Kevin Arnold Launches OpenAura Image Distribution Company for Artists

Can a picture be worth a thousand dollars or more?

That is the hope of OpenAura, a San Francisco company that wants artists to make money from their digital identity by distributing official photos, artwork and other visual content to a growing array of music services, apps and music-related websites.

Started by Kevin Arnold, the founder of the Independent Online Distributuion Alliance (IODA) and creator of the Noise Pop music festival, OpenAura on Wednesday invited artists to claim their accounts on their site and make images available. It's also seeding the platform with images culled from the pubilc Web, automatically allocating photos to artists profiles so they can approve images without having to upload them. 

The company struck early agreements with a handful of artist management firms to seed its platform with participating artists. Those include Red Light Management; Arts & Crafts, which represents Broken Social Scene and the Darcys; Crush Music, which manages Fall Out Boy, Train and Sia; TMWRK, manager of Diplo and Dillon Francis; and Zeitgeist Artist Management, which represents the Postal Service and The Head and the Heart.

OpenAura plans to make money by licensing its application programming interface (API) to developers and music services that wish to have access to those photos. As a group, artists will receive 30% of the fees the company collects, while 20% will go to those who own the copyrights to those images. OpenAura will retain the remaining 50%. How much money artists and rightsholders end up receiving will depend on how many services become customers and how the images are used, the company said.

While it’s unclear whether app developers or music services can or will pay OpenAura to access artist-curated, Arnold believes that artists will be able to supply enough compelling visual content to make a difference in the enjoyment of those apps and services.

"In today’s world where fans engage directly with artists in many ways across many networks and platforms, the '80s-bio-and-photo-press-kit version of identity isn’t good enough," Arnold said. "With connected screens everywhere and fans consuming and creating content at breakneck pace, the industry needs a better visual content offering to move music user experiences forward."

OpenAura is partly backed by Sony Music Entertainment, which provided the company with seed funding. Arnold had sold IODA to Sony in 2009 and subsequently went to work there as executive VP and senior advisor to Sony’s Global Digital Business until April 2013, when he left to start OpenAura.