RockStar Motel wants to put artist success in the hands of music fans

Luca Sacchetti has just created a social music network with the goal of giving fans the power to sign and represent artists online. RockStar Motel enters private beta today, with an official launch in October 2011.

“It amazes me how emotionally drained I feel,” says founder Sacchetti in an email to me this morning. “I pictured this day completely different than how I feel at this moment. When I started this journey I felt like there was nothing that could stop me from getting [RockStar Motel] to the people, and now that I’m here, I’m actually scared. Thank god for my kids, they have a way of making me feel like a warrior.”

And that, my friends, is really how Sacchetti talks. Don’t roll your eyes! He is that passionate about this project. Perhaps it’s that passion that will make a social media music platform with a gamification twist succeed.

I spoke with Sacchetti by phone last week while he prepared today’s beta launch. The company is based out of Seattle, WA; a fitting setting for an emotional musician, which is what Sacchetti started out as. He moved to Seattle from Los Angeles after growing tired of the “pay to play” scene that was popular in music venues at that time. He was broke but determined, and Seattle’s grunge scene made it the music capital of the 1990’s. He met Grammy-winning producer Don Gilmore there. The two became friends, but Gilmore wasn’t in a position to help Sacchetti, yet.

Sacchetti was becoming disenchanted with music. He was broke but wanted to start a family. He says he had to get his priorities in line.

“I ended up becoming a real ego maniac that was so desperate to succeed in this industry,” Sacchetti says in his impossibly hip-sounding voice. “It had to do with ego, and nothing to do with talent. I decided to leave the business.”

He got a job in construction but was haunted by his dream of being successful in music. He got married and had a son.

“That’s when the darkness passed,” Sacchetti says. One day, while driving back to Seattle from a construction job in Vancouver, he got the idea for RockStar Motel.

The social platform would be a way for fans to sign and represent their favorite artists and earn “royalties” for promoting the artist and recruiting new fans. Musicians could reward fans for their dedication however they saw fit (free tickets, a free download, etc.). It could also serve as a music-discovery platform for users wanting to find and promote new independent artists. RockStar Motel would also be a marketing platform for both signed and unsigned artists to leverage the power of their fans for their future success.

“There’s a possibility for great things to happen in this industry, and it’s about empowering the fan and the musician,” says Sacchetti. “The fan becomes the record label. They sign and represent their favorite artists. They pledge loyalty to that artist. The more loyalty, the more fame the artist gets.”

The concept certainly appeals to both fans and artists, but the music industry is a volatile one. Some of the most successful companies fall to lawsuits (Napster) or get bought out and incorporated into larger companies and the technology languishes. Take, for example, Imeem, a social site where users interacted with each other by streaming, uploading and sharing music and music videos. However, after MySpace acquired the service in 2009, it was shut down.

“Spending six years building something, then watching it dismantled and scrapped, sucks,” says Imeem founder Dalton Caldwell, who served as CEO of the company from 2003 to 2009. “Startups with ‘tools for artists’ are hard since artists, especially small ones, don’t have any money. Plus the market is totally saturated — hundreds of these startups exist.”

Imeem was a success before it was scrapped. It raised over $50 million from Sequoia Capital and other venture capitalists. It acquired three companies, grew to 95 employees and reached a $24 million yearly revenue runrate. At peek, Imeem music widgets hit 108 million monthly unique visitors.

“Silicon Valley and Hollywood are two polarized groups that constantly misinterpret each other’s actions and view everything through a lens of mistrust,” says Caldwell. “The music industry is largely populated with smart people who are largely ethical, nice and reasonable — in equal percentage to Silicon Valley.”

Record companies don’t smile upon competition, especially when it comes from the world of technology. Sacchetti says he hopes record labels will think his platform is cool, but he is focused on artists owning their rights and publishing.

“My wife thought I was nuts,” says Sacchetti, about how he worked from 8pm to 3am, after a full day of construction work, on RockStar Motel. After two years of fleshing out the concept, the people he needed to make it a reality starting coming out of the woodwork.

“All of a sudden these team members started appearing, out of nowhere,” says Sacchetti. He met a retired Oracle database programmer at a housewarming party. During a hockey game in Vancouver Island he met another programmer. He made a cold call to one of the lawyers of the Napster trial. She had 15 minutes, but ended up giving him five hours. She agreed to take on an advising roll in the company and joined the board. Don Gilmore, the music producer, also got involved and helped funnel bands to the beta test. All of them agreed to getting a stake in the company instead of paychecks. Sacchetti didn’t have money, so he started pitiching friends and family. To date the company has raised $700,000.

That’s am impressive sum for friends and family to contribute, but perhaps that’s because Sacchetti’s passion is equally impressive.

“This is the music industry in your face and at your fingertips,” he says. “The vision that I have is pretty big. I want to get people psyched on what happens here. Right now, it’s just the first step.”

I’ll be checking in on RockStar Motel once it launches in October. It’s granted us 200 “back stage passes,” so if you’re dying to try it out, visit rockstarmotel.com and enter the code 5314762 to register. Feel free to shoot me an email and let me know about your experience. I’m especially curious to know what bands think of the platform. I bet the record companies are, too.