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Interview: Brandon Thorn and Jordy Fujiwara of sourced.fm

 
By on Tuesday, 1st July 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Besides being known as *the* hotbed for new band discovery, Austin during SXSW has the added massive benefit of the sheer fact that tonnes and tonnes of great musical minds are all in one place for a week. It was at this year’s event that I was introduced to the concept and the very new company based in Toronto that goes by the name sourced.fm. It was pitched to me as a forward-thinking version of the often cringe-worthy band Web site bulletin boards I frequented in the early days of the internet, but with some major differences, including its focus on the importance of local music communities and direct artist to fan interaction in a better way than we’ve seen with other sites. As I was keen to learn more about the company, founder Brandon Thorn and co-founder Jordy Fujiwara were very kind to answer some of my burning questions about what they do and what they hope to achieve with sourced.fm.

Tell us a bit about yourself/yourselves. What is/are your role/roles in sourced.fm?
Jordy: I’m originally from the east coast of Canada – Halifax, Nova Scotia. My background is social psychology and business. As a startup, everyone takes on every role, but my business cards say “co-founder, marketing”.
Brandon: I’m a developer and lifetime music lover. I’ve been developing sourced.fm over the past few years, starting as a hobby project and turning into a lot more. I’ve been mostly focussed on development, but part of the appeal has always been the excuse to go to shows more so now that we’re running I’ll be switching to the fun part.

What are the core philosophies and values of sourced.fm?
Jordy: The core belief is that success in music starts with a local community. We also believe that a community with a purpose is literally one of the most powerful things in society (see: society).

So how did the idea of sourced.fm come about? What was the impetus to start your own company?
Brandon: sourced.fm has never really felt like a company, more like a mission. It started a few years ago when I started to reflect on my time in the local Belleville scene. I was always struck by how one band in particular who had a ton of local support couldn’t make it turn into more outside the city. It never really made sense to me, so I started to think about how artists grow and how people interact within the community to try to reimagine how we make and support music. The result is sourced.fm, both the released and unreleased parts.

Did you find yourselves / what made you disillusioned to what you saw in other online music communities? How does sourced.fm address / hope to address those issues?
Jordy: For me, it’s not so much disillusionment as it is…seeing untapped potential. There are all sorts of awesome little music communities online but they’re just kind of there for the sake of being there. The only thing sustaining them is the collective interest of the people that use them, which is fine! But if you add some direction and purpose to that environment? Magic.
Brandon: For me, it’s much the same. I’ve seen how amazingly supportive local music communities can be, and I’ve seen how supportive great online communities can be, like Reddit for example. We want to blur those lines with the purpose of helping local artists and the communities they come from.

How will / does sourced.fm cater to local music communities and how is it different from other social media sites we see out on the internet now? If someone joins your Web site today, what kind of things can they do? How can they get involved?
Jordy: Many social media sites either have no forum or add one as an afterthought or feedback system. At sourced, the discussion is the core and all the other features exist to support it.
Brandon: Anyone who’s familiar with local music forums has probably seen some of the powerful ways they can be used to keep the scene connected and alive. Most things a scene needs, like booking, live reviews, a way to share and talk about what’s going on, etc., can be done through a discussion forum because conversations are how they’re all handled offline too. We have a number of additional features we’ll be periodically releasing that offers more formalized solutions for some of those needs, but the most important part is the people and the community so we want to focus on building that first. [An up-to-date “what can I do here?” / “what will I be able to do here?” list exists here.]

In what important ways is sourced.fm different from other music Web sites that seek to draw in fan and artist engagement? What do you hope will draw music fans to join?
Jordy: Being obsessed with community, another thing that sets us apart is that we’re allowing the userbase to take an active part in the actual construction of the site. There are progress bars and transparent updates that people can provide immediate feedback on – it’s not an afterthought system – it IS part of the system. This way, sourced becomes what the music industry needs it to be versus being limited to what the founders envision.

