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Imagine being able to listen to local musicians, free of charge and with no advertisements. Business administration senior Arash Namvar is trying to make that dream a reality, along with a team of college students in San Luis Obispo and other towns on the West Coast.
Music Putty is a cross between Kickstarter, Bandcamp and Pandora. It allows listeners to stream independent musicians’ music for free, buy and download the music they really like, fund concerts and discover new artists in their area.
“We want to give the musicians and the listeners all the power,” Namvar said. “For the musicians, it is their art; they should represent it however they want; they should be able to reach their fans how they want.”
Namvar came up with the idea this past summer, while reminiscing on his high school garage band days. Some of his band’s songs were on the local radio station, but his band found nothing that could support them financially. One of his favorite undiscovered bands in San Jose, Picture Atlantic, has also been a source of inspiration for the platform.
Music Putty is different from other music-streaming services because users can listen to as much music as they want without skip limits, advertisements or a monthly subscription fee.
“There is nothing worse than listening to an amazing song and being on that high and out of nowhere, the Pine-Sol lady comes on and starts telling you about lemony-fresh scents,” Namvar said.
Listeners can add search filters to sift through covers, geographic locations, genres and other categories. The program also has a “discovery tool” function where users can find bands who sound like or are related to bands they have listened to and liked on Music Putty.
Namvar and other Music Putty staff members have interviewed several local bands in the San Luis Obispo area, including Próxima Parada, to get some feedback. Of the bands they interviewed, all have signed up to be a part of Music Putty.
Musicians can make money through Music Putty by allowing people to purchase a hard copy of their songs, and by a Kickstarter-like bar on the right side of each artist’s page. This allows the artist to state a specific goal — such as holding a concert or recording a new album — and raise money through fan donations.
Artists are then able to send “thank you” gifts to their supporters. Music Putty requires artists to make 50 percent of these gifts personalized. They can range from signed CDs, posters, equipment or even a Skype session with the artist.
“In the future, we are hoping to have regional managers who go to shows and recruit bands,” Namvar said. “They will get a small percentage of the revenue that the band makes through Music Putty, so it is almost a commission.”
Though profit is an important factor for the startup, the objective of Music Putty is to allow artists to make as much money from their creative endeavors as possible.
“We would like to figure out another way to make money in the future and for the musicians to take all of the money they raise on the platform,” Namvar said. “They deserve every cent, but we have to stay sustainable and pay for the ramen at the end of the day.”
Music Putty users can be as generous as they choose when supporting their favorite local artists — they can simply buy songs they like, or support the band’s newest project with a donation of as much money as they like.
The program gives listeners a chance to be part of a band’s history and share in its success.
“With local artists, there is nothing better than going to a local concert on a Friday night and being able to talk to them after,” Namvar said. “You get to see these bands grow and turn their passion into a thing that can pay the bills and influence people.”
Music Putty graphic designer and graphic communication senior Bethany Benson believes in the core value of the platform.
“I love websites like Spotify, but at the same time, when you are listening to those artists they are receiving pennies,” Benson said. “They don’t get anything from it. I believe if you love a musician, you should support them.”
All the Music Putty team members are working hard to make a beta version available by the end of February.
“Everyone on the team is a college student right now with full course loads, building this whole platform,” Namvar said.
The team is currently working on the web application as well as a mobile version. In the meantime, those interested can go to the Music Putty blog to get their fix of independent music recommendations.
Music Putty blog manager and construction management senior Joe Durantini writes and manages a team of three writers with varying music tastes and geographic locations.
“In my opinion, our blog is trying to give people who deserve credit where credit is due and also not to overhype,” Durantini said. “I think that the blogs don’t realize how much power they have. You could pick up on an artist and make them popular, but they still have to back up that up with their ability to play well.”
The blog features album reviews, concert reviews and features with local artists. It is another way for listeners to discover interesting new local artists, besides using the discovery tool while streaming music on the platform.
“You should be praising people that are creating art,” Durantini said. “Local small stuff isn’t going to be picked up with these big names. Even Pitchfork isn’t going to pick up on local artists.”
As far as the future is concerned, Namvar thinks the sky is the limit.
“In the future, we want to be worldwide,” he said. “We want Music Putty to be bands’ starting location, even for bigger bands who want to remain in control and not be directed by the record labels. We want to be the service that people go to first.”