SplinkMedia Platform Eyes Sponsorship Deals for Indie Artists

“Music has a way of making you an entrepreneur somehow,” says Ann Arbor, MI native Vaughan Taylor.

He would know. He’s spent much of his time in the Michigan independent music scene, with his hip hop group The Athletic Mic League. Then he went the more scholarly route, getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and then a master’s in entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Florida.

The business studies cast a new light on the indie music scene for Vaughan, who a year ago launched a Web company in Ann Arbor called SplinkMe (now SplinkMedia) to help independent musicians bring in more cash.

While they don’t enjoy the massive followings and sold-out stadiums that major commercial musicians do, some of the top indie artists still attract sizeable fan bases—which brands could benefit from tapping into, Taylor says. Social media tools like Ustream, Facebook, and Twitter have helped grow bands’ popularity, but haven’t increased the monetary payoff for musicians, he says.

“Artists have mastered these new media platforms, but are not monetizing it,” Taylor says.

SplinkMedia (a combination of the words “sponsor” and “link”) is out to build up a strong community of independent artists that brands can find and advertise through, via banners or vendor booths at those musicians’ shows. The brands can tap into the strong, but often under-the-radar followings that independent musicians attract, and at a much cheaper price tag than what major artists and celebrities carry, Taylor says. And indie musicians can make some money—which is particularly important given that fans “are less willing to pay for media content” than ever, Taylor says.

Artists create profiles on SplinkMedia, and the site compiles demographic data of their networks, based on friend lists on sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Businesses can search for the right artist matches based on the demographics they’d like to target, and the site reveals which events and musicians will be attracting their desired consumer bases.

The company is focused right now on

“building a critical mass of artists” in order to more successfully attract the right brands and sponsorships. Taylor expects that companies that traditionally advertise through celebrities, such as clothing brands, and instrument makers, could be the first types of businesses that SplinkMedia targets.

Sponsoring indie artists isn’t just a cheaper, untapped market, but could also be more meaningful, Taylor says. Fans might be more likely to connect with brands associated to indie musicians, because of the more intimate relationship between those performers and their followers. “The relationship of the indie artists is a lot more sincere and a lot more connected than these large level artists that don’t interact with their fans on a daily basis,” Taylor says.

SplinkMedia kicked off a private beta phase last spring, and has attracted about 100 artists to its online community. It might sound small, but Taylor said that crop of musicians has a total fan following of about 700,000. He’s hoping to strengthen that community as well as the business opportunities before raising outside venture funding. The company is focused on Michigan musicians, but has organically attracted artists from a handful of other states, Taylor says. It plans to take a cut from the sponsorships, and is eyeing the same 10 percent to 20 percent that traditional music agents charge.

The roughly four-person SplinkMedia team is bootstrapping the operation at present, and is able to keep expenses low by working in Ann Arbor rather than entertainment hubs like L.A. or New York. And Taylor says there’s plenty of fodder for a successful operation in Michigan. “Ann Arbor and Detroit have a lot of talent—-both in music and business,” he says.

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One response to “SplinkMedia Platform Eyes Sponsorship Deals for Indie Artists”

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