Backstage Acquires Music Promotion Startup Sonicbids For $15M+ To Build A LinkedIn For Creatives

If you’re an independent band, or actor, or clown, or really creative of any stripe, you’re probably looking for a gig. But try as you might, finding that gig is tough. But what if there were a platform that gave creatives their very own LinkedIn or CareerBuilder? In a down economy, where millions are struggling to find regular work, any site that helps musicians connect with gigs at places like SXSW, Bonnaroo or MTV, or helps actors, dancers and performers line up spots in film, TV and beyond, is a step in the right direction.

That is the reason why, in a deal backed by Guggenheim Partners, Backstage decided to shell out about $15 million to acquire the Boston-based Sonicbids. Backstage (besides being a place that I’m not allowed) is a 50-year-old entertainment industry brand known for publishing a weekly trade rag and bimonthly industry directory/digest, among other things. Essentially, the company’s goal is to help those working in the performing arts to connect with casting directors, job opportunities and career advice.

Given their shared mission, acquiring Sonicbids makes perfect sense. Like Backstage, Sonicbids fancies itself a matchmaker (of the online variety), with a particular focus on connecting bands and promoters. The site essentially makes it easier for bands to connect with gigs and those who control which bands get those gigs, without having to pay millions for those referrals. In turn, promoters can search Sonicbids’ database of thousands of bands and musicians when they’re looking for someone to fill in when and if Ozzie doesn’t show up.

Musicians can use Sonicbids to manage their “Electronic Press Kits” and book gigs all over the globe, engage fans, reach fans and promote their music. It’s not easy to get musicians to pay for these kinds of services, and Sonicbids has traditionally come with application and subscription fees, so sites like these have had to hustle to prove they offer a big value-add for independent, cash-strapped performers. It also happens to be the platform that SXSW uses to accept band applications.

Generally speaking, Sonicbids operates in the same space with companies like ReverbNation, BandCamp, the publishing platform for musicians that offers direct-to-fan music and merchandise sales, VibeDeck, an affordable direct-to-fan eCommerce destination and direct-sales platform, Nimbit, but the similarities tend to be broad.

For Backstage and Sonicbids, the companies share the similar goal (and history) of connecting artists with gigs and both companies have served this two-sided network for years. Also, to be fair, a goal that’s shared by OneSheet, which is on a mission to become the for the entertainment industry. Onesheet also happens to be founded by Brendan Mulligan, the same guy who built ArtistData, whose dashboard for musicians was acquired by Sonicbids in 2010. Mulligan worked as VP of Strategic Development until taking off to start Onesheet.

With the acquisition, the company said that it will have 600K registered users and 60K paying subscribers in what they believe is a “rapidly growing” portion of the performing arts market. Together, the companies hope to create the LinkedIn for the creative community — a destination site where performing artists can go to get gigs, educate themselves and manage their careers. With that mission, don’t be surprised if, together, they go knocking on the door of Onesheet at some point soon.

As a result of the acquisition, Sonicbids will maintain its headquarters in Boston and both will basically continue to operate as separate entities, with Backstage Chairman and CEO John Amato leading the group. The startup’s founder, Panos Panay, will continue serving as Sonicbids’ CEO.

For more, find the companies’ joint letter here.

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