Rushmore.fm, a new London-based startup founded by Fictive Kin and Betaworks, is de-cloaking somewhat today with what sounds like the rather lofty but noble mission to fix the music industry. Described as a “music ecosystem”, the (currently) invite-only site initially consists of a Wikipedia-like music resource where you’re encouraged to contribute and follow content, although the site’s broader aim is to connect music fans “directly and effortlessly with the artists and labels they love”, and in doing so make it easier to make a living from music.
In fact, it’s what Rushmore sees as a disconnect between fans and artists that it’s trying to solve. Bring these two groups closer together and the company thinks there’s money to be made, which in turn can be reinvested in music. Of course, if it’s successful, that’s also how the startup plans to generate revenue via related services. “We need to get these folks connected with the fans that love them, and subsequently enable some sweet, sweet commerce,” reads the site’s mission statement.
With that in mind, along with its public (partial) unveiling, Rushmore is announcing the appointment of Alex Hunter, the former Global Head of Online for Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, as its CEO. While it may seem odd to hire an “outside” CEO so early, it’s a reflection of the incubation model that New York-based Betaworks, Rushmore’s backer, is employing. It’s teamed up with neighbouring design collective Fictive Kin who are charged with researching and coming up with a startup’s concept, before handing it over to take forward and scale — a methodology we’ve compared to the Hollywood studio model.
Once Rushmore.fm was green-lighted in late 2012, Hunter was approached. After agreeing to come onboard, it was decided the company should operate out of London, which has a decent track record for music-oriented startups. Last.fm, for example, famously exited to CBS, while more recently the likes of Songkick are making decent headway.
(As an aside, for those familiar with the London tech scene, Alex Hunter is the brother of Andrew Hunter, co-founder and CEO of jobs search engine Adzuna.)
As Rushmore stands today, the site uses a “follow” model to provide a way for music fans to stay up to date with news, live events, and new releases from their favourite artists. The clincher is that, collectively, they’re also the ones doing most of the work in the sense that content is at least partially based on user contributions (pages have a Wiki-esque “edit” button, though I’m told that contributors will always be invite-only), while Rushmore is rewarding fans who add content via virtual and unspecified real world rewards. There’s a sprinkling of gamification, too. Each week fans compete for the top spots on “The 300”, described as a “highly competitive chart of Rushmore’s top users”.
To that end, Rushmore says that its private beta users have made 200,000 music news, live event, and discography contributions already, which isn’t bad going, though we won’t declare the music industry fixed just yet.