Muzooka Wants to Be the Professional's Music Receptacle

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Compact disc cases stacked on shelf

The free service is a "one-stop shop" for music submissions.

A music industry professional's inbox is a mish-mash of web links and email attachments. CDs wrapped in biographies only add to the chaos. But one startup is aiming to make this discovery process easier for both professionals and artists -- without charging a fee.

Muzooka is a three-year-old, 13-employee startup intended as an inbox for music. Artists upload music to professionals' accounts, and can highlight any ten-second, attention-grabbing clip. Professionals access the songs at a single location without having to sort through submissions of YouTube and SoundCloud links as well as physical CDs.

A range of industry professionals are already using the platform, such as Epic Records evp of A&R Sha Money XL, producers Rodney Jerkins and Tony Maserati, and music venue The Basement in Nashville.

Dan Buckley of Nashville radio station Lightning 100 says Muzooka simplified the process of choosing artists for its annual Music City Mayhem contest. Handpicked artists perform live for a chance to perform at the station's Live on the Green concert series. The usual way of listening to submissions meant listening to music on YouTube, Soundcloud and other services. Muzooka "streamlined" the labor-intensive process. "This is a one-stop shop," says Buckley.

Two established products are already on the market. One is Sonicbids, the platform used by SXSW, CMJ and other festivals to accept artist submissions. ReverbNation also provides a similar artist submissions service and also allows users to submit electronic press kits to venues.

One difference is cost. Sonicbids requires a payment for submissions. ReverbNation charges a monthly subscription fee. In contrast, Muzooka is free to both artists and professional users. CEO Shawn Wilson says a $3-million Series A funding round last year -- another round is nearly done -- allows Muzooka to focus on user growth rather than monetization. Wilson says the plan is to attract sponsorship opportunities after building market share. "We're not here to nickel-and-dime artists. The bigger thing for us is to introduce artists to opportunities and venues to opportunities," says Wilson.

The cost savings to artists can't be overlooked. Using a single platform to submit music -- if enough professionals sign up -- will make it easier and faster for artists to send music to venues, promoters, music supervisors and others. And it eliminates the need to send CDs. One of the benefits of the digital age has been the reduction in the cost of CDs, puffy envelopes and mailing fees.

The company had a different focus when it launched in 2012. Muzooka originally wanted to be "a minor league system for artists," as co-founder Chester Aldridge, who is no longer with the company, said at the time. Users could stream tracks and vote for favorites. Producers could watch for artists with momentum. The platform also sold artists MP3s. While Muzooka still aims to foster music discovery, it has pivoted from a B2C approach to a B2B approach that attempts to solve the problems involved with music submissions. 

To grab market share, Muzooka will need to attract many music professionals like Chris Douridas. A longtime KCRW radio host, Douridas is also a music supervisor, curator and promoter of a weekly concert in Hollywood that features new and up-and-coming artists. He is constantly on the lookout for new music.

Douridas has hit pay dirt multiple times since joining Muzooka in April. Some finds will be featured in the Showtime television series House of Lies, for which Douridas does music supervision. He plans to play couple artists, Michelle Blades and Kansas City-based singer-songwriter Una Walkenhorst, on his radio show. And he has already championed several artists at his weekly event, School Night, which uses Muzooka for artist submissions.

"I pretty much spend all day every day" looking for new artists, he says. "It's really the fuel that feeds everything I do. I'm only as good as the next new artists I find."