Many, many years ago, back when there was such a thing as a Classifieds page, This American Life's Starlee Kine wondered if she could bring together musicians advertising their services to form what she called a one-day band. (Spoiler: They put together a kind of awesome rendition of "Rocket Man.") The Classifieds section may be a relic of the past, but lonely musical hearts are not. That, at least, is the theory behind Soundslates, a website that launched in beta on New Year's Day. Soundslates is some amalgamation of a social network and jobs board, and it hopes to bring musical soulmates together across the boundaries of space.
No four-track recorders, cassettes, or postage required.
The project is the brainchild of Pierre Seylan, 22, an engineering student from Paris with a passion for music. "I'm kind of an amateur," he tells Fast Company. Since he never did music full-time, Seylan found he wasn't as networked as a professional musician might be. He needed collaborators, but was "kind of blocked," he said. Then, in February of last year, he got the idea for a social network that would let people make music together, no matter where they were located. "I thought, let's make a place for musicians that want to go further in their music." Musicians, even when they work in the same city, have already virtualized much of their work, sending files back and forth. Why couldn't that principle be extended to its logical conclusion?
Soundslates is very much a beta project, but people are already using it and enjoying it, says the site's communications person, Stephanie Lamy. "Within hours of launch, a Swedish bassist and drum buff hooked up with an Italian pop singer, and they loved collaborating together." The site received a slight publicity boost when the YouTube starlet Lisa Lavie featured it in a Christmas video.
The site will follow a freemium model, distinguishing between "collabs" (just for the love of it, no money exchanged) and "jobs." Seylan plans to monetize in three ways: 1) by charging a five-dollar-a-month fee for those who use the site for "jobs", 2) by taking a small fee for the service of certain transactions over the site, and 3) by eventually launching advertising partnerships on music-specific matters. "We didn't want to charge musicians too much," says Seylan, noting that too few of them already make money from their music as it is. As a user, it's easy to use the site for free until you get a job offer, meaning it's a pretty risk-free proposition (it's also free, in all aspects, through January). The site launched on January 1 with just 20 users; three days later, it had 200. A publicity push is about to begin.
Seylan says that the site isn't about getting famous: Better stick to current channels for that. Rather, it's about growing as a musician, and connecting with others who share your musical vision. "You will not get famous by going on Soundslates, but Soundslates gives you what you need in order to be famous," he says—that is, the opportunity to collaborate with others and hone your talent.
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[Photo Illustration: Joel Arbaje]