Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ex-NUS undergraduate receives $10,000 seed money in entrepreneurship grant scheme to set up local music discovery website.

It all started when Danny W., back then a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate, saw an advertisement while waiting for a shuttle bus on campus and saw the poster ad of the NUS Innovation and Entrepreneurship Practicum Grant.
Back in college, Danny had several musician friends who aspired to become full time musicians, but they struggled and finally decided to follow the "normal" graduate path and find a stable job. Danny wanted to make a difference, and his vision was to create a digital music platform that focused on local musicians as a means for them to be more easily discovered. By coming in together as a grassroots movement and having a concentrated platform for local musicians, he hoped that aspiring musicians will then be able to reach out to a lot more people than just their friends-zone.
Danny W., creator of

However, putting ideas into action naturally required a financial investment and it had been a tough start for him.
“I was still a student in my final semester and without a penny in my pocket. How will I fund this social project?” Danny asked himself.
So when the opportunity came, he jumped on it and submitted his proposal to set up After weeks of waiting, he was finally notified that his business plan was selected to receive the $10,000 worth of funding.
He immediately looked for reputable website developers to create a prototype, The Alpha version came out for test drive in January 2012, and then on April 2012, the Beta version finally went online.

Screen shot of the website

How did you think your proposal stood out?
I believe the reason for being selected for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Practicum Grant was because iamLOCALIZED's main element is that I identified it as an online grassroots movement, where iamLOCALIZED will bring together local musicians and listeners to promote local music. Online grassroots movement is undoubtedly the most happening thing at the moment, and my idea consists of that element. The area I chose, local music, is probably also the reason why my proposal stood out. There have been so many efforts by the organizations and musicians themselves to promote local music. Every time when they are asked what is lacking in the local music scene, their answers have always been more-less the same: "there is no platform that brings local musicians and listeners together". Hence I came up with an idea of having an online music platform specifically just for the local musicians.
It seems that currently there are no revenue streams in your model. How do you plan to be sustainable?
We do know that we need to be able to sustain the website, and most importantly to keep on developing the website for better user experience. Thanks to the grant, the website will still run for the next 2 years and this gives us ample time to experiment a few business models, may it be something that already exists or a totally new innovation. As of now, we are trying out different revenue generation models that would fit well with Singapore market. Music is consumed differently in different countries, and hence we see the importance of not sticking with just one business model. We believe there must be few trials-and-errors, and analyze to figure out what fits well with Singapore market. One revenue stream is through our IALiveSHOW. We have tried it, and currently we are in talks with few prominent venues to hold future IALiveSHOWs.
How can artists be discovered on your website?
At the moment, it's actually just a normal simple search algorithm; no rocket science implemented. Users search band name that they already know. Type the band name or genre, and then it displays the results. 

Discovery can be done through the following features:
- Music Charts: Most Loved Chart, and Most Played Chart of the month
- New Releases: Recent uploaded songs on iamLOCALIZED
- Welcome Playlist: Mix of random playlist upon login
- Artists section: Manually look for artists from A-Z
- Search bar: Type in name of band or music genre 
- IALiveSHOW: Discovery through the live show, or via recorded video of the live show on iamLOCALIZED homepage, or YouTube
- Social Media posts: daily posts on Facebook and Twitter.
We found out from our survey that most of the local listeners have the tendency of not looking for new local acts themselves, but they tend to discover accidentally or they have seen the artists performed somewhere or through recommendation. Not only in Singapore, but this is also happening all over the world in these days. Through the discovery features that we have, especially with the Music Charts, New Releases, Welcome Playlist, and IALiveSHOW, we are actually recommending local music that our local listeners would like hear. We believe in equal promotion, so the amount of promotion each artist get on iamLOCALIZED is more or less equally the same.
Music charts: how does it work? One vote per person? Or multiple votes per person? Is it a weekly or monthly chart?
The music charts is a feature that we hope to bring the competitive spirit into the local music scene. Users can give one vote per song. It is a monthly chart where the Most Played Chart will reset at the end of the month. Most Loved Chart is where you give your votes (showing some loves as we call it) to the song that you like, and it will reset at the end of the year.
How are you working out the licensing issues?
We are currently in touch with COMPASS in how do we stand and go about in terms of music licensing matter. Copyright is a big issue for us because after all, we are promoting original local music. We are also helping aspiring musicians to know about the importance of copyright and protecting their original music, because it is part of the music business element that the aspiring musicians themselves need to know about.
As a new platform, how do you intend to get artists and publishers to join your website?
The main challenge is to convince the musicians that putting their music on iamLOCALIZED is safe, and is beneficial for their exposure. We have realized that, and we are able to convince the musicians that the website is safe. As mentioned before also, we are currently in touch with COMPASS in protecting the musicians’ music.
As for their exposure, IALiveSHOW is definitely the main feature we have. Musicians are able to perform live in venues where people are watching them perform. It is good for the aspiring musicians to be exposed to such atmosphere, and for the existing musicians, it is always good for them to have the opportunity to perform live. From there onwards, it is the musicians’ duty to impress using their music talent.
How is the response so far? Any future targets?
The long term target for iamLOCALIZED is to become the one-stop-shop music channel for local Singapore music. Since the beta went online, we have 70 registered artists and 165 registered listeners. That sum up to a total of 235 registered users. Through those 70 registered artists, there are a total of 101 songs, made in Singapore. By the end of the year, we are targeting to round up the number to 300 registered users. Not so ambitious as one might see, but starting next year we will be going "full force" in promoting the artists and their music through innovative collaborations with various parties.

