As musicians, the Antar brothers are hardly pleased when other players complain of being "ripped off" by digital music purveyors.
But as businessmen, hoping to build enthusiasm for their Philadelphia-based streaming/download alternative Hearo.fm, cofounders Andrew and Brian Antar say it's music to their ears when a David Byrne or Aloe Blacc goes public with complaints.
"That gets artists thinking about other ways of exposing and marketing their music, which is what we're all about," Brian Antar said at Hearo's Frankford office.
While giving great deals for listeners, most streaming services bite the hands that feed them content.
Blacc, singer and cowriter with EDM talent Avicci of last year's popular "Wake Me Up!" earned "less than $4,000" from the tune's 168 million streams on Pandora, he has complained.
Byrne, in a recent diatribe, decried the pittance performing artists make from tunes streamed on the "freemium" (ad supported) or pay-subscription giant Spotify.
"About 70 percent of the money a listener pays to Spotify goes to the rights holder, usually the labels," declared the once and forever Talking Head.
The record labels then siphon off most of the moolah, forwarding artists only "15 percent or so. . . . When compared with vinyl and CD production, streaming gives the labels incredibly high margins, but the labels act as though nothing has changed."
Hearo.fm is a kinder sort of digital music distributor, Brian Antar explained. It's not an online radio station "like Pandora or last.fm, which can legally only play four tracks an hour from a specific artist." Nor is it "a digital distribution service like iTunes" that can give a 30-second sample of the music to hear for free.
Better to think of hearo.fm as a form of musical social network, one that signs up artists with a "nonexclusive, hybrid, stream-and-sell license," Antar said.
No money changes hands when a track is streamed, because "we think of it as pure promotion." Artists then set the fees for a paid download that you can keep. And with hearo's friendly mix-and-mingle mind-set, users can assemble a play list from different artists' work. "The musicians are not boxed into their own cubicles, as other sites with purchase options do."
If a listener decides to buy a track, it's available in a higher-quality "lossless" format. And hearo.fm takes only a 10 percent commission - far less than the 30 percent Apple takes on iTunes purchases, said sometime Philly-based Dani Mari, a musical talent represented on both sites.
Promoting a warm, "user-friendly" agenda, artists can "hearoically" opt for a pay-what-you-want ploy at the hearo.fm site - which made its formal launch at last March's South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, after a year and a half of beta testing.
There's even a virtual tip jar for bonus payments, for fans feeling especially generous, though "nobody's put any in my jar, yet," Dani Mari said.
As a hearo.fm site visitor - between 6,000 and 8,000 now drop in each month - you can find talents united by genre or geography. Just tapping on a location dot on the world map takes you there - with a sprinkling of talents spread as far away as Africa and Russia.
It's no surprise that there's an especially strong Philadelphia representation among the 4,100 or so artists on the site. Brian and Andrew are often out drumming up talent at local clubs, especially the Philly Rising open mike night (Monday) at World Cafe Live hosted by one of their stellar artists, Boy Wonder.
Both Brian, 27, and his year-younger brother, Andrew, are accomplished violinists, alumni of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. Eldest brother Dan, 32, who is also engaged in the project part time, plays guitar and mandolin.
They've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Dad Elie Antar used to run the Valu Plus retail chain. And while Andrew and Brian were at college, at Brown and Penn, each independently developed a music company, Brian's a "direct-to-fan music distribution platform" and Andrew's a rudimentary social network called "Musicians at Brown" for students looking to start a band. The latter attracted 1,000 sign-ups in three days. "Our dad actually told us what the other one was doing," Brian related with a laugh. "So then we decided to pool our resources."
To date, the Antar brothers have raised $350,000 from investors - most notable Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original Mac computer developers, and Aniello "Neil" Callari, a Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency exec.
"We're hoping to raise more capital," Brian said, "to make the site more beneficial for musicians with a merchandise store and ticket sales tied to Ticketfly."