Topspin, RootMusic Form Partnership to Sell Merch, Music, More on Facebook
Topspin, RootMusic Form Partnership to Sell Merch, Music, More on Facebook

A company built in the 00's to help artists sell and market direct to their fans stands to get a big boost from a 30-plus-year-old company looking to bring artists and fans together: New artists pages to launch at MTV.com will feature direct-to-fan features powered by Topspin Media.

Announced Thursday at SXSW by Van Toffler, president of Viacom's Music Group, and set for a May 1 private beta and a summer public debut, Artists.MTV will provide a digital home base within the MTV ecosystem for over 1 million artists. Artists will be able to sell digital and physical goods, upload and stream digital content and sync social accounts to pull content from other platforms. Each Artists.MTV page will also feature a virtual tip jar. Artists can register for the private beta now by clicking here.

"Jersey Shore" may pay the bills, but MTV has spent the last few years repositioning itself as a company that connects artists and fans. MTV is "really building on our legacy of connecting artists and fans, and giving artists incredible platforms for exposure," Shannon Connolly, VP of digital music strategy, MTV Networks, told Billboard.biz.

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Those new technologies include Hive, MTV's online music portal, and Music Meter, a smartphone app that taps into the Echo Nest's API to present an ever-changing look at which bands are bubbling up in social media and the blogosphere. Connolly's team has also revived the "120 Minutes" program and launched the "Live in NYC" series of concert webcasts.

Topspin Media started with high-end tools for artists to sell direct-to-fans but wants broader distribution for its entry-level direct-to-fan tools. Both tiers of service charge the artist a percent of revenue generated from sales on the platform. The regular Topspin service costs $9.99 per month/$99.99 per year. The feature-heavy Topspin Plus costs $49.99 per month/$499.99 per year. No details were given in the press release, but Connolly said MTV would subsidize the cost of the artist accounts.

The deal stands to boost Topspin's business by putting 1 million artists within Topspin's reach.

"It is great for us," Topspin CEO Ian Rogers says of the partnership with MTV. "But I think it is generally great for artists. MTV has a fire hose, but they can't use if for every artist, obviously. But it does actually scale because first of all they've got great SEO [search engine optimization]. That does scale for every artist on the platform. They use mostly unsigned bands for [song placements] their shows. They're completing the loop now from driving traffic from those shows to the web."

A program - its working title is Full Frontle - will taken some chosen artists from Artists.MTV and showcase them through MTV's many TV and digital properties. Artists.MTV "[will] become the hub, the centerpiece of a lot of pro-artists and pro-music discovery initiatives we've been doing for the last few years, including the O Music Awards, Hive, Music Meter and Push," says Connolly.

Launched in 2007, Topspin spent its first three years working on advanced features that require extensive technical knowhow on the artist's end, says Rogers, who became CEO in 2008. "When you do that, you end up building a broad and evolved feature set but not necessarily the ease of use that will work for an artist just starting out."

Having rich tools for established artists and simpler tools for entry-level artists means artists on both ends of the spectrum can benefit from the partnership, says Rogers. On one side of the spectrum is the ability to get content from emerging and unknown Topspin clients to MTV's TV, web and mobile properties. At the other end are campaigns for established artists like Linkin Park and Eminem that can leverage Topspin's platform and MTV's audience, programming and properties. "We need one of those two things to be successful, and I think this [partnership] has the potential to drive both."