Within a few decades, technology completely revamped the face of the music industry, specifically the distribution of music to fans.
The radio and vinyl records spinning on turntables were replaced by tightly pressed CDs capable of being carried around with you and put in your car — maybe even a CD walkman if you were lucky. CDs were slowly phased out, with streaming services proving themselves to be more capable and easier to navigate, and once Apple opened their online music store in conjunction with the iPod, the writing on the wall became clear.
Listeners have become accustomed to a few main streaming services in the past decade — Apple Music, Spotify and Soundcloud pushing their way to the forefront of the streaming services competition. Specifically, Soundcloud’s free uploading platform allowed for the proliferation of hip-hop and EDM, creating new genre variations seemingly overnight.
Along with these new services, a new crop of entrepreneurs and innovators emerged, attempting to break down the walls of entrenched corporate America within music.
One local innovative company, Live Undiscovered Music, is attempting to correct the industry and make it easier for up-and-coming artists to gain traction within the community to get their names established. Co-founded by Luke Logan and Max Fergus, both seniors at the University of Wisconsin, LUM’s (pronounced loom) main goal is to create a social network that is centered around optimizing organic music growth for up and coming artists, by allowing promotion of the songs on their charts through users ranking and sharing their new discoveries.
There has long been a disconnect between how much an artist could make off of streaming songs and the number of streams the song receives. Nipsey Hussle, a rapper who has dominated the Los Angeles mixtape scene for the past decade, revealed that getting a million streams on one of the mainstreaming services like Apple Music would give the artist a maximum of $12,500.
Many established artists such as Beyonce or Taylor Swift, are the ones who are receiving the actual benefits from streaming because they’re actually receiving enough streams to monetize on it.
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Fergus said 99 percent of the music streamed belongs to 10 percent of the labels and artists. This means the remaining 1 percent has to be divvied up and distributed to the hundreds of thousands of other talented artists that are out there simply not receiving exposure.
LUM recognized streaming music is not a way for artists to make a lot of money, which is why they view their role as being a means to an end for an artist to tour and get signed, not to be their sole source of income.
There is no barrier to entry on the LUM platform, one simply has to sign up to post music, meaning artists aren’t having to pay, like they do through Spotify, to get their music heard. In this regard, it is similar to the original goals of Soundcloud, which emerged as the go-to spot for up-and-coming artists to begin posting music for free and potentially gain national attention.
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Where LUM differentiates itself, is their social media. The application allows for users to post rankings of theirs or immediately share their new artist finds directly with friends, instead of having to scroll through a feed mostly dominated by major label artists who pay for promotion within the app.
LUM’s format attempts to guarantee that it is not simply money paying for the song to be up at the top, or just the amount of streams it has.
“No one really knows what a stream counts for or how engaged the person actually is with the song, it could have been barely played but it counts,” Fergus said.
This means that the stream count on a song doesn’t really tell the full story, something the LUM social feed wants to change.
If someone tells you to listen to a song, then you are more likely to listen to them, the same way if a song is at the top of the charts you’ll probably give it a listen. By eliminating the ability of labels to dominate the top of the charts by promoting tons of streams through their own corporate finances, LUM gives fans the ability to see who is actually gaining traction locally and then see them live.
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When it comes to live music, the two are already planning for the future.
A big part of their focus is to change the way that fans view the relationship between streaming and circulating music while finding how it correlates to live music shows. In this arena of trying to promote live music, LUM has already partnered with Strange Music Oasis to host a show featuring local talent on March 14, at the Frequency in Madison.
The new company has already signed up almost 150 local artists for the beta version of the platform, showing that artists have been looking for an opportunity like this to be able to grow locally, and not have to give up all their money or time battling for views on a national platform.
By focusing locally, LUM stands apart from larger apps, with a base in a city that allows for specific focus on local artists, and also giving those artists the ability to perform in their own city.
Logan and Fergus have a deep passion for their project, and they truly believe it can change the industry as we know it. The growth potential for this platform is large, and if it can get into cities by partnering with local artists at a smaller level, it will give them deeper credibility and open even more doors.
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“Everyone wants to cheer for an underdog, and our platform is full of them,” Logan said.
Fergus and Logan are working on launching their product this summer. If you want more information on the platform and what it might entail, you can go check out their Facebook Page, Live Undiscovered Music.