We’re rapidly approaching our Unboxed/DUMBO Summer Friday event this, well, Friday, and in prep, we’re chatting with all of the participants — from bands to developers — to find out what they have in store. Today, we spoke with Andrew Zarick, CEO and Co-Founder of Digital DUMBO and StereoGrid, who will be showing off the ‘Grid at our event.
In a nutshell, StereoGrid provides an easy avenue for artists to get their tunes into the hands of music bloggers, and, consequently, a handy spot for bloggers to unearth new tunes. The platform — which has both blogger and artist accounts — creates media player widgets for bloggers seeking to share tunes, and tons of stats as to where that song is played and shared for bloggers and bands alike. Bloggers can also track which submitted songs are getting buzz via a handy dashboard, thus ensuring that they don’t miss the rise of the proverbial “next big thing.”
We spoke with Zarick in advance of Friday’s show to find out more about his background and StereoGrid. Read on for our Q&A, and make sure to swing by his table at DUMBO Summer Friday.
So what’s your background? How did you get into this space?
I studied Media Arts in college and graduated in 2007. Throughout my last semester of college I taught myself digital marketing to make some beer money. I became well-versed in SEO, paid search and affiliate marketing. I knew enough to talk myself into a job with a digital agency in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I was there for three years. While at the agency, in 2007, I started a social gathering called Digital DUMBO, which has since grown into one of the largest digital communities in NYC and the country. We’ve done events both domestically and internationally. In 2009 I started a hip-hop blog called 100BestRapSongs.com. At its peak, 100BRS grew to 300,000 pageviews per month. Currently I focus my time on Digital DUMBO and StereoGrid.
What is the creation story of StereoGrid? What inspired you to make it?
My experience managing 100BestRapSongs.com was very eye-opening. I was exposed first-hand to the chaotic ecosystem of music PR. Essentially every artist is vying for exposure in a very noisy and very competitive space, which often results in artists spraying and praying. They build large email lists of music bloggers to send their music to, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. This causes problems on both sides of the equation.
Music bloggers become inundated with content and simply don’t have enough time to sift through all the songs in their inbox, even if they’d like to. As a result, music bloggers usually end up posting the music they are most familiar with because they don’t have enough time in the day to listen to unfamiliar artists. On the artist side, if a new artist does somehow break through the inbox clutter, catches the ear of a music blogger, and gets their song posted live, current media players and web platforms don’t help artists reap the full benefits of the exposure.
StereoGrid is built to streamline the music PR process for both music websites and artists. Artists send their music to both their existing press lists and the StereoGrid Network of websites. Instead of being delivered to an email inbox, the music sits in a curated playlist on StereoGrid for music websites to log in and preview. If the websites like the song, they embed our proprietary media player and we report back the analytics and help artists capture new fan email addresses once live.
How will you monetize? It’s free right now, right?
In the next iteration of StereoGrid we’re releasing what we call the Artist Dashboard. Within each dashboard, the artist has the opportunity to pay to unlock premium artist analytics for either an unlimited number of releases per month or a single release. These analytics tell the artist who from their email list or the StereoGrid Network has viewed their song or listened to their song, who then posted in live, and once live, the number of plays, downloads and social shares to Facebook and Twitter. Artists can also export fan email addresses of fans who downloaded their music.
How many bands use the service?
Around 1,000 artists have used StereoGrid. We only officially opened the platform in December of 2011. Our two most high-profile users are representatives from Slum Village and Pitbull.
How many blogs are tapped in?
We have several hundred music bloggers within our network. Some of our sites are HipHopSite.com, PlanetPit, The Couch Sessions, Blah Blah Blah Science and Get Right Music.
Is it popular with any particular genres?
Although we originally saw mostly hip-hop, we now see submissions across many different genres from all over the world.
Do you find that most music blogs are OK with using your widgets? I know some have limitations on what kinds of widgets they can use.
Unlike most music platforms, StereoGrid was built with the music website top of mind. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to our bloggers. They asked for things like flexible width, customizable color scheme, mobile compatibility and Hype Machine compatibility. We enable all of those things. We also report back song engagement metrics to music bloggers so they can see how their audience is engaging with the music they post.
How many plays does the average song get?
This question depends on the caliber of the artist. We’ve had songs that have ended up on Mashable which get many thousands, and then songs that only get picked up on niche music websites where there are only hundreds of plays, but from a highly relevant audience.
How do you stop people from using the site for filesharing? It seems possible, since you can upload.
We deter blatant filesharing in a number of ways. For starters, no song can be downloaded on StereoGrid.com. The only actions any user can take are play or embed. Download only happens once a media player is embedded on a music website. Unlike most other filesharing websites, a fan has to enter their email address to download the song. We then email the song to the fan. That download URL we email cannot be shared. The song can only be downloaded from the IP of the fan that requested the song. These precautions aren’t favorable to the average file-sharer.
What’s on tap for you all in the future?
Mobile is the future. We know what songs and what artists fans like when they download music via our media players. We are emailing them the music now, but eventually we could just as easily push them new music via mobile. Fans don’t know where to turn to get a constant stream of fresh new music. We may have an answer for that, while helping artists more effectively get their music in the hands of fans more quickly.
Image courtesy of craigCloutier