For the most part, we all listen to the same things. Sure, different people find music in various niches—my sister, for example, gets her music from top 40 radio, whereas I tend to favor NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts—but unless you’re an aspiring Pitchfork writer with a serious case of Internet addiction, discovering new music (especially artists playing in your city) can prove difficult. It’s even more taxing for young artists, whose potential fans generally pay to see the names they already know. Enter MAGNIFI, a new social platform for music, poised to disrupt the dynamic.
Imagine if musical streaming service Spotify and Jambase—an online database of concert listings, ticket information, and tour dates around the globe—merged. Throw in the automated music recommendations Pandora is known for, as well as the upvoting capabilities of Reddit, and you’ve got MAGNIFI. The first and only interactive social network for music, MAGNIFI is a free, ingenious combination of show tracker and playlist, customized to suit each individual’s musical preferences.
“I was working with start-up bands every single day for five years,” explains MAGNIFI founder Wayne Skeen, “I became acutely aware of the challenges they were facing, especially trying to promote themselves in markets where they weren’t well known.”
Around the same time, there were some revolutionary things happening in the digital sphere: community radio was coming up, social networks were growing fast, and people were starting to use apps for everything from dating to sharing what they ate for breakfast. Skeen started to think about how those kinds of platforms could empower the sorts of artists he was working with, and eventually he had a “eureka” moment. Skeen envisioned a platform that combined his lifelong love of music (he was running a record label and working as an audio engineer at the time) with his background in finance and software. The result was a social platform to connect artists, venues, and fans.
Setting up a MAGNIFI account is easy, and requires nothing more than an email, a location, and choosing what kind of music you’re interested in (if that seems daunting, “All Genres” is an option). Once you’ve set up a profile, an algorithm creates a customized playlist of all the artists coming through your city in the next few weeks, complete with the date they’re playing, as well as the locale. In Denver, every major music venue is represented, and as you listen to bands you can upvote tracks, see what your friends are groovin’ on, add concerts to your virtual calendar, or even buy tickets. If you’re more into discovering new bands than attending shows, you can also peruse playlists of top voted artists according to genre.
The author’s personalized Denver playlist.
The company—which currently has 22 employees and is growing fast—boasts more than 17,000 artists and 5,000 venues in its database. Any band can join, but the way they get heard is by booking gigs. Skeen eventually foresees the company being profitable, but after five years of developing the platform, he’s simply excited that both the website and the iOS app have launched with great results (expect the Android version to debut in the next two months). Currently, the engagement rate per song is about 8 percent.
“Of all the factors we look at, our listeners’ voting on tracks has the greatest impact on the Community Curation Engine that makes playlists behind the scenes at MAGNIFI,” says Skeen, emphasizing that building community and fostering conversation are integral to the brand’s ethos.
In an industry where recorded music is no longer going to support artists, especially in the early levels, MAGNIFI has been a long time coming. The value of promotion is much greater than a pay wall, with about 65 percent of a professional artist’s income coming from touring, versus less than 10 percent from streaming and download sales. Venues are also keen on selling more tickets, while fans are open to new tunes, making MAGNIFI a win-win for everyone.
“Every song on MAGNIFI is kind of like a movie trailer,” Skeen says, “It’s entertainment you can choose to partake in. The more people know about a band, and the more the community is talking about things and listening, the more likely they are to go to a show.”
Sign up, listen, and decide for yourself.