If the Facebook IPO failed to get your music-loving heart twitterpating all over the place, perhaps stock market-inspired music discovery service and app TastemakerX will. The game opened to the public today, allowing music fans to buy and sell stock in their favorite bands.
“I started my career in the music business 20 years ago,” says Marc Ruxin, CEO of TastemakerX. “When I was a little kid I wanted to be Clive Davis or John Peel — one of these uber tastemakers. So I got a job as the assistant to the assistant of the president of EMI records. I didn’t manage to f**k up enough, so he gave me a job as a scout in the A&R department.”
With those 20 years under his belt, Ruxin launched the TastemakerX iOS app in private beta in April. The app accrued 4,000 users over the last few months and Ruxin used their feedback to shape the service into the new website and updated iOS app that dropped today.
So what exactly is TastemakerX? Well, it’s kind of a stock market/fantasy sports league service for music lovers. Create a profile (complete with favorite bands and concerts, etc) and you’re given 25,000 notes that you can use to buy stock in bands that you think are “the next big thing.” Each player has a “T-Score” from 1 to 100 that increases when you make good band-buying decisions and when other users follow you or like/comment on your activity. Ruxin plans to monetize the site in later months by selling notes to users who run out (you earn notes for activity) or enlisting brands to sponsor notes.
The new website — which is music easier to navigate than the app — has four sections. “Artists” shows you which bands are trending. Click on a band to read bios, see top shareholders, listen to samples on iTunes and buy and sell stock. “Players” will show you top users on the site, complete with their “Portfolio” of bands, activity and TastemakerX friends and followers. You can follow any user you like with a simple click. The “Trades” section shows up-to-the-minute and notable activity on the site, and “Events” shows just that — upcoming music festivals.
Although slick and easy to navigate, the site could use a few tweaks and changes. For one, you have to search for bands and other users. It would be much easier if the site were integrated with Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to easily find and follow friends, as well as unearth a list of bands (liked on Facebook) that you might want to invest in. The iOS app has social integration, so we’re not sure why the site doesn’t as well.
Also, a Spotify integration (or app) would have been much smarter than the current iTunes tie-in. Imagine being able to create a playlist of charting bands and listen to it later via Spotify — that would be much more useful when it comes to music discovery than listening to a few samples. And, of course, the music snob in me must point out that I was unable to find some of my favorite bands on the service. How can I invest in up-and-coming bands if I can’t find them? Tell me that, TastemakerX.
Despite these hiccups, the conceit of the service is interesting — especially the fact that Ruxin thinks that TastemakerX could potentially become as popular as fantasy sports. “I started playing fantasy baseball in the ’90s and I got hopelessly addicted to this and it occurred to me that music is as big a global passion as any sport,” he says.
He also thinks that TastemakerX could be useful to bands looking to unearth and target their most dedicated fans. “If you imagine a band like Arcade Fire who has millions of Likes on Facebook, they don’t know who their super fans are,” he says. “Facebook and Twitter don’t give artists any transparency as to who their real fans are or fans a mechanism to express that they’re super fans.”
What do you think? Would you spend time buying and selling shares of your favorite bands?