An Urbandaddy exclusive Interview with the El Train, co-founder and CEO of www.supernova.com, the brainchild behind the world’s leading Indie music community.
Elliott took some time from his hectic schedule to allow me to ask him 5 questions about his wildly successful business.
1. What is “Indie” music?
A: Indie music seems to mean a few things today. The term originated as a short form for “Independent” music, which referred to music recorded, marketed and distributed by non-major label means (the big five labels at the time were Universal, Sony, Warner, EMI, and BMG). Indie represented a small but growing group of artists and the music type had a certain non-mainstream appeal to it, and generally targeted to the young college radio crowd, embracers of the new and on the edge. But as the monetization of music became a shrinking model, labels stopped signing new bands to develop, leaving the majority of the process up to the bands and Indie labels, when they could then scoop them up after a certain level of success. Further complicating the issue was the major labels’ strategy of buying up Indie labels but allowing them to retain their branding, image, and type of music they became known for producing. Today, Indie can be considered as one of two things: 1) that same college demo targeted new edgy style (e.g. Feist, The Stills, Arcade Fire) or 2) garage bands just starting out and have nothing more than a home recorded demo and a handful of original songs, unknown to the masses, yearning for that big break. I’ve personally limited my use of the term, as I primarily deal with #2 but some maybe think I’m referring to #1. With #1, what once was a movement is really now just another genre.
2. Ok so you don’t like to use the term “Indie”, so what do you do for these #2 type bands?
A: We created Supernova.com, a community for bands, fans, and industry to discover, connect, and expose new music. We’re the only social network that actually promotes the bands in live gigs across North America. The gigs we produce (over 250 a year) are part of a growing list of “opportunities” that we provide to bands, which in turn, allows them to activate their fans, and get exposure.
3) Give me an example of “opportunities”?
A: Just getting online exposure to a target market of music savvy afictionados is a good one, our community isn’t a general social network, its specifically for fans of Indie music (yes, I used the term again, sue me). Many of the opportunities are live concert based, as those are amongst the most valuable and wanted by bands as its hard to get clubs to book them and they are hard to organize on their own. We do a lot of contests,with “opportunity” prizing such as playing festivals, or opening up for big name bands, radio exposure, music placements in TV shows, etc.
4) Seems like a good service, what’s the revenue model then? Or is this just a passion play?
At first it was a passion play, but eventually, to keep it going, you do need money eventually. Robust websites like ours are expensive to build and maintain, as well as update with new features to stay current and useful. Concert events are low margin and financially risky. We made a decision a long time ago never to “put our hands in the bands’ pockets”, so everything we offer is free to the bands. We faced a difficult problem, and the solution became corporate America. First it was sponsorships, then it was marketing campaigns for brands. Today, we’ve gone totally “B2B” and white labeled our own social network to give media companies and brands their own music community to build loyalty, membership, and generate ad impressions. A white label is the entire infrastructure and back end support of Supernova.com, stripped of Supernova branding, and replaced with the client’s. We just launched it and our clients have included Rogers, Molson, and Corus Entertainment. That is the future of Supernova.com, growth of the community through corporate partners.
5) So what’s next for Supernova?
Take a look at http://cfox.supernova.com for an example of where we’re headed. Local music communities on Supernova sponsored/presented by the major radio or music television station in the community. This site currently is a contest called the Seeds talent search, which is in it’s 31st year and discovered bands such as Nickelback, Bif Naked, and Default over the years. At the end of the competition, the site will morph into an ongoing local music community. This year we will be rolling out four more in Toronto, Winnipeg, London, and Hamilton, all Corus Entertainment radio stations. The tie in with radio represents a major opportunity for both the bands and the radio stations, as each fulfils a need the other has. Traditional media companies like radio need to stay relevant, get a foot into new media, and show they support local talent. Bands need exposure opportunities traditional media can afford them. Then corporate sponsors and advertisers also benefit from getting exclusive access to a very targeted and engaged demographic. And we grow our platform. Its a win-win-win-win situation, and those are rare. So I think we’re on to something here, and the plan is to roll out across local communities in North America over the next two years.
Elliott, thank you for taking time to answer these questions, but I have just one more question that has bugged me for a while as I zip through your great website looking for new music…
6. What’s up with that reality show band, Rock Star: Supernova that featured Dave Navarro, I believe. Who came first?
A: We were first but being first in Canada against reality show giant Burnett Productions equates to being a flea on a walrus. However, they did have to talk to us when they wanted to promote the TV show in Canada. So we came to a nice agreement, we let them use the term Supernova in Canada for their TV show and they let us use the term Supernova throughout the rest of the world for any non-TV show (the registered the name throughout the rest of the world, which is an expensive and time consuming process, so I think we made out pretty well on that deal). Ultimately the last laugh was on them because a little known band out of LA called Supernova (“Chewbacca”) that didn’t go for the settlement money and fought Burnett on principle to retain the name. Thus, the band had to be marketed and known as “Rockstar Supernova”.
With that, if you would like to access the young adult / youth access demographics, you can reach Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org, but for sure follow Elliott on Twitter @ supernovelliott, or @ supernovacom.