OurStage Opens Less Crowded Place For Talent To Be Found
OurStage.com, a Chelmsford, Mass.-based startup, thinks it has a response to that challenge.
Open to the public for only two weeks after a closed beta test, OurStage invites amateur musicians, filmmakers/video artists and photographers to upload their creative works and compete in monthly contests in which the community votes on and ranks their work.
OurStage claims a powerful filtering and ranking technology engine that voters--i.e., the fans--can't beat, in terms of submitting repeat, fake votes for their friends or their own work. OurStage seeks to go beyond content-sharing sites like Flickr, YouTube and Revver that enable people to share and essentially "store" their work, to enable its community to vote on the best work.
"All those sites are places to store your stuff. We're really taking the next step," said Benjamin Campbell, CEO. "If they want to know how their content stacks up relative to the crowd, the community will judge that."
OurStage organizes monthly contests, and will award two $5,000 prizes per month, one for filmmakers and one for musicians. When the competition gets down to 10 finalists, users can text in their votes for a favorite song, video or short film--each text costs 50 cents. Members of the community get cut off after 200 votes.
The vision for OurStage is to enable amateur creators to find their audience and launch their careers on the Web. Fans choose the genre of entertainment they wish to be judged in: For example, in music, genres include acoustic, indie/alternative, pop, rock, jazz and blues, among others.
For video, artists can enter animation, comedy and music videos. The company draws a distinction in video between filmmaking (serious video) and playful video. During the last four days of the month, fans judge and vote for the finalists.
Campbell said that OurStage is more than an online "American Idol," because it allows the community to identify emerging talent and earn cash, and actually helps launch artists' careers via a network of partners--including music conferences, film festivals and magazines. It also mixes in the sexiest elements of TV by offering daily Web video hosted by EJs (Entertainment Jockeys) who post daily video blogs, discuss artists as they progress on the charts, conduct interviews, and broadcast from music and film festivals. OurStage partners include GenArt, CMJ.com, various independent film and music festivals, along with Verge, Relix, Urb and Paste magazines.
Campbell said monetization will come from charging for text messages and music downloads, as well as the eventual introduction of short video ads. The company's closed beta test included 2,500 people.
Campbell hopes to rack up 1 million registered users by next May. He hopes that music labels and independent production companies will look to OurStage members to cultivate their talent rosters.
"Big labels won't look at audiences of 10- or 20,000 people," he said. "We may end up creating custom channels for sponsorships where musicians are selected to be the next song on a film's soundtrack. Or, we hold a contest on behalf of a sponsor in which fans decide what the song should be."