You’d think the number of deep-pocketed and/or hugely popular music sites and services would be discouraging new entries by now.
But no. A small group of New Yorkers has just launched The Banded, a site for non-major-label music. Because it’s kind of late to the game, The Banded puts into practice some of the lessons learned from social network pioneers like MySpace and Facebook.
Here’s how the site works: Artists set up accounts. Fans set up accounts. The two groups intermingle, with fans creating playlists and voting for and discussing who they like or don’t.
I spoke to founder Andy Volanakis, who previously ran mobile phone downloads site Zingy after serving as the general manager for Mobile Personalization Products at Sprint. I’ll paraphrase our talk rather than misquote Andy.
The Banded’s reason for existence is this: Good-sounding music recordings done without major-label backing are, like most digital media, proliferating at an increasing rate. You don’t need to hate Hollywood rock stars to appreciate that there’s now a huge trove of music to pore through that’s well-recorded, well-edited to remove the ugly bumps, sung in tune thanks to pitch correction software, and just happens to not be sold by Warner Music Group.
The band Demander, one of the pre-launch artists on The Banded, has a song called “Future Brite” that could easily be popular on alternative radio, should the fickle winds of youth-culture popularity blow its way. As a member of The Banded, I can discover Demander, sift through their songs in a MySpace-like player, and add Future Brite to a playlist. I can post to their page about how much I love them and how everyone should skip straight to Future Brite on Demander’s player, trust me!
Nothing new there, but Volanakis says The Banded has a quirky compensation plan in the works: They’re going to split the site’s ad revenue — currently coming from a Google AdSense box — with only the two most popular artists on the site. So for two acts, The Banded will deliver a monthly paycheck that’s hopefully big enough to matter. To be clear, a company spokesman told me, “The Banded will split the site’s ad revenues with the most popular acts per month, and that number is compounded month by month so there is ongoing compensation for those bands.”
What about everyone else? “No one has any use for 47 cents,” Volanakis said, explaining the company’s decision not to try to pay something to everyone. Besides, he said, bands are more likely to make real cash by selling merchandise through the site and using The Banded to get them to show up at live performances.
How is this any different from MySpace other than the lack of major-label music? The Banded also plans to be a more fan-driven site, whereas MySpace is more of an artist-driven site. A rabid, active fan base will be essential to an act being floated to the top of The Banded’s lists and pages.
The site has a pretty good launch set of acts. I like the band Sex & Missiles for sounding nothing at all like their name suggests. But there’s a burning question most struggling artists will ask themselves: Do I really need to add yet another social site membership I have to manage?
After an hour of surfing the site, which has no major label acts hogging the stage and no screechy multimedia ads or enraging web-ad popups to ruin the music-browsing experience, I’ve concluded that the good and bad news for busy indie band members is: Yes, you should use The Banded’s Facebook Connect integration to sign up now.