Chicago-based startup 8th Stage is launching in beta form today, offering independent music artists a way to push forward and track their career online. The idea is to give artists more tools to help them deal with the changing nature of the music industry, which no longer takes big risks on unproven acts with expensive record contracts the way it has in the past.
What’s changed about the music industry? According to 8th Stage co-founder Paul Jorgensen, a lot. For one, record labels don’t have the big budgets to spend on discovering and developing talent based on the old methods of demo tapes and one-off auditions, and for another, it doesn’t really make good financial sense to use those methods when everyone has YouTube accounts, Twitter and Facebook and many often try to build followings on those channels independently.
What those channels lack, and what 8th Stage wants to provide, is some transparency and guidance around how you get from playing music on your own to becoming a musician professionally, or just to advancing your hobby to the next level.
“I realized the industry had changed so much, when I tried myself to make it as an artist and I literally had people at labels saying ‘Five or ten years ago we could take this demo and give you like a million or two and you and could just go and record,'” Jorgensen said, explaining what’s changed to make 8th Stage necessary. “But because they weren’t really generating the money anymore that they used to with record sales, they’d become these giant risk averse corporations.”
Talent development is no longer so much the province of the record labels, and that’s where 8th Stage comes in. The site offers artists the chance to create profile pages, complete with skills, personal details, music and samples, and more. Those artists can then connect to work on projects, and view available opportunities. Bands could be formed, or a local guitar player could find a band to sit in with for a single gig, all depending on what an artist wants to get out of the experience.
“One of our primary goals is making it easier for artists and industry professionals that have the skills and the experience and are at the maturity level that they’re looking for to work with,” Jorgensen said. “And then the second part of it was finding opportunities. So whether that opportunity was for headlining a tour, getting a song featured in a TV show, or securing a sponsorship, whatever that opportunity may be, artists want to get paid.”
8th Stage is working on developing partnerships that will help with a lot of those goals, but Jorgensen says talks are still in progress so the company can’t announce anything definitive just yet. The startup is bootstrapped, with a lot of the funding coming from CEO and founder Marcus Cobb, but Jorgensen says they could look for funding sometime in 2014. Beta users can sign up at the site now to request an invite to join.