Music. You listen to what you know you like, you look for what you hope you will. Maybe you make music, and would like to make it for a living. Perhaps you would like to break into some other aspect of the music industry. You may be one of those people who like to find a band or artist before the masses “discover” it, keeping track of every rung on their ladder up to that crucial massive sales point, if not beyond. You probably wouldn’t mind getting paid something for trying any of those possibilities.
That list and far more is covered at Starpolish.com. How about cash rewards ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 for on-site artists who sell the most CDs there? (80% of the CD sales revenue goes back to the artists, making theirs the highest rates paid in the independent mp3 promoting community.) Does the same monetary possibility for artists who compile the largest mailing lists sound good? (One of the new services offered will be a mailing list manager for artists, where they can write an e-mail and with the click of a button send it to their entire fan base.) $25,000 sound even better? Two developmental grants are given: the SuperNova Grant, given to a single artist or group, and the StarCluster Grant, given to a collective of artists or an emerging music scene. You don’t even have to make music to win – just listen to it and win $1000 for buying one CD or simply signing up on one of the mailing lists.
Okay, money talks, but Starpolish sings. Those actual amounts pale in comparison to the value of what Starpolish is set up to offer. Over 30 genres for the adventurous listener to explore for new music should keep anyone busy for prolonged periods of free listening discovery. However, the education resources hosted there could prove far more valuable to those who make the music happen. While hoping to sell CDs for the artists is a goal, supporting the artist is Starpolish’s playing field, the rules, and the name of the game. Though there is no actual university out there where you can learn how to break into the Biz, Starpolish offers RockStar 101 through the Masters Degree Program, if you’re ready and willing.
Founder and CEO Vivek Tiwary reveals his inspirations and ambitions for the Web site. “What excites me the most about Starpolish is the concept of creating something that is really going to help the artists, especially the true emerging artists who really don’t know where to begin as far as the business side of things. When I first started interning in the music industry at a record label, I always said that the biggest thrill for me would be for me to be credited in the thank-yous of an artist that I cared about. My ambitions have grown dramatically since then but the heart of that feeling is still there. I really hope to be able to help some artists who express themselves wonderfully artistically and bring them to the rest of the world who may not be exposed to it quite so easily. I think that is a way of leveling the playing field. “
Although Starpolish is a relatively young Web site, Vivek has already received tales of upstart bands already chiming in with reports on how the site has helped them take some big steps they may not have considered on their own, as well as established artists who are commenting to him on how they wish advice like this had existed when they were starting up, which would have saved them a lot of time and effort on lessons learned the old-fashioned way – basically hindsight and shoulda wouldas. Dickey Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine personify that sentiment as some of the members of the Artist Advisory Board, which offers inside advice from the viewpoint of current recording artists. Vivek relates, “I wanted the artist advice to be represented by half recognized artists and half developing artists. That way the developing artists can offer us a lot of real advice on what we are doing before any piece of content goes up on the Web site. So by the time we get to putting something up on the Web site we’re sure that it’s as in line with what our emerging artist audience is looking for as possible. And not just for advice content but also for new marketing ideas and new services that we’re planning on rolling out.”
An A & R Panel made up of over 30 music industry professionals from major and independent labels oversee and contribute while checking Starpolish to see if there are any worthwhile artists in need of their label’s attention. Vivek explains what sets this site apart from others when it comes to garnering the interest of record labels and those elusive contracts. “The business is a very difficult and complicated place, and I think that the Internet is a wonderful source of information and education, but I feel that it’s also dangerous because I feel that a lot of the information is poor. I feel that a lot of the advice that is offered on the Internet is not great, and I also feel that the idea being presented that if you just put your MP3s up on the Internet you’re going to get huge just because it goes all over the world. While that has happened in a few very rare cases, it is certainly true that the Net is not just the one tool that an artist needs to put in their arsenal. They still need to play shows, market themselves on college campuses, and at least for now, off-line radio is still a very important element to an artist’s marketing mix.
