If you’re a struggling unsigned band, it can be a jungle out there. You create your music, put it online via Soundcloud, Bandcamp or some other online music service, make videos and put them up on YouTube and send mp3s out to as many blogs as humanly possible in the hope that someone, anyone, will hear your music, like it and maybe even buy it, so that you can start to create a buzz. With so many bands out there vying for the same listeners’ ears (and hard-earned cash), the odds are stacked against you. All you have to keep you going is your belief in yourself and a love of the music. Or at least, you’d better have a love of the music, because if you don’t or you’re not sure, there are definitely easier ways to make a living. Truth be told, being a music listener is no less daunting. Where do you go to hear new bands? How do you wade through all the, let’s face it, utter dreck out there to find those songs that give you goosebumps, or at the very least, find music that sets itself apart so that you stop thinking about the half dozen other things on your mind and really listen?
There are so many places to learn about and listen to new music, it’s mind numbing. Terrestrial radio is a thing of the past, gone the way of the dinosaur (though I still listen to it in my car). There are countless online stations, there’s iTunes, there’s Spotify (and all the others of that ilk), there are zillions of music blogs and of course, your friends on Twitter, Facebook and wherever else recommending bands. For musicians trying to promote their music, the possibilities are endless. This is both wonderful and horrible at the same time. Wonderful, because there are so many places where you can promote your music online, opening avenues of promotion and marketing to those with little to no funds. Horrible, because the listening audience is incredibly fractured and all over the place. It’s impossible to hit every music discovery platform, every blog, every social networking site. An army of marketing firms specializing in this wild frontier have risen up to represent those bands that can afford them, because seriously, a musician’s time is best spent creating music. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be involved in your business and oversee every aspect. Anyone who’s serious about getting their music heard and being a musician for a living these days has to be fully involved. It’s more the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.
In 2008, it was internet radio — Pandora, iLike and Last.fm. By 2009, people were talking about Shazam, The Hype Machine and many other music discovery sites like Stumble Audio, which has since bitten the dust. On the “hottest music streaming and discovery sites” list for 2010, Bandcamp joined the scene, as did TheSixtyOne. In 2011, it was 8Tracks, an internet radio station, and Blip.fm, a social network/internet radio blend. Soundcloud made the lists in 2012, and We Are Hunted, a music aggregator, joined forces with Twitter on their own music discovery project, Twitter Music (which was shut down in 2014). Over the past few years, the introduction of new music discovery sites has continued unabated. Mixcloud is a place for both amateur and professional DJs to share their mixes and radio shows. Discovr Music is a service from music reference site AllMusic. It shows you related artists for a particular band, and you can drill in to get more information, their biography, song streams and videos. You can also track your favorites. Songza suggests music to fit your current mood, and you can see what’s trending and popular. And that’s just a very small sampling.
In the already chaotic scene of music discovery portals, places where musicians can post projects and fans can discover new bands, a few more have appeared in recent months. Consider this the eighth or ninth generation of music discovery sites.
Tradiio, a Portuguese startup, first launched in the U.K. on March 2 of this year. This music discovery platform is a little different, in that it’s reward based. It’s an interesting little twist to distinguish itself from the many others, and a pretty cool concept. It can be accessed via the web, IOS and Android. Not only are Tradiio users able to listen to new bands, but by “investing” in them with virtual coins, they’re able to be talent spotters and tastemakers, helping their favorite acts rise up the ranks into recommended and trending lists, gain exposure and credibility, and potentially go much farther than just online accolades. The more popular bands are given real world rewards and opportunities, such as a performing slot on the Tradiio Stage at Field Day, access to studio time through Tradiio’s partnership with Moloco Studios, benefits from Tradiio’s label partnership with Believe Recordings and the chance to make a music video with Radar. Tradiio is open to both new bands and more established artists, and it’s a free service for artists and music fans. This music discovery site has worldwide impact. In Portugal, Universal Music Portugal selects artists from Tradiio’s top 50 chart for worldwide distribution.
Listeners on Tradiio are encouraged to use the service with “missions” and “challenges,” turning the music listening experience into a fun game. Social engagement includes being able to follow other users to see their musical picks and the ability to share your discoveries on other social networks. There are also real life benefits for music fans. By investing in artists you like, you earn credibility and virtual coins which you can then redeem for Field Day tickets, Bleep download store vouchers, AIAIAI headphones and Sonos speakers. While in the Tradiio Market, you can also get Add-Ons, which let you earn coins more quickly.
WorldArts is a music discovery and opportunities platform, based in Los Angeles. Their mission is to change the way musicians connect with fans worldwide, and to offer bands huge opportunities for wider exposure. Like many of these music discovery sites, WorldArts levels the playing field for new bands, making it easier to get started without having a manager, record label or publicity company. The Artists section is a listing of World Arts artists. Select a band, and you can read their bio, listen to music, watch videos, look at photos and see who’s a fan. You can share and follow your favorites. From the Discover page, you can watch videos from new artists and choose to follow or share. The Opportunities page is how bands can win big career boosts by submitting their music. Current opportunities include music video production, a recording session, a professional photo shoot, the opportunity to record a track at NightBird Studios and airplay on KROQ’s “Locals Only” radio show in Los Angeles. Previously they’ve chosen artists to perform at a SXSW showcase, which was then live-streamed, and one musician was selected to attend and perform at the ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo, which included a studio recording and vinyl pressing of a single. WorldArts Live regularly live streams concerts and festivals. In the News section they offer original and aggregated content that helps you keep up to date with music business news, items of interest for working musicians and upcoming events. There are also artist profiles, Q&As and other music-related content.
Busker is the newest of these music discovery sites, about to launch this summer. Busker, with headquarters in NYC, is calling themselves a “next-generation discovery and booking platform for musicians.” This service will feature live music videos from musicians, letting users browse artists, view their videos, create playlists and follow their favorites. Channels will act as guideposts — they give the example of a Julliard channel for students and alumni of the prestigious music school. This music discovery site will go one step further to help musicians get gigs so they can build a sustainable career. There’s a booking platform for anyone interesting in hiring musicians for any type of performance, from private parties and events to venues and large festivals. It is said to function like an airbnb for musicians. Busker’s “Musician on Demand” service will allow potential hosts to text a request, and the Busker team will line up a musician for their event. Their mission is to show people that it’s not as expensive as one might think to hire musicians, and to give musicians help in finding work. The long-term goal is to “use technology to help musicians make money,” which would include not only online bookings, but direct links to purchase music and merchandise, including concert tickets.
Busker is being guided by a group of people with impressive pedigrees — a Harvard MBA and Sydney Law School graduate and advisors from Berklee, Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, Google, Kickstarter, Grooveshark, Spotify, MTV, ABC, Sony and others. You can check out the beta version right now. Musings from Boston readers can use the code “BSTNSURV” for VIP status when you sign up (as a user) or submit videos (as a musician). They’ll add you to their mailing list and will keep you informed about the launch and their services.