Commentary

Just An Online Minute... Blazetrak Sneak Peek At AMP3PR

Blazetrak Sneak Peek, AMP3 PR offices, New York
August 19, 2009

I like sneak peeks. They make me feel special. Not as special as a Hollywood-style movie premiere (an unrealized dream I share with my little sister), but you know, I'll take what I can get. Last night I was starving after my banana-a-day forced diet, so I was hoping I would not only be taking a sneak peek at Blazetrak, a site "getting you closer" to the big time, but also food.

As soon as I stepped from the cool of MediaPost's AC-chilled building into the sloppy heat of the night, fat drops of rain were plopping to the gum-dotted sidewalks. Blech. It wasn't even putting forth a good effort. Dave Ford, founder of Branded Evolution, was already waiting for me outside the AMP3 building when I arrived. At the Suite 108 door, I knocked like a weirdo. I must have had a mini stroke. No clue why I didn't just open the door. Let's chalk it up to me still walking on sea legs.

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I entered to find Brett Petersel of Mashable and Matthew Caldecutt of Trylon PR hovering over the table covered with colorful nibbles. To the left and right I saw small bar set-ups with sparkling and regular style VOGA Italia wines. I also found Alyson Campbell of AMP3 PR in a pocketed amethyst shirtdress. I was jealous when she told me she got it from the Limited at a mall. I miss the suburbs and a good mall gyro. Andrew Graham, writer and media contact at Greentarget, meandered in before or after Tiffany Winbush, PR consultant and the woman behind Women Making Moves. Michael Gruen, whose LinkedIn has him as CEO at (not disclosed), slithered in out of the heat. Soon after him a bike-helmeted Nate Westhiemer, Co-Founder and VP of Product at AnyClip and Organizer of the NY Tech Meetup, entered. I have to commend Westheimer for not being a sweaty mess after riding his bike (or rollerblades? Do people still rollerblade?) in this stupid heat. Let's take a look at this Blazetrak situation, why don't we?

The guys at Blazetrak started a small record company. They got a ton of demos. As a deterrent -- or should we say, "crap filter" -- they started charging $30 to submit demos. Guess what? They got more when they started charging. Lightbulb over head, please. Nathaniel J Casey, Ronald A Harrison, and Corey J Stanford, Partners and CoFounders of Blazetrak, imagined that if they could connect passionate artists directly with established artists for a price point that the established artist defines, the "noise" would cancel itself out. So, what happens, exactly, and how can the established artist AND the lawn-mowing Jenny the Farm Rapper in Mantua, Ohio benefit? Let's list it:

Jenny wraps up her mix tape and wants Britney Spears to review it. She does a search and discovers that Brit Brit isn't working witih Blazetrak yet, but Big Boi is, and he worked on a previous record with her. Big Boi charges $340 for his services. Because Jenny means business and has rhymes about cows you couldn't make up, she drops the cash for a quality review. Let's say 28 days later (we're all Zombies eating each other! Oh, wait, not that movie...) Jenny checks back and sees that Big Boi hasn't given her any feedback yet. Budding artists are given a 30-day window for a full refund. This is great because it allows for buyer's remorse, Dad finding out it was his credit card, cold feet, and impatience. One of the features also lets you know where you are in which reviewer's queue. So, if you submitted your mixtape to three pros and you see that you're #28 in line, but it's already day #29, you as the up-and-comer have to decide whether to retract your submission for the full refund or just stick to it and wait your turn.

The benefits for the artist are that the profit split is 65/35, they define their "sweet spot," and they also decide how much time to put into it. This is also where I hope that there are some checks and balances within the artist's agreement. For example, let's just hope that no one is so shiesty as to charge 400 bucks, delay on reviewing past the 30-day window, and simply dance in front of the camera during the recorded video instant feedback session. Right? Oh right, I said video -- this is where the artist, when listening to the submission, records her/his reviewing of the submission. This is a moment of reassurance for the "not there yet" artist who submitted her work - you know it's Big Boi, not just some faux "hey thanks for the track" signature stamp.

The recorded feedback session is private unless both the reviewer and submitter BOTH make the session public. Once it's public, it can be risen to the homepage as a featured session, giving both the pro and the am more exposure.

The big zinger for me was that reality shows are so hot for a bunch of reasons: the drunken hookups, the potential murderers and contestants, the noisy drama, and the celebrity judges. In skilled reality competitions like "Project Runway" and one of my favorites, Ego Trip's "The (White) Rapper Show," the talent gets lost in the sexy gore. Blazetrak gives serious artists the direct contact with established artists without getting drunk and flashing tatas.

I was impressed. This is smart. It's incredibly well-thought-out, and the team articulated in a tangible way ease of use and benefits to both parties. I couldn't help but think of the whole "pay for news" model everyone seems to be struggling with when the Blazetrak team recalled receiving more demos when they started charging. The point? It seems the price added more credibility to the content exchange. It was refreshing to see this model in the music industry specifically, as they're still struggling with their own models. Blazetrak plans to duplicate this exchange for film, TV, and fashion, and more as well.

The only outstanding issues I see are a clear Terms of Service document (does the artist keep full rights to their work, some rights, can they license chunks of it out to the pros [samples? A halter top instead of a Tshirt?]) and what happens to close the circle after feedback? Ron Harrison told me that they're connectors and once the feedback exchange is over, any relationship between the amateur and the pro is in the hands of the hands of those two. If something amazing comes out of it, of course it would make a great Blazetrak success story, though.

After the presentation, I spoke with Jessica Bailis of Universal Music Group of the potential artist agreement issues and of music in the digital age and also talked Payless and Target with Yuli Ziv, Co-Founder of MyItThings.com and the Fashion 2.0 Meetup. As an aside, Yuli does not believe our feet should suffer for fashion, we're just told we have to suffer.

On the way home, I saved Charlie Oliver, Dictator of Talk at artoftalk.tv from near death at the intersection of Broadway and 16th, met a Columbian waiter who is also a fan of the deliciously hot Bomba Estéreo, and caught some bluegrass in the center of the floor at Grisley Pear. All in all, a really good night for all of my brain slices.

Send event invitations to kelly@mediapost.com!

Larger and additional photos are on Flickr!

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