I can see the sourced.fm concept working really well in what I consider cities traditionally open to and embracing new music (your own city of Toronto; New York City and Los Angeles in America; London, Manchester and Glasgow in the UK; Sydney and Melbourne in Australia; Tokyo, Japan), but how do you see this working in smaller, possibly less accessible towns?
Jordy: The Internet eliminates a lot of the barriers that geography once imposed. Every large music centre has tendrils and tour lines that extend out into the surrounding area; your biggest fans could be from halfway around the world. sourced is designed to fit the needs of anything between three music enthusiasts operating out of Andrew, Alberta to a network of promoters based in NYC.
Brandon: To add to that, we want to help local artists to exist outside of their own city. If you don’t have local support for your genre, but say Montreal does, you can override the city for your discussion and post out to Montreal to get to know their community better. Alternatively, if your city is small or remote, using sourced.fm helps the music enthusiasts in that town stay more connected which can create more opportunities for music to get made. And then there’s always the macro aspect that helps content bubble up to the whole community regardless of where it came from if you’re not filtering for location. We’re really trying to make something that can work across the board because music is everywhere.

From the artist perspective, it’s my understanding that sourced.fm will provide a more integrated way / one stop shop for them to build their audience through your online communities, as well as do things such as crowd funding, which is the primary goal of services like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic. If you were talking one-on-one with an artist today, how would you convince that artist to join you instead of / in addition to one of your competitors? What does sourced.fm bring to the table that’s special?
Jordy: We tell them this: we will provide the exact same service as a Kickstarter as far as crowdfunding goes. You can do it on Kickstarter or Pledgemusic, and it’ll be fine, it’s a great service. Or you can do it on sourced, where there’s not only an active and passionate community, but also a constant mission to build and support that community.
Brandon: At the end of the day, sourced.fm is what you make of it. If you just need a place to crowdfund, that’s awesome, we’ll have you covered. If you just want to chat about music, or have a music blog, or keep notes about your music life, you can do all that. The features aren’t anything shiny or special on their own, the thing that’s special is that those features tie into an active and persistent community that drives the whole thing forward. We don’t want to end up with a software solution, we want a people solution.

If you could choose to work with any artist on a special campaign on sourced.fm, who would it be and why?
Jordy: We’ve always looked at Amanda Palmer as being someone who really understands the power of the crowd – not just from a funding perspective but also from a truly revolutionary communications standpoint.
Brandon: Amanda Palmer would be amazing. I’d also personally love to do something with Watsky. I’ve been a fan for a while, and his music was a big part of my listening for giant chunks of working on sourced.fm. I saw him in Toronto and he stopped part way through to talk about the importance of community and how much he appreciated the support, which he also talked about, teary-eyed, in a YouTube video from his album release. I know we’d pitch it and he’d get it, and I’d love a chance to connect him and his community for a special project.

Currently, the site allows for users in America and Canada. Are there plans to expand further afield beyond North America?
Brandon: Yes, we’d love to expand, and we really hope we can sooner rather than later. It’s more a matter of logistics than anything else. We plan on releasing crowdfunding sooner than we’d be able to connect with and seed overseas communities, and with crowdfunding comes the business side of things that has to keep everything running smoothly which borders tend to complicate. For now, we’re a very small team, so supporting the world just isn’t possible for us yet. As we have more to work with, we can do more so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to remove borders as quickly as possible.

What’s next for sourced.fm? What’s in the pipeline that your users and artists can be excited about?
Jordy: My, where to start? I’m pretty excited to enable our “Hz” system that allows people to see who or what is getting the most support from the community. Brandon?
Brandon: Once we get through releasing some of the missing core features like messaging, Hz and our social integrations, I’m looking forward to getting people using the crowdfunding service. I think once we’ve got it running, the difference a community model will make for crowdfunding is going to be clearer and knowing that we’re going to be very tangibly helping artists live their passions is the reason this whole thing started, so for me that’s exciting.

Many thanks to Brandon and Jordy for answering my questions about their exciting project.

 
 
 

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