An online music marketing company in Durham has grown to have more than 3 million users, but Duke’s music scene will not likely be employing it anytime soon.
ReverbNation, a company that provides online marketing tools for musicians, started in Durham in 2006. Marketing director Shelly Weitz said they started the business in Durham because the location was convenient for the founders and the environment was very conducive to the needs of a startup. Further, four of its founders of the company resided in Durham.
“As Durham has grown and downtown has become more and more vibrant, we’ve settled in even more and truly love our location,” she said. “There are many tech companies in the Research Triangle Park. It’s not unusual.”
ReverbNation was founded by five people as a software startup in response to the advent of iTunes and other online music distribution services and platforms for editing and sharing music such as Garageband and Myspace, Weitz said. Now, they have more than 80 employees, 70 percent of which are developers.
“The very large music labels have to change and are still trying to change their model to accommodate a music world where a musician can record, produce and distribute their music themselves, and to a certain extent, communicate with their fans on their own,” Weitz said.
Even though iTunes and Garageband have changed the dynamics of creating music, Weitz said that independent artists still need help managing their online presence—which is where ReverbNation comes into play, by providing a digital equivalent of a manager.
Most of the 3.1 million artists ReverbNation serves are in North America, she said, and many do not have labels. Their audience is primarily between the ages of 18 and 35 and are worldwide. The company provides resources such as email templates and tools to create ad campaigns, as well as driving traffic to their Facebook pages to promote the bands they represent.
“These ads are sophisticated. They are good-looking. We run analytics on them. And they are very affordable for artists. We also provide a really important thing—all of these industry professionals who are looking for the next big artist. They can connect to ReverbNation,” she said.
Although the company has vastly expanded its reach since its founding, it may not crack into the Duke music production industry. Shariq Iqbal, studio manager at Small Town Records, explained that they will work to establish an online presence, but the platforms that they currently use to distribute the artists’ music are mostly free. ReverbNation usually charges artists a fee for their services.
“We try to work with our individual artists on how they want to distribute their music,” Iqbal said. “But, generally we use mostly free distribution sites like Soundcloud.”
Junior Christina Lan, lead singer of Stina—an all-Duke student band—has been with Small Town Records since her freshman year. Up until now, they have not been using online tools to promote the band’s music.
“I’d say right now we are not doing this effectively. In the past couple of years we’ve mostly worked on physical distribution with the end-of- the-year CDs of artists,” Lan said. “I think this year we are going to work more on advertising and digital distribution through each artist’s site as well as the main label site.”
Despite this, she would not consider ReverbNation as a means to promote her music at the moment.
“I was more interested in ReverbNation a couple of years ago, when I was trying to distribute my music myself, and I think it is a great market for artists to develop a page and be more visible to people,” Lan said. “But right now I think it is too saturated with all kinds of artists and it is hard for listeners to find new music.”