music products sales will exceed $1 billion by 2005. was created by musicians for musicians to tap into the used music products market by providing a specialized forum for musicians to buy and sell their wares.”


While competes with other general auction sites like Ebay and, management believes that true music enthusiasts and semiprofessional musicians prefer to list their equipment with because they know the registered bidders are all potential buyers of music products.  Likewise, buyers prefer to make their purchases through because they have access to a vast selection of highly specialized music equipment to suit their individual needs and preferences.



L-Trent Salter /  R-Tony Smith

FORT DODGE, IA - Looking to become the eBay for musicians, is auctioning and selling instruments and CD’s from thousands of individuals and stores online.

  The Web company, based in Fort Dodge, hopes to combine the success of auction site eBay and, a site designed by a Harvard University student to search online for titles at thousands of stores selling used and rare books.

“If he could do it for books, we thought we could organize the very unorganized network of independent music dealers around the country,” said Jim Kersten, president and chief executive officer of

At the site, instead of listing products haphazardly in a single music category, everything is divided by specific items such as new and used violins and acoustic, electric and left-handed guitars.  Items can range from $5 for a used CD to more than $10,000for a rare guitar.

Many of’s listings come from sister company Heartland Communications’ Musicians Hotline magazine, a publication of mostly advertisements.

The online company operates separately from Heartland Communications but was formed by key members of the publishing firm.  The online company uses Heartland’s information and, in exchange, gives Heartland advertising space on the Web site.

Kersten, a former state lawmaker, remains the senior vice president and chief operating officer for Heartland.

Kersten said the company has raised $1 million from venture capitalists to expand the music site, online since Sept. 1, 1999.

Trent Salter, publisher of Musicians Hotline and the site’s general manager, said many investors, especially on the West Coast, wonder why the site is operated in Iowa.  “Great ideas aren’t geographic,” he said.  “We just happen to be in Iowa.”

After gets more established, the company plans to spin off the other Heartland publications in an online venture, Kersten said.  Heartland has published magazines of classified advertisements for 30 years, including ones for the construction, agriculture, industrial and aviation industries.

The site attracts about 1.8 million visits a month by 100,000 people and has about 42,000 listings, Kersten said.  The listings are free but the site makes a commission when items are sold.

Long-term plans for call for selling the company or going public, he said.

 The company has eight employees and has advertised the site at guitar shows, through Web-site partnerships and instrument shopping spree giveaways.

While site officials stress shopping convenience, they realize the concerns customers would have buying a musical instrument – often a subjective and high-priced purchase – without inspecting and playing it first.

Other than working out an arrangement with the seller to try the instrument before payment, customers can use an escrow service where, for a fee, a third party holds the check until the item arrives and can be inspected. gives a way for buyers and sellers to meet, the company says, and holds no responsibility for the completion or satisfaction of the transactions.

Customers can post their experiences with a particular seller on the site.

Other than reading those comments or using an escrow service, buyers have to just trust the seller, Kersten said.

He said that they have had few complaints on the quality and deliverability of products, though.

Although more people are buying online, Clinton Cupples, a salesman for the Ye Olde Guitar Shoppe in Des Moines, said nothing replaces the personalized service customers get by going to a store.

And when someone buys a guitar online that is not adjusted correctly, “they bring it into the shop anyway,” Cupples said.

Michael Becker, owner of Becker Fine Stringed Instruments in Windsor Heights, said customers should make sure they know the return policy of the seller if they don’t like their purchase.

“I think it is very risky, when you are buying something online and you are not able to evaluate overall condition, tone, playability and all the things important to a musician,” said Becker, who sells violins, violas and cellos.

“I’ve seen a couple dozen people who have come into the store with instruments that were bought online, who were really at a loss.  They didn’t quite know what they had,” he said.  “Most of the time it’s not so good.”

He said people see a violin for $75 or $100 thinking they made a good buy without knowing another $300 would be required to make the instrument playable.