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OurStage hosts online talent show

Website helps new artists bypass Net’s sonic traffic jam and attract the notice of record labels.

By Matthew ShaerStaff Writer for The Christian Science Monitor / August 21, 2008

Plushgun’s Daniel Ingala: Web-savvy fans voted the band’s music to the top of the OurStage charts.

Courtesy of Tommy Boy


New York

A few years ago, Ashleigh Flynn wouldn’t have dreamed of playing Bonnaroo, the premier musical festival held annually on a farm in Manchester, Tenn. She had not yet collected enough press attention, for one, or the apparatus of stardom: the agents, PR specialists, and managers that often guide so-called premium acts to the biggest venues.

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“It’s not really an open process. You’ve got to have bookers that are well networked, and for most indie artists, that’s just not the case,” says Flynn, an Americana singer based in the Northwest.

And yet this spring, there she stood, on a sweltering Bonnaroo stage, surrounded by a festival crowd thick with reporters, label execs, bloggers, and industry cognoscenti. Her ticket to the big show:, a website that allows mid-level artists a chance to post their music and win an assortment of prizes, including cash, gear, and gigs at various big-name concerts across the country.

Ever since Elvis first swiveled his multiplatinum hips, the American pop paradigm has remained the same: record label signs young artists, young artists sell their soul to the label, and never the twain shall part.

Sites like MySpace and PureVolume, which provide a free platform for artists of any caliber, have helped level the playing field to some degree. The Internet, experts often argue, is the great democratizer: It allows artists to disseminate and publish their music on their own terms.

But the Web has also ushered in a sonic traffic jam of monstrous proportions, says Ben Campbell, CEO of the Chelmsford, Mass.–based OurStage. Faced with the prospect of digging through a gazillion middling acts on the Web, many talent scouts resort to traditional channels of recruiting such as word-of-mouth recommendations, thus missing out on those “musicians capable of going to the next level.

“Think about the folks who capture that amazing disaster and post it to YouTube,” Mr. Campbell says. “Those people have no intention of becoming the next Steven Spielberg. Serious musicians, on the other hand, the ones who post their music on the Web – they care a great deal about this, because they’ve just quit their job and are playing shows fulltime. [At OurStage] we’re trying to be a consolidator of the really great artists – the high end of the emerging talent. We have no interest in building a catalog of 2 million musicians.”