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$40,000 to the founders for startup costs, and it holds a minority stake in The Rabble. The two companies also have an agreement to provide technical support to each other. The Rabble is majority owned by its three co-founders (former Murfie software developer Matt Wheeler is the third founder), who are “working for ramen wages,” Austin says.
The Rabble will offer both an open-source software package and a paid software-as-a-service option. Annual software subscription prices have yet to be determined, but the company intends to charge libraries as little as possible to allow it to continue operating, Austin says, while also seeking money from philanthropic organizations. Austin says he also wants to allow library patrons to donate, so more artists can be added to libraries’ collections.
“I’d like to make it affordable for any library, at the scale of its community, to continuously serve as a curated collector … of local music and other cultural artifacts,” Austin says. “I see that as a role that libraries should play.” Besides music, libraries could create a database of local music history as part of the service, like archiving concert playbills and posters, he adds.
But this also raises the question of where The Rabble fits in with local publications that cover the community music scene. Austin sees the library service as complementary, not competitive. Readers of Madison’s alternative weekly newspaper Isthmus might first encounter a band in the publication, then go on the local library’s website to read more, download one of the band’s albums, and watch a YouTube video of a performance, for example.
“We’re not trying to put the Isthmus out of business,” Austin says. “We’re trying to make Madison’s music community more valuable.”
Right now, the company is focused on finding more library partners and further developing the software. Two features that might be added include the ability to download individual tracks (right now it’s the whole album or nothing) and allow visitors without library cards to sample music, Austin says.
Hiser recently moved to Massachusetts and is handling her duties remotely. She will become The Rabble’s full-time CEO when she finishes her Ph.D. next year, Austin says. Austin is splitting his time between serving as acting manager of The Rabble and as a Murfie advisor and board member.
The Rabble’s staff also includes two software developers, Austin says. The company is operating from Murfie’s downtown Madison office, which doubles as co-working space Horizon Coworking.
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