Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grassroots Democracy - OurStage

Today I caught up with an old friend and colleague to talk a little bit about what’s happening in the music industry.

Lora Kratchounova is the VP of Marketing at Boston based Ourstage, a community in which emerging artists can upload their original music and video to have it judged by a completely objective crowd. The content is ranked and rated through an innovative platform designed to discover real talent.

As opposed to YouTube’s rating system, where artists could upload material and then rally their troops to rate it, OurStage’s democratic approach to sorting content allows “the crowd” to decide which artists should rise to the top through a series of competitions. The content is uploaded and served randomly for judging. The crowd is always exposed to two pieces of content to evaluate at a time. This gives the exercise a more contextual spin.

The proprietary system ensures that users listen to or watch a minimum of 15 seconds of content prior to submitting votes and comments. Users are asked to pick a winner and to explain why one piece of content outperformed the other. As thousands of users select their favorite content through these “show-downs”, the system quickly identifies the most popular songs and videos and then selects the top twenty for a 'finals' round.

OurStage's competitions begin on the first of each month, concluding with a week of final elimination rounds the last 7 days of each month. The #1 song and the #1 in video are selected as the $5,000 Grand Prize Winners each. Additional prizes include spots at music festivals (e.g. Bonnaroo, Virgin, Bumbershoot, 10K Lakes), CD sampler spots (Paste, CMJ, Relix), industry exposure, and much more.

Ourstage currently has 37 channels of content 22 of them are dedicated to music and the rest to video. Split into genres, crowds can participate in competitions focused to their affinity.

The site launched in private beta in March 2007 and had 40,000 monthly users by June. Today Ourstage is seeing over 700,000 unique users per month and has 150,000 registered members. With exposure across the social networking platforms, the miniature version of OurStage will continue to grab attention through sharing.

An interesting twist to this platform is the ability to drill down to a local level. OurStage has the ability to pin point emerging talent by genre and zip code across North America (for now) making it a rich repository of information for the entertainment industry when they decide to further explore the world that is local.

As the site gains critical mass, the business model will most likely revolve around sponsorships, advertising and the Q1 2008 release of their white label product.

In the meantime, artists are taking advantage of the platform. Some are actually being discovered from it.

Since uploading her first track to OurStage in May 2007, Amanda Kaletsky has consistently placed in the top 20 of the Country/Americana, Pop and Acoustic Channels. Her popularity with the OurStage fans earned her a spot as a finalist in the Starbucks Music Makers competition in September. The new exposure earned though OurStage combined with a lot of hard work and self-promotion led Amanda’s track “Everything lies” right into the hands of an MTV music coordinator and a coveted spot during a recent episode of The Hills.

Three factors make this a business to keep an eye on:
  • Contextual review of content
  • Local content aggregation
  • The white labeling of it


My2Cents - http://www.reichcomm.typepad.com/ said...

Some good info here, Sonia.

I've done some work in the music business, as a publisher and it's become so hard for artists to get broad exposure these days. But at the same time as mass radio has become formula with tiny playlists, new avenues like OurStage are opening. There are also some small online radio stations that play a lot of unsigned artists, but their reach so far seems to be small.

I'll look into OurStage for the singer/songwriter I work with., her name, by the way, is Gretchen Witt. You can check her out at www.gretchenwitt.com

Lora said...

Hey there,
Thanks for checking Sonia's blog and for checking OurStage out - listened to Gretchen - loved it all but definitely have a soft spot for "Soft Spot"! Hope to see her on OurStage soon.
Happy Holidays:)