With its acquisition of WOXY , an indie-rock leaning webcasting powerhouse, Los Angeles-based Future Sounds  added an important piece to its growing company built on trend-spotting and independent music. The company purchased WOXY in January and recently decided to relocate the popular station to Austin, Texas from the station’s longtime home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Full-time broadcasting from Austin will start September 8.
WOXY is just one part of the Future Sounds’ media group, one of five segments in the company’s multi-pronged business model. The other four – Future Sounds Records, live events, merchandise and consulting – have been put together to allow promising bands to reach fans and allow sponsors to reach the young tastemakers coveted by national brands and other sponsors. The company’s consulting division was bolstered by its recent acquisition of indie PR company Planetary Group.
CEO Larry Little and his team have built a latticework business model that aims to inject up-and-coming indie artists into a marketplace that’s increasingly focused on touring, advertising and sponsorships. The model works like a flow chart: grab a promising band, record a single, put on a national promo tour with built-in audience, promote through Internet radio and its PR agency, sell merchandise and all the while retain an independent spirit. And because the model is fueled mainly by sponsorships and the indie aesthetic, not music sales, Future Sounds can emphasize single tracks and live music. That’s a combination that has proven successful in the world of indie rock-driven music blogs: hear a song, check out a band and give a national brand your attention.
Such a business model wouldn’t be as effective – or maybe even possible – without sponsorships. A record label would have a hard time surviving on singles alone. Young bands struggle to finance national tours, which are typically funded by a label in order to promote an album. Many brand managers want to be associated with up-and-coming music and the indie music scene. At the intersection of the needs of artists, fans and sponsors is opportunity for a different kind of company.
The cornerstone of the live music division is The Rumble , a monthly party currently held in six cities. Future Sounds has partnered with local tastemakers, record stores and businesses to make it an attractive event for music fans. By the end of the year, Little expects The Rumble to be in 12 cities that will allow for a perfect route across the country – bands can add their own shows between stops for The Rumble. The party series allows a band to start in Seattle (The Crocodile) on the first Monday of the month, play Portland (Mississippi Studios) Tuesday evening, San Francisco (Harlot) Wednesday night, Los Angeles (3 Clubs) Thursday evening and San Diego (The Casbah) on Saturday. Southpaw, in Brooklyn, New York, hosts Rumble on the third Thursday of every month. Little is eying Las Vegas, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, Boston and either Philadelphia or Washington D.C. for future additions to The Rumble.
According to Little, bands will have freedom to choose how they want to work with Future Sounds. “The 360 deal was the last straw,” says the longtime artist manager of his frustration with today’ new artist contracts that contrast sharply with the type of relationships his company fosters. Artists that work with Future Sounds will have an a la carte relationship with the company. One band may do a national tour with the Rumble while adding their own dates. Another band may sign on for more items: build a national tour around Rumble shows, opt to have Future Sounds handle its merchandise, release a single through Future Sounds Record and use the Planetary Group’s PR power to promote their tour, single and merchandise. Others can opt to be managed by Future Sounds (management, along with music supervision and the Planetary Group, falls under the consulting banner).
Future Sounds Records’ first release was the 33rd edition of the Future Sounds compilation. Its first artist release, released this week, is by L.A. band Fitz & The Tantrums. Little says the release is a “digital-only EP with distribution through some indie retail partners.”