Startup music to Northwestern students’ ears

Jessica Floum

Communication junior Mori Einsidler spent last June in a hot room recording with her music teacher. Although spring heated the room to around 100 degrees, they did not open the windows. They were there to make music. Open windows, Einsidler said, would have interfered with the microphones.

“I’m a huge perfectionist, especially when it comes to music,” Einsidler said. “My teacher Brett is also a huge perfectionist. We would literally do a million takes of different things because we wanted to get it perfect.”

Einsidler is among many young artists trying to break into the music industry. Though dedicated to her music, Einsidler has not been able to record in a studio because it is expensive and requires networking.

Fortunately for Einsidler, two Northwestern alumni may have found the solution.

Alumnus Asaf Elani (McCormick ‘09) and alumnus Brandon Robins (McCormick, Bienen ‘09) will launch ourlabel.com, an online crowd-sourced music label, in the next few weeks. The site will act as a platform on which artists can post profiles, seek project funding from fans and find guidance through the daunting process of entering the music industry. Meanwhile, fans will be able to find, follow and support their favorite artists from the get-go, determining which bands will ultimately be successful.

“We’re kind of being like the one stop shop for artists,” Robins said. “Instead of doing it themselves, we can use our network, use our resources and essentially make their project successful without them having to worry too much.”

The site’s resources include opportunities to connect with and request funding from fans, establish networks within the music industry and receive step-by-step guidance through the process.

“A lot of do-it-yourself models are already out there,” Robins said. “People might, for example, get the money to produce an album. But once it’s out there they don’t know what to do. They’ve just spent all this money to produce an album and think, ‘Now what else do I have to do?'”

Some do-it-yourself models include recording with programs such as Pro Tools and Mbox 2. McCormick junior Rohan Sahai has been playing guitar since high school and making hip-hop beats since the beginning of college. Though Sahai has had experience both making music and interning in the industry, he said professional help would be useful.

“I can get by on my own,” Sahai said. “It’s just clearer when there is someone there who knows what you’re going through. It’s so clutch to have someone there who says you should do that, you could do that.”

Young artists also said they could use help with promotion.

“What can I do other than put up a Facebook status unless I want to pay for an ad?” Sahai said. “It’s just really hard to promote your music without a team of people.”

Other concerns include the expensive fees that studios charge and the musicians’ difficulty making money after recording.

Weinberg junior Evan Bakker said his band’s recording space has moved from a basement in high school to Flowers Studio in Minneapolis, a studio where Motion City Soundtrack has recorded.

Though Bakker was able to get into the studio via family connections, the cost of recording still weighs heavily, as studios charge hourly rates for what can sometimes be a five-day endeavor.

“You have to use your time in the most efficient way and not necessarily focus on getting the best recording take,” Bakker said. “It’s about going in there and laying down the tracks as quickly as possible.”

Ourlabel.com will alleviate such costs by crowd-sourcing them, enabling artists to get the funding they need from fans, Robins said. In addition to supporting artists, this enables fans to find reward in the process.

“From the fans’ point of view, you’re part of the process,” Robins said. “You’re music tastemakers. You’re able to find and participate in music that you love and promote it.”

Weinberg junior Justin Lehmann is an avid music fan and blogger. He said he enjoys finding new artists and supporting them via promotions on his blog. He said crowd-sourcing helps the music industry cope with financial struggles as listeners are increasingly illegally downloading and streaming songs instead of buying them.

“It’s great to be able to say that not only did I find this guy early on and liked him, but I also directly contributed to him being successful,” Lehmann said. “That’s kind of the greatest.”

In addition the site rewards fans with 25 percent of the revenue in the form of points. The points can go toward t-shirts, VIP passes and signed albums. The rest of the proceeds are divided between the artists and the label: 50 percent goes to the artist while the remaining 25 percent goes to the label.

“Everybody kind of benefits,” Robins said. “The artist sees that there’s people that support him. They can go on, make their music and get it out there and then hopefully spread it to a larger audience with the help of their fans. The fans can be part of the whole process. That’s huge.”

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