[Originally for DC Music Download on 19 October 2012]
At the forefront of the local music scene in 2012 was the initiative Listen Local First. Lead by founder Christopher Naoum, the local scene had a centralized organization to rally behind-an entity that few major cities possessed. If there was ever a momentous moment that happened in D.C. music, one would bet that Listen Local First would be monitoring the situation in at least some form or fashion. With a whirlwind of a year, DMD spoke with Naoum to recap 2012 and other exciting announcements in store for Listen Local First.
D.C. Music Download: Listen Local First is currently working on launching a local music stream-can you talk more about it?
Christopher Naoum: These guys out of Columbus, Ohio won this start-up contest where they got together and created all these apps-and they have 48 hours to launch. The name of it is cannon.fm, and it’s a local music streaming app. These guys are musicians in Columbus, Ohio. They’re also developers and consultants and they basically said, there’s so much diversity in music in the Columbus scene-how do you get to listen to all of this?
The app is up right now in its beta stage. You can search by city (although the only city right now is Columbus), and you can search by genre. You can just click on the genre and it’s sort of like a Pandora-it streams different artists in that genre, you can rate the tracks-whether you like those artists or other artists-and it’ll move the track to the bottom of the playlist. That’s how it is right now.
What they want to do is move it to the real launch-which they’ve been meaning to put together by November. They’ll have two cities: you’ll have Columbus and D.C., you can search by city, or search by genre within a city, and then you’ll be able to click on individual artists and listen to their music and their tracks that they’ve uploaded.
You will also be able to search for upcoming shows, so if you want to see what shows are coming up in the next week you can make a playlist. The other functionality is that they’re making an actual sharing playlist function where you can create your own playlist and share with friends. Each band goes on there and creates a profile, uploads their info, image and upcoming tour dates. They’re working on right now a way to sync with one of the tour date apps, so it auto-syncs whatever tours or dates specifically on cannon.fm-but that will probably be within the next couple of months.
The reason that we went this route was because of streaming in different businesses. It seems like every business we worked with had a different issue, and we were using a Grooveshark stream. It seems like most people were using iPhones and iPods and stuff like that, so this would be an easy way for us to share a playlist. One of the things you could search would be like Listen Local First’s monthly playlist featuring eight artists. We’ve been talking to businesses over the last couple of days and talking to the business we’ve worked with and hopefully we’ll have a little display on each counter telling people to download-and hopefully the stores will be using it. For the couple weeks after D.C. Week, we’ll ask all the stores and business to stream the music.
It was initially a touchy subject for me because the app is free, and all artists are voluntarily putting their music up there. However, they do want to work on putting advertising on the mainstream, and then creating a premium stream to get the music without the ads.
DMD: Could you recap how your first year has been for you working on Listen Local First?
CN: Our mission was to go out and engage the community. Also, to work with local businesses, build a fanbase, and create alternate avenues for local musicians. Take these artists that are performing here and there and figure out a way to integrate them with businesses and get them working with different arts organizations. We wanted to get them working with different event organizers around town to really promote artists and help them build the fanbases that they currently have using social media norms.
D.C. comes with a very educated fanbase, and there are people from all over the country with all different interests in music. The fact that there are so many talented musicians across so many different genres here, I felt like D.C. should be a music town. When you ask people about D.C. they don’t think about music. But there’s a ton of music, and I think what we did initially was the idea of starting the local music stream and reaching out to businesses with this idea that if you’re a local business-you want to support local musicians because the local musicians have local friends and fans that will support you in return, so there’s that relationship that can be made.
If you’ve read the City Paper article in the late spring, Jon Fischer said something about locavorism -you don’t listen because its local. My refute to that is, you don’t listen because it’s local, we are highlighting some of the talent that exists here-we are giving these really busy young professionals that don’t have a centralized location to find the music the ability to access and try out local bands and listen to different music and choose who they like. There are bands that perform here every single night that they can be big fans of.
DMD: What are your goals for the rest of the year going into 2013? What are your biggest priorities-this stream seems like one the biggest.
CN: I think our biggest priorities will be building relationships with local businesses and getting businesses onto this stream. The next step will be monetizing the stream, and getting more people to know that there’s different outlets. There’s still more places where we can promote our local musicians and that’s also what we’re trying to do going forward.
As far as our website, the real focus on that is-I’ve always thought of it to be little more academic. In terms of, there are a lot of great stories out there, there’s a lot of history about different genres and older artists in D.C. We’re always working on a bunch of pieces, and there’s a lot of room for policy discussion on there. As for our website, that’s what I would like to be able to grow in terms of content on that side. There are a lot of people who do a much better job covering albums and doing that stuff and going to shows, and that’s something that I don’t want to focus on. We want to give more background and that will be one way to go.
DMD: With finding more outlets for artists to showcase themselves-this year there was a lot of talk about the metro auditions-and you expressed your feelings on the case. How do you feel about the situation now?
CN: The purpose of what they’re doing is great, but there’s always a bigger goal that can be reached. There’s always a better way to do everything, and I don’t want to be the one sitting back and saying that I wasn’t the one that approached them early enough to express my views. The idea is, going forward, getting to meetings with them-talking with them, have a series of discussions so that when they look to do something again-really all the parts are working together and everyone is working on what’s best for the D.C. music community as a whole.
DMD: What was the biggest highlight or moment from Listen Local First this year? I’m assuming it’s probably SXSW…
CN: The trip to Austin. The idea was great. We put it together and it was done very last minute, and we really decided in February that we’ll put together the Kickstarter-and we got out there in March. It was a success in that we got everyone motivated around SXSW and the alternate opportunities to play on the street and play in front of more people. That was really cool, the SXSW experience was awesome.
As you can see, the videos have been slow to come out, given that the people who were supposed to edit the videos bailed out right when we came back (they actually went under). So we’ve been producing them by ourselves, and putting them out slowly, and finally after I don’t know how many months, we finally are putting together our Kickstarter reward packages-so we’re a couple months late. It seems like it was the gift that keeps on giving on our end. It was great and it was interesting idea. As of right now, we wouldn’t do it again. One, we need a van that’s not going to breakdown six times on the way there.
But, on the other hand (in talking to cannon.fm) that’s something they’re interesting in doing next year, so if they’re willing to get behind this big push, I’m willing to tell them where we went wrong and what we need to do different, how can we make it better and all that stuff. I think it was unique and interesting and awesome, and I think it brought a lot of positive energy to the local music community.
But, I think overall the highlight is that there has been so many people in the past 10 to 12 months that have gotten into working with local musicians, creating more opportunities for local musicians to perform/put on showcases. Now there are different event spaces that are looking into alternate shows with local musicians, you got new blogs like you guys popping up that are focusing on local musicians. It shows that there is an interest in all of this, and there wasn’t that much information out there even a year ago. With all these blogs, and streaming services, with everything that has happened-that is essentially the greatest success.
Interviewed by: Stephanie Williams