HELLO MUSIC: The New A&R Alternative

The Internet continues to bud with new web organizations catering to an artist’s needs, making the whole prospect of “doing it yourself” more of a reality for musicians everywhere. A recent addition to the artist’s arsenal of tools is Hello Music (HM).  Co-founders Zack Zalon and Brendon Cassidy took their experience at Virgin Digital and used it to create this new “A&R machine.”[1] Basically, HM functions as a digital talent finder, and provides users with connections to its partners, which include: webcasting via Yahoo!Music, digital distribution via TuneCore, booking via GigMaven, and marketing via TopSpin. Clearly, Hello Music has reputable big-name partners.
However, before an artist can begin to drool over the possibility of making these connections, they must first create a user profile, in which music, videos, pictures, and bios can be uploaded. Unlike a MySpace account, the public cannot access an artist’s profile page; rather, HM’s team of screeners only views it. These screeners, comprised of musicians, former label executives, and fans, categorize your music by genre and rate your songs. The better your ratings, the better the partnered opportunities that HM presents. For instance, higher-ranking artists can be linked with PumpAudio, a music licensing service for movie or television use, or can be featured on Yahoo!Music’s new artist channel. Even for those artists who do not fall into the top-ranks, HM strives to provide discounts for a partner company’s services, which for example, could include a 30% discount on TuneCore’s fees.[2] So, regardless of an artist’s rankings, Hello Music has something to offer.
In case you were wondering, all of HM’s services mentioned up to this point, i.e, the profile, the screening, and the connections, are free. So how does the company generate any revenue? HM only collects from an artist if they earn money from the provided partner connections. Typically, it will collect 5% of the money earned by the artist through the partner. In some cases, however, this number has been as much as 30%.[3] If a 30% cut sounds like a lot, consider that keeping the other 70% of the money earned through the partner may likely be substantially more than most unsigned artists earn from their music. In short, Hello Music will only make money if the artist makes money—which pushes it to maintain profitable partners for their users.
Similarities can be drawn from Hello Music to other online A&R organizations, such as Taxi. With Taxi, users submit their songs to a board of experienced music screeners, who then potentially connect the artists with companies that include labels, television networks, publishers, etc. The big difference lies in the pricing: Taxi does not take a percentage of the artist’s income. Instead, Taxi users must pay $5 for each song they submit to be screened. Moreover, they pay an annual membership fee of $299.95, which is reduced to $199.95 after the first full year of using Taxi’s services.[4] With this business model, users may end up shelling out quite a bit of cash for connections that might potentially not earn them any revenue at all. On the other hand, with HM’s profits being directly tied to those of their artists, providing lucrative and profitable connections is certainly in the company’s best interest.
It is clear that Hello Music benefits musicians, providing unsigned artists with opportunities that they would not have otherwise and without taking anything from their pockets. Simultaneously, on the other side of the business spectrum, HM is also benefiting record labels by helping to screen the enormous pool of artists, determining which ones have “it” so the labels do not have to. With the declines in the global economy and the current music business, labels no longer have the monies to gamble huge advances for artists that could very well end up losing them money. HM is able to step in and “thin the drawing pool”— helping labels to make decisions with more confidence.
Launched in January 2010, Hello Music is still a fairly new addition to the music industry; only time will tell if it is a success. If their partner connections prove truly valuable, and screeners’ ratings of hit artists yield accurate estimates for labels, the only direction for HM to go is up. Additionally, with a recent $4 million investment from KVG Partners to expand its network of connections, Hello Music seems to be poised for a serious take-off.
By Nick Susi

[1] Healey, Jon. “Hello Music, Connecting Bands With Opportunities.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Jan. 2010. Web. 11 May 2010. .
[2] Zalon, Zach. “Zach Zalon On Hello Music’s Opportunity Engine For D.I.Y. Musicians.” Interview by Bruce Houghton. Hypebot. Web. 11 May 2010. .
[3] Zalon, Zach.
[4] TAXI: What Would You Do With the Ultimate List of Publishers, Record Labels and Film & TV Music Supervisors?” TAXI: Record Deals, Publishing Deal, Film TV Placement, Recording Your Music, Songwriting. Web. 11 May 2010. .



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