The urban online community dipped well before the urban music industry. The urban online effort crumbled with the rest of the dot-bust in 2001. But several recent sites signal that Urban 2.0 is on the horizon.
Soundblaze calls itself, "the first private network for the music industry." But from what I've seen of the still in Beta site, it will be much more than that. It comes complete with a very robust offering for consumers, and is built by music and marketing industry veteran Chuck Baker and his team. Impressively, much the same team that took aim at the space with Urban Box Office at the turn of the century. While the site still sits behind an invite-only wall, their blog The Blaze Report is keeping the industry humming.
And then there is Global Grind. Another walled-off offering still in Alpha. Rumor has it that Russell Simmons is helping to incubate the project, which seems to be a form of portal-play.
Add to that the robust redux of All Hip Hop, the current King of urban on-line by most measures. The re-designed site now joins the Internet-as-Television revolution with a much more robust streaming media offering. Speaking of television You Are TV, is not necessarily urban-focused and not in Beta, but is developed by entrepreneur/programmer David Dundas, who the urban community can claim even if he's not calling what he does "urban." YouAreTV is a solid general market play, and that's a smart strategy given the ubiquity of cross-over culture.
All this in of itself would be an impressive set of developments with this just being a few that have crossed my desk. Then the 800lb gorilla, Joost, developed by the founders of Skype, with an impressive $45 million round under the belt, added the Urban 1.0 brand 88HipHop to their channel selection, giving Randy Nkonoki-Ward a very solid platform to work with. The Joost experience will have people turning off their televisions.
Who knows what will come out of these Alpha's and Beta's, but it looks good. And is equally good to see Urban 1.0 executives back at it with improved products and, I'm sure, a healthy respect for all-important robust revenue models needed to power-up these businesses.
John N. Pasmore • New York, NY • Very.fm