“And there are so many other things that they need to do, which is why we have such a comprehensive advice library. A lot of people are talking about breaking a band on the Internet though it hasn’t really happened yet, and who’s going to be the first to do it. In an ironic way, the reason that it may be us is because we’re one of the only sites on the Internet that’s saying ‘don’t rely on us.'”
While helping bands to become self-reliant and self-educated, the library of knowledge presented here is well balanced regarding responsibility and delegation, and is not painting a cyber-rosy scenario that internet musical downloads will replace record labels. Vivek expands on this, “Starpolish is definitely not an anti-label site, and by no means are we trying to say ‘screw the record labels.’ What we’re trying to do is educate the artist to be able to do as much as they can themselves, and to know when they need to turn the reigns over to a label, a manager or whomever. When they’re ready to do that, to be able to pick the right person for them, and negotiate the right contract.”
Vivek points out that if you are a mainstream type artist, you should probably not waste time attempting to go through the D.I.Y. route, putting out your own records, etc. “You should be with a major label, because you need the type of a team that a major has to offer to promote that properly. Then there are others who may think that they need that, but through Starpolish will find that they can do a lot, or perhaps with a manager, all of it themselves.”
More professional perspectives come from an Industry Advisory Panel offering their own tips and tales on how to get your foot stuck in the door and keep it there. For the emerging artists, it choreographs some of that fancy footwork by seasoned pros in management (namely Springsteen’s and Shania Twain’s), major record label CEOs (whose work through Sony, Atlantic, Mercury, and Warner Bros. collaboratively connects you with the experiential benefits of Kiss, Jay-Z, Hanson, Elvis Costello, 311, the Cardigans, Cake, Madonna, Neil Young, REM, Phil Collins, Jewel, and Stone Temple Pilots, among others), talent agents (who have had their hooks in Britney Spears, N’Sync, the Allman Brothers Band, Meatloaf, Alice Cooper, Cyndi Lauper, Backstreet Boys, and Fatboy Slim, to name a few), promotions, publishing, legal advisors, and producers.
Senior Vice President of Music Development for New Line Cinema, Jason Linn (who finds artists for New Line Films and soundtracks), serves up his expert experience as well. I asked him how he sees the future aspects of the music industry adapting to the digital domain. “From an A & R perspective, it’s virtually limitless. Digital distribution is definitely the future, although with a whole new set of challenges. Of course, the big question mark is how is it going to be regulated, but as a marketing tool, it is amazing. For instance, we (New Line Cinema) just ran a contest where the Internet listeners voted on a best new hard rock song, and the winner would get a track on the soundtrack to our movie, Little Nicky. The winning band turned out to be from Estonia. So this obscure band in a Russian republic won this worldwide contest. We would never have found them otherwise.”
And how does Jason see himself fitting into the Starpolish scheme of things? “My background is in trying to get the new artist in the 50 to100,000 record sales area, where the big machine of a real label can kick in. Getting the first 50,000 people to buy your record can get you to resort to some creative guerilla tactics. But I think bands will always need record companies. Their marketing expertise, budget, and the ability to creatively reach people in large numbers are something that the average artist won’t have immediate access to anytime soon. And it will be nice to see some of the bigger artists not having to rely on record companies to get their records out, or to put out material that certain corporations might find their own justifiable objections to.”
If you’re interested in working behind the scenes, Starpolish holds just as much promise for you. Vivek explains, “This is also an opportunity for me not to just to help developing projects and bands careers, but to help young industry people kick start their careers into the music business as well.” Vivek gave many people their first exposure into that business while he worked his own way up through the ranks of Atlantic and Mercury Records, and Sony Music.
No matter what your interest in the business of music is, there is a gold mine of knowledge and experience here. Imaging, sponsorship, producing demos, recording, booking, legal advice, publishing, cyber-marketing, touring, publishing, contracts, increasing club draws; this list barely scrapes the surface of the Starpolish advice section. And the page of resource links that any artist needs (even by geographical area), plus the page of upcoming services and advice columns are absolutely mind-boggling. Sit up straight, sharpen your No. 2 mouse, and get ready to take and make notes.