News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

Music is back in business with new online platform Kicktone

Kicktone is an online platform set to bring the business back into music, by helping bands worldwide rise from the cracks of obscurity. Launched today, Kicktone allows users to sell their music and merchandise directly to their fans through social media integration, all the while providing them access to a highly engaged audience.

At its very core, Kicktone is an online community for like-minded individuals and musicians to share, listen, support and nurture each other’s craft and careers. Co-Founder of the startup, Cameron Bolam says Kicktone will be working hand-in-hand with another website Tindeck that allows users to upload a single mp3 file and share it among their friends.

Tindeck currently has around 93,000 highly-engaged users, who have provisioned 320,000 tracks. The tracks have been downloaded over 68 million times to date. Founder of Tindeck, Savvas Dimitrou, is also the Co-Founder and CEO of Kicktone.

Fair go for new musicians

Bolam, along with his Co-Founders Dimitrou and Joshua Spender, recognised the need for a platform that focused on discovery of new up-and-coming musicians.

“We did market research on the online music distribution space – interviewing current independent musicians, surveying music communities – and found that the current options available aren’t providing the tools needed for these musicians to reach new audiences,” he says.

“While they do what they do really well – provide a storefront to which you can direct your current friends, family and fans – they don’t introduce you to a new engaged audience.”

Kicktone provides these musicians with the necessary tools to promote themselves internationally and sell their music and merchandise to a supportive audience.

“Music is universal, and all music is an expression of some kind of emotion, whether it’s happiness or sadness or love or loneliness. Everybody in the world listens to music; we just want to make it easier to find the stuff they like,” says Bolam.

Ready, set … oh wait, not yet?

The Kicktone team started building the platform in January this year when they were accepted into the summer 2013 ANZ Innovyz Start accelerator program. Building the site took three months and they ran a small invite-only test for another three months to confirm they were ready for prime time.

And it was an “immensely challenging process”. Bolam says their goal was to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and sign up 1000 bands in three months, which turned out to be much more complex and time-consuming than they’d imagined.

“We had to create everything completely from scratch. The business was incorporated in January 2013 when Kicktone was just an idea. We didn’t have a logo, a business plan or a single line of code typed out,” he says.

“In the end we worked longer hours and recalibrated our goals for the MVP to meet the deadline. It actually made the MVP stronger because it was more focused.”

Over the course of the year, they built the whole hosting and distribution platform in-house, reached out to thousands of bands, spoke to dozens of independent music labels and convinced four investors to support the venture.

Their investment capital is now being used to finalise the platform and test marketing strategies.

Music is naturally social and inherently viral

Bolam points out that “music is naturally social and inherently viral”. When we hear music we love, we’re compelled to share it with our friends. Kicktone encourages sharing by making all music free to stream, and by making it easy for fans to share the music via Facebook or Twitter.

While they’re currently testing the waters when it comes to marketing, they believe word-of-mouth referrals will be most powerful.

“If we can provide a valuable service to an independent musician and they have a positive experience with us, they’re happy to recommend us to their friends,” says Bolam.

He adds that the whole purpose of Kicktone is to give independent musicians “a fair go”.

The team has started engaging closely with music communities, and believe activities like writing blog posts will help generate interest and build engagement. Topics in mind at the moment include information on festivals, new marketing tools, strategies to gain more exposure, how to write up band bios, and liner notes – all of which are relevant in the music ecosystem.

Bolam acknowledges the value Dimitrou brings to the company due to his work with Tindeck. Through Dimitrou, the company has access to people who love and are passionate about creating and sharing their music.

“Everyone that we’ve spoken to has been overwhelmingly supportive of what we’re doing and they’re more than happy to promote us on our behalf. It’s actually a really great feeling,” he says.

Competitors can’t copy relationships

Bolam says their plan to counteract competitors in the same space centres around customer service. They are “obsessed” with customer service and the philosophy that underlies the business.

“We’re a business, sure, but we genuinely care about making life easier for bands. One of the common responses we get from bands when we ask for their feedback is that they’re proud to use Kicktone – not just happy that we provide a service they want, but they’re actually proud to be a part of what we’re doing,” he says.

“Competitors can copy our business model and our functionality and our style, but they can’t copy the relationships we have with our bands.”

There are 650 bands that have been using Kicktone well ahead of its official launch date today.

Kicktone takes a small percentage from each album sold through the site. There is no fee for bands to upload or store their music on the site, and no fee for listeners to stream music. But the team plan on implementing a tiered pricing model, based on the additional features and requirements the users need.

At the moment, they’re planning on adding new features for listeners including Facebook integration, and will be raising more funds to aid their expansion into the US and UK markets.

Check out www.kicktone.com for more information.