Ask any music buff how they learn about new music, and most will rattle off a list of blogs they regularly check. Those blogs might post links to Soundcloud clips, or the artist’s Web site, or iTunes, but the bloggers, many of whom carry significant influence, don’t get much credit for any resulting purchases.
Beyond that, the music industry doesn’t give independent artists many attractive options for selling their music online in any profitable way. The streaming services pay next to nothing, if you believe BASCA’s claim that Spotify paid Lady Gaga a whopping $167 for 1 million streams of “Poker Face.” Likewise, iTunes and CDBaby take a significant chunk out of sales for a low-volume artist. It’s led to a grey area where indie artists basically give away their music or it’s shared illegally. Good for fans, not for sustainable creativity.
The founders of reKiosk set out to give independent artists and publishers the simple tools they need to distribute their work while crediting those who’ve helped raised awareness. The result is a curator-driven marketplace (still in beta) that delivers the majority of any sale to the creator or the curator.
Rather than direct readers to iTunes, a blogger can send them to his or her reKiosk store, where they get a 25 percent cut of any sale. reKiosk takes 5 percent and the creator gets the rest. It reminds me of the spate of new curator-driven rewards programs springing up that use custom affiliate links to reward sharing and influence. Referly is one. RewardStyle is popular with fashion bloggers. Gumroad helps you sell things to your friends.
reKiosk, based in Brooklyn, uses Dwolla rather than PayPal and processes payments once a month to avoid fees related to per-song micropayments. The company works with independent publishers in both music and literature and will eventually offer a freemium model for power users to list more items. The company will take down its registration wall in late August.
The site is targeting independent publishers and sellers. It’ll never be the goal to sell a Rihanna album, for example. At some point, major labels may get on board, but the marketplace “doesn’t offer them much” in terms of special treatment for the time being, says co-founder Aziz Isham. The biggest difference between reKiosk’s marketplace and anything similar on Amazon.com is that it is 100 percent curated by humans.
“I used to go to the record store every single Tuesday. I want to bring that excitement and personal interaction back to digital retail,” Isham says. “I don’t get a thrill when Amazon tells me I might like Aesop Rock. It’s like, ‘No shit I like Aesop Rock’.” He adds that the goal isn’t necessarily to get rich, but to create a market that’s useful, disruptive, and rewards the right people.
The charm of the Internet is that it’s democratic. Something like 80 percent of books are independent and self-published now, Isham says. “You could argue that we’re going for a smaller audience now, but maybe also the future audience.”
The company has early investments from Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Groupe, as welll as Benji Rogers, the CEO of PledgeMusic, a crowdfunded music site, and Colin Robinson, co-publisher of OR Books. The company will raise a proper round of funding in the Fall.
(Disclosure: My band’s record label is an early “power user” of the site, which is how I found out about it. No word on whether we/they have made any money on it, but it’s gotta be more than any check Spotify has cut us…)