Music sales/distribution definitely plays a big role as an indicator for the musicians’ existence in the music industry. But for iamLOCALIZED, discovery is the most important factor at the moment. If we are able to engage high numbers of audience to play songs on iamLOCALIZED, we can promote the musicians further and enable them to generate income from music sales/distribution, playing live/tour, royalties, etc. This would empower the musicians to keep doing music, and aspiring musicians to follow the footstep of those successful ones. From here, we can eventually start to have a healthy music scene where you will be able to see local musicians can live from doing music. For iamLOCALIZED, this would be our tipping point where iamLOCALIZED will be able to generate income along with the musicians.
Since your site only focuses on local music, do you think the market supply and demand is big enough for your model to be sustainable?
I believe that the local market supply and demand is not enough for iamLOCALIZED to be sustainable. Other than being able to sustain itself, iamLOCALIZED also needs to grow. Hence we believe there is a need to venture out of Singapore as well. What we are trying to do is to grow along with the musicians. We are also working toward getting collaboration and partnership outside of Singapore. This would open the door for the musicians to showcase themselves outside of Singapore and empower them in bringing good music representing Singapore.
To sustain the interests of listeners, the golden rule for all musicians is to keep challenging themselves to create new music. The same goes to our local musicians. It is not about quantity, but quality, and as a matter of fact considering the population we have, we actually do have quality materials to sustain the interest of users. For musicians, it is a matter of keeping the standard high and create even more quality material.
What is your view on shifting the role of taste making from mainstream media to the average listener?

With the power of social media, the opinion leaders are none other than ourselves. All of us now are giving comments or opinions to almost everything that we're being exposed to on social media platforms.
From what I discovered through research is that what shifted the decision-making in this case is the medium that the consumers use. Consumers have moved from listening to radios, to watching music videos on TV, and they now are able to consume both via the Internet, and more specifically via social media platforms. Consumers are however mostly still influenced by what others recommend. If they used to get recommendations from the DJs on the radio, or the music channels on TV, now most music consumers get recommendations from their Facebook newsfeed, or Tweets, or YouTube recommendation list. Your friends on Facebook are mostly friends you have similar interests. The same goes for the Twitter accounts that you follow. Hence you would likely to get hooked with what your peers are listening/watching. To figure out whether you would like it or now, it is now just a click away.

IALiveShow: how do you intend to bring audiences to the shows? Any plans to monetize this area?

We started IALiveSHOW as part of the discovery feature, and as mentioned before, we are currently in talks with few prominent venues to collaborate with us. We definitely have plans to monetize in this area that would benefit the musicians, venue, and iamLOCALIZED. As this is a grassroots movement, one strategy is revenue sharing with the venue, depending on how many people actually come to the venue to attend IALiveSHOW and watch the artist perform. We have seen this done before in Singapore, and we are definitely going into this direction for IALiveSHOW.