In what may signal a new way for mid-sized music acts to reach the public, acoustic folk-rock duo Indigo Girls is preparing to do battle in the difficult arena of pay-per-view television. The group just opened the ticket window for a PPV concert on June 6, to originate live from Boston.

The PPV genre had been largely written off by musicians in the early '90s as even superstars like the Rolling Stones, Madonna and the Who found the elephant-bucks promised by PPV turned out to be close to peanuts. Audiences were relatively small and, after the nation's cable systems and PPV companies took the lion's share of the proceeds, it left precious little for production and the artists. It seemed smaller acts had little chance of utilizing the PPV avenues when even the big boys routinely crashed and burned.

While Indigo Girls--Amy Ray and Emily Saliers--has a loyal core of fans, only a percentage of their following gets PPV, even less will hear about it and a limited number will want to pay.

However, the Epic Records artists and pay-per-view firm Spring Communications have a new way of measuring the effectiveness of the broadcasts. If successful, PPV could become a more viable prospect in promoting mid-sized artists.

"It's all a function of what your expectations are," said John Ruby, president of Spring Communications, which is doing PPV for targeted audiences like country and hip-hop fans. "In the past, everyone had higher expectations. But now we have new marketing and pricing strategies. Our expectation on most concerts is (about 100,000 households). We figure there are five viewers per household and they don't change channels."

The success of the show will be largely determined by record sales, rather than number of subscribers to the event, sort of like counting the popcorn proceeds instead of the tickets moved at a movie theater.

"Artists can expect a 20 percent lift in album sales directly as a result of the PPV, in some cases 25 percent," Ruby said. "We think it can be a very effective tool for artists to sell more records and labels to utilize PPV technology to generate new revenue."

The duo is well positioned to take advantage of the push a PPV special could present. The new album, Shaming the Sun, debuted this week at number seven, while their last release Swamp Ophelia sold more than a million units. All told, they have sold more than seven million albums with eight releases.

Cable and satellite companies will provide PPV for $14.95. In addition, Westwood One will simulcast the concert on radio stations nationwide and fans can join the show on the Internet at the Indigo Girls site.

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