Arts / Startups

Shoutabl is a social network for musicians that works like a music scene

Shoutabl aims to be a music community building tool that recognizes the fluidity of members.

Travis Donovan and Travis Morrison, founders of Shoutabl, at S'Nice in Park Slope Photo by Brady Dale, September 10, 2013

Musicians have a few problems using the Internet to promote their work, but the one that bothers the founders of private beta Shoutabl the most is the individualized nature of social networks.

A business is one business. A person is one person. But that’s not how the music scene works, they say. Most serious musicians are members of multiple bands, and those bands don’t compete. They cooperate.

As Travis Donovan, one of the cofounders put it, “Traditionally artists will form these scenes based on location. You start forming new bands from other bands. Pretty soon you have 20 friends who play 12 different bands and you’re all passing out each other’s fliers and you have a scene.”

This works well on the ground, but social networks don’t reflect the real world ways that bands share followings. Shoutabl aims to be a music community building tool that recognizes the fluidity of members.

“We are not trying to be a SquareSpace for musicians,” said Donovan of the popular SoHo based freemium website building platform. “The bigger thing we are after is building a network for artists that allows them to act in collaborative groups, as they are in real life.”

Bands can build their websites and launch their social profiles through Shoutabl, but they can opt whether or not to make it clear it’s a Shoutabl website. (For example, all the band sites linked in this post were built with the platform.)

The cofounders met working at The Huffington Post. They were both part of building a completely customized website and wanted to take some of the technology that they had been exposed to and apply it to problems they saw as musician. Travis Morrison, Donovan’s cofounder, is the lead singer of The Dismemberment Plan, a popular 90s alternative band that recently reunited. When Vice covered the reunion, it also outed Morrison’s startup efforts.

Donovan still works part time in a consulting role at The Huffington Post himself. He is also a musician, these days working on solo electronic work. Both Donovan and Morrison were building platforms for their work at roughly the same time and realized some of the same problems.

“Take Travis’s network,” Donovan explained, “He’s in the Dismemberment Plan. He’s in a band called The Burlies, here in New York, and he has his own solo stuff. That’s three different bands right there. The way Shoutabl is set up, they can all seamlessly promote each other, the bands do in real music scenes.”

Morrison is originally from Northern Virginia. Donovan is from Arizona. When asked why they are operating out Brooklyn, Morrison said, “It’s been the center of the rock-and-roll for a while.” He went on, “It’s like Eden here these days. And it’s a very culturally aware startup scene here.”

Morrison went on to describe the broader music startup scene, in New York and beyond. He said music entrepreneurs have been reaching out to Shoutabl, assuming that they should be in touch. He said, “The music industry… I don’t even really know if it’s an industry anymore. It’s a wild new landscape of strange businesses.”

Donovan added, “I think for us, we confidently feel that Shoutabl could really pave the way forward for a DIY model where technology empowers new artists to make something great happen.”

How do you make money? Music revenue models are still changing, said Donovan, sounding like others in that disrupted industry, and those that focus on everyone paying something for each piece of what they use.

Donovan articulated Shoutabl’s place in that future, “Right now we are in a really, really private, invite only beta. Once we open those gates, I would love to see these brand new scenes created and start to thrive within the Shoutabl environment. Rather than existing scenes migrating to Shoutabl, because it’s more powerful, I’d like to see new scenes created.”

Series: Brooklyn

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