The artists have names like Miki Vale, Richard Shade, and Nire, none of which are recognizable to the average person, and that’s exactly how Jonathon Alexander wants it. In fact, the more exposure he can build up for those singers, bands, artists, and designers overlooked by the mainstream media, the better.
“As a radio DJ, I got very frustrated when I couldn’t play a new artist’s work on the airwaves,” says Alexander, 41, CEO of Los Angeles-based Tap It FAME Inc. “Instead of complaining about it, I decided to build an online tool that would get them heard.”
For the service (www.tapitfame.com), artists pay $9.95 (for the basic package) plus merchant services fees. Artists set the pricing for their work and are able to circumvent the 40% to 70% of gross sales charged by most online music sites, says Alexander. Special site features include a patent-pending Fame Tracker (a six-region search engine that allows artists to track exactly where visitor “hits” are generated from), a jukebox of top 25 artists, and direct streaming of songs that allows visitors to listen for free without having to download any files.
“It’s about emancipating the artists and teaching them that they can have thriving careers without jumping through hoops and having to cater to major label agendas,” says Alexander, who plans to have 30,000 subscribers (or artists) on board by mid-2006. That would translate into about $130,000 with an expected increase of 15%—20% growth.
Before launching the five-employee Tap It FAME (an acronym that stands for fashion, art, music and entertainment) in August 2005, Alexander spent about 18 months researching the idea, traveling the world, and talking to artists and consumers about online music.
What Alexander found out wasn’t exactly news to him: independent artists faced significant struggles in their attempts to get their work out to the masses. Knowing this, Alexander decided to help those artists tap the growing online music industry, which is surpassing traditional record-store sales, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The group reports that consumer purchase of online music grew from $1.1 million in 1998 to $5.9 million in 2004. During the same period, record- stores sales dropped from $50.8 million to $32.5 million.
The site offers international exposure for emerging artists, allowing them to upload, display, market, and sell their works. Soul musician Sofya Romans of Miami has been uploading her singles to TapItFame.com since October and is looking forward to showcasing her first album there when it’s released in early 2006. “This site has given me the chance to get my music heard,” says Romans.
So far, Alexander has invested about $400,000 — borrowed from friends and family — in product development and marketing.
Now that Tap It FAME has come into its own, Alexander says investors are approaching him and asking him if they can get involved with the concept.
Samuel J. Boyd Jr., vice president of the National Association of Investment Companies in Washington, D.C., is currently helping Alexander secure financing necessary to market and advertise the online music venue.
“The future is