January 18, 2007

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Connecting bands to fans
Online community changes communication platform
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

Move over, MySpace, and say hello to BandDigs, a new online community dedicated to musicians and their fans. Yellow Brick Road Entertainment, based in Windham, is the creator of this one-of-a-kind interactive community.

“Our goal was to provide bands with interactive technology once only afforded by large corporations that would enable them to take their careers to the next level,” said Gary Wheeler, founder and CEO of Yellow Brick.

Those already working the platform provided by MySpace are aware of the limited capabilities — add friends, view profiles, post bulletins and blogs. For the regular, non-music-related user, this may seem like more than enough. But for bands and their fans, the one thing that’s missing is live interaction.

“We wanted to take the concept of an online social community to a new level. Literally, within minutes of subscribing to BandDigs, a band can be broadcasting live around the world like they own a TV station, or they can be interacting with their audience face to face,” Wheeler said.

The site offers video streaming, online interactive chatting, and a very large database that allows bands and fans to upload, store and save music videos. Fans can talk to their favorite bands face to face using a webcam. They can also provide feedback about shows, songs, videos or albums. They even get points for promoting their favorite bands and drawing in new fans. The best part is that bands can make live performances available for fans everywhere.

For instance, Angry Hill might have a show in New York that fans in New Hampshire wish they could catch. Angry Hill could make that show a live broadcast from BandDigs and fans could watch it from their own homes.

“The best thing is, you can see us from anywhere and at anytime. I think this is gonna be killer and the fans are gonna love it,” said Keith Denehy of Angry Hill.

Why hasn’t this been done before? There are a few big corporations using online communities like this to conduct business. But as far as the music industry is concerned, it’s been just too expensive to consider, especially for the musicians, let alone the fans.

“A band would be hard-pressed to try and figure out how to even make the technology for themselves. It takes a lot of development, plus you have to buy a lot of licenses to plug into that and then you’ve got to serve it up in a very big, robust way on the internet,” Wheeler said.

“It’s a combination of those things [that] makes it very unaffordable, even to an individual record label. We have lots of very, very powerful servers to get this working,” Wheeler said.

BandDigs already has some major artists signed up from record labels such as Virgin Records, RCA, Motown, Columbia and more. A number of local New England bands are also taking advantage of BandDigs.

At the moment, the service is free to bands as well as fans. Signing up costs nothing, but doesn’t include charges that may be incurred by bands posting a live broadcast. Bands may make shows available to fans for free or they may charge.

Fans will also be able to record their favorite broadcasts in a database stored on the site (so it won’t bog down home computers). The only application that may be required is the latest version of Flash Media. Other than that, the site provides all utilities needed to make things run smoothly.

This is only the beginning of the online community that literally will revolutionize the way bands communicate with their fans. Changes and additions are in the works as more fans and bands join.

Yellow Brick will also present BandDigs at a February program at New Hampshire’s High Technology Council’s MIT Enterprise Forum. The session will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8, starting at 5:30 p.m. at First Place located in the Manchester Millyard.

Online
Who: BandDigs.com
What: online community for bands and their fans
When: MIT Enterprise Forum on Thursday, Feb. 8, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Where: First Place in the Manchester Millyard
For more information: Go to BandDigs.com to register as a band or a fan. For more information on the forum, go to www.nhhtc.org