What is Baboom? It's a reasonable question, even after studying the New Zealand-based company's site and platform, which launched to the public this past Monday (Aug. 17) with no advance warning. At first blush, the company seems to offer a hybrid streaming service and digital store, aimed at independent artists and labels and bolstered by a model it calls "fair trade streaming," in which premium users of the service augment the bottom line of the artists they most enjoy. It turns out, though, that Baboom has a refreshing, possibly promising, approach to its its place in digital music -- Baboom wants to give the independent artists its focused on courting chances at greater exposure, and revenue.
The company first came to public attention in Dec. 2013, announced as a new project from beleaguered, sometimes jailed, public-opinion-lightning-rod Kim Dotcom. Dotcom removed himself from the company a year later, however, writing on Twitter "the music industry hates me," and that he was holding the company back. Indeed, CEO Grant Edmundson said Dotcom's association put "enormous headwinds" on the company's fundraising efforts. (To bolster that sentiment, Dotcom this week posted a recording of a pitch meeting between himself and Universal Music Group executives that took place two days before the raid on his New Zealand home.)
Since then, Baboom has been run by Edmundson, named CEO 18 months ago and tasked with zeroing in on its business plan and remit, as well as divorcing the company from any association with Dotcom, which he says would have "suffocated" their efforts. Edmundson speaks quickly and intelligently, with a New Zealander's knack for artfully off-the-cuff colloquialisms. On the gargantuan catalogs of services like Spotify: "The thing with that is it becomes a big dog pissing contest... if you'll excuse the phrase."
Edmundson has brought in entertainment industry veterans (outside of himself, an lawyer who in focused on intellectual property exploitation and protection), including CFO Tony Smith, a 26-year veteran and former director of finance or Sony Music's Australian operations, and non-executive director Nathan Ruff, who helped with the Australian launches of UFC, NFL and CollegeHumor.
Baboom plans to offer its artist clients something unique in the digital music space -- business connections. The company has already struck up a partnership with sports channel Fuel TV, with the service to act as the channel's "music engine." Baboom plans on offering clients the opportunity for placement within the channel.
"We struck up a partnership with Fuel TV, and we're positioning Baboom as the music engine for them. We want to give artists an opportunity to get into those spaces. We want to constantly provide a constellation of other opportunities for artists. Let's bring in this person, that organization, this album cover designer -- whatever the case may be. We want artists to say 'I'm not getting this anywhere else.'" The result is, sort of, an a la carte label services streaming company, coupled with a social media hub (and, soon, a ticketing platform, which will "really put a cat amongst the pigeons," says Edmundson).
And what of your platform spreading itself too thin? "We're not a clarion call to say hey we've got all the answers," says Edmundson. "We're here to provide a boutique experience for independent artists. The idea is not to put the spotlight on Baboom, but on the artist and their content."
Edmundson says the service is drawing in about 1,000 artists a day, and 17,000 fan accounts per day -- relatively impressive numbers for a company that few have heard of yet.
As to the company's future, it's anyone's guess. But pragmatism is its strength.
"Our goal isn't necessarily to achieve a number of artists -- then you fall into the same narrative as every other streaming service. Of course we want millions of people using it, but as an objective that's not part of our goal."