It doesn’t matter that many people have tried some version of this startup, or that they’ve all more or less struggled to find traction. TuneGO founder John Kohl merely sees that as justification that his new approach will work.
With eight employees, half a million dollars in seed funding from private investors, ten industry experts, 250 bands and a half-built platform, he is going for it: TuneGO, which launched as a project on Indiegogo last week, aims to connect up-and-coming indie bands with industry insiders.
Las Vegas-based TuneGO’s focus is on an artist’s career development, a place where other platforms promising this same thing have stopped short, says Kohl. That’s why he has signed up a team of ten producers to participate in his platform. Many of them own equity in the startup. That includes Ron Dante, who has produced records for Barry Manilow, Cher and Ray Charles, and Desmond Child, who has worked with the likes of Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Christina Aguilera. Between the ten producers, they’ve worked on 50 number one Billboard singles and accounted for 350 million albums sold.
The producers are on board, Kohl says, because, believe it or not, they actually are on the hunt for new talent. (I suppose VC’s, hard as they are to reach, would be similarly open to this idea for fear of missing out on the next Snapchat.) The producers needed little convincing to join, Kohl says. “They see it as an incredible opportunity opportunity to find the next breakout star,” he says. “They are highly engaged. They are actually calling themselves TuneGO producers.”
It’s a tougher sell to the up-and-coming artists, he says. Artists are skeptical of new technologies because they’ve seen so many different ones come and go. That is why TuneGO is free for artists to sign up, and the company will introduce premium features (similar to the model ReverbNation) down the line. In its current iteration, the site (in beta-mode) is basically a social network built around music with the producers acting as power-users.
Artists sign up to the platform, upload their music, and, in theory, make connections with these producers, songwriters and promoters. They can get feedback on their music. They can sign up with TuneGO’s partners such as Spotify to have their music streamed there, or licensing partners, to have their music featured in TV shows and maybe on the radio. Kohl calls it “career development” for artists, something that successful artist tools like ReverbNation stop short at.
The site is building social media promotion and things like mailing list functionality to compete with existing offerings in the market. TuneGO is also building “TuneGO Academy,” a resource center full of tutorials, blog posts, webinars filled with advice from experts on how to navigate the music industry. There is also an analytics product, regional showcases, as well as an “Adopt an Artist” program. The company is taking a bit of a “kitchen sink” approach.
TuneGO is trying to build an online community in an industry that’s historically been based on connections and networking. “We believe we have the right people in place to actually create success stories, and that’s what is going to separate us from the rest of the pack,” he says. “Either we’re going to make success stories or we’re not.”
TuneGO plans to remove its “beta” sticker at SXSW in March. In the meantime, the company has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise awareness of the platform among artists.