Music is one of the scariest industries for startups. With giant record labels dominating, it’s hard to move quickly without running into roadblocks. RockStar Motel is working to take the power out of the record labels’ hands, putting it into fans’ hands.
The Seattle startup allows fans to “sign” different artists, stream songs and buy tracks via Amazon or Bandcamp. You can then promote your favorite artists to your friends, while gaining points along the way. With this gameified experience, fans have an incentive to share their musical tastes. Artists are given the option to award their top fans with prizes (signed gear, personalized videos, tickets, etc.).
CEO and founder Luca Sacchetti, a music industry veteran with over 10 years working with artists, came up with the idea from his own personal experiences in the music industry. The 13-person company has raised $750,000 in a friends and family round.
We caught up with RockStar Motel’s CEO Luca Sacchetti and Marketing Director Emily Mcfadden for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight:
Explain what you do so your parents can understand it: “RockStar Motel is a music platform that uses the power of the social discovery to democratize the music industry. Fans take a proactive role in the industry by representing and promoting their favorite artists. Using gaming dynamics, RockStar Motel rewards tastemakers and enables them to become a new powerful marketing vehicle for artists. Through this, artists gain the data and tools to take control of their own careers.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We’ve Bootstrapped so far. It has given us time and freedom to develop our brand and our product so that its true to our vision. As we seek our Series A funds, we’re more interested in the right fit for the company than the classification of the investor.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Our CEO, Luca was in a band for over 10 years, experiencing the highs and lows of life as an artist. Eventually, he grew fed up with the bureaucracy of the industry, so he hung up the mic. Luca moved on to a career in real-estate development, but always felt he wasn’t finished with music. On a long drive to one of his projects, the idea of RockStar Motel struck Luca like lightning, and he knew what he was called to do.”
Our Secret Sauce is: “We’re taking fans out of the passive ‘audience’ role and putting them behind the scenes in the industry. By tearing down the walls, we’re letting the fans control the industry. The more they partner with artists and understand the power of supporting them, the better the music industry will be for everyone.”
The Smartest Move we’ve Made So Far: “Hiring music lovers and recruiting advisors who are embedded in the industry. We’ve found amazing people with true passion for the project and the vision. We’ve been able to do so much with so little money because people really believe in what we are doing. From industry advisors who are willing to turn over their Rolodexes to us, to employees who are willing to make tremendous sacrifices to be a part of this revolution. People are everything.”
The Biggest Mistake We’ve Made so Far: “There was a period where we were so excited to bring RockStar Motel to the masses that we got ahead of ourselves. From a product standpoint we wanted to implement all of our ideas at once, rather than sticking to the core. We’ve since stripped it back to the basics, and it has improved the product dramatically.”
Would you Rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos. What Amazon did to books and thus publishing, is what we plan to do to the music industry. There are a lot of parallels between our model and Amazon’s, so Jeff Bezos would be a great person to have around.”
Our world-dominations strategy starts when: “When people realize that music is not about world-domination. It’s funny, but by focusing on giving control, instead of taking it, we’ve positioned ourselves for great success.”
Rivals should fear us because: “It’s not “us” they should fear, it’s the people we are empowering that they should fear.”
We’re truly unique because: “We trust teenagers, hipsters, musicians, and other hooligans to run our industry. We believe the future will be so much better with them at the helm, than the suits that have all the control today.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Artists are a bit jaded. We tell them we are giving them power, and sometimes they look at us like we’re giving them a hand grenade. When we have a few seconds of their attention, we can blow them away with the control and information we’re giving them. (In a good way, not a hand-grenade way).”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d’ give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Never hope harder than you work. It’s going to take a lot of sweat and unwavering resolve. You’ve got to earn every rung on the ladder of success. It’s a tough climb, so you better believe in your ideas beyond reason, beyond doubt, and beyond sanity at times.”