Starting a Music Website

Interview with Chicago Entrepreneur Alex White

Ever thought about having your very own record label? Alex White's company, The Next Big Sound, lets you be a musical kingmaker, allowing you to decide which bands you think will make it to the big time.

Starting a new music website might seem like a daunting task, given all the competition out there.

Interview with Chicago Entrepreneur Alex White

But a unique angle and good execution can go a long way, as evidenced by the growing popularity of The Next Big Sound.

We talked with Alex White, one of the co-founders, about what they are doing at The Next Big Sound and how it's going.

Alex, thanks for joining us. Tell us about what you are doing at The Next Big Sound.

The Next Big Sound is an online music website that lets anyone play the role of a record mogul and "sign" whatever bands they think are going to become famous to their own personal record label.

Listeners arrive on the site and are presented with a simple online music player streaming great unsigned music from across the country. When they hear a song or band they are passionate about they can register free for the site and sign that band to one of their ten limited roster spots.

We track the order in which users sign the bands and publicly recognize those moguls who are able to spot the best talent early on.

When did you start the business?

While the kernel of the idea is approximately two years old, the real business took shape in an entrepreneurship course at Northwestern in the Winter of 2008.

The site launched live on August 1, 2008.

What were you doing before this?

I just graduated from Northwestern in June. The three other co-founders are now seniors at Northwestern. The four of us have been involved with smaller entrepreneurial projects in the past but this is our first real business.

Where did you get the startup money?

We won a little bit of prize money for having the best undergraduate pitch at the Northwestern Venture Challenge. We all received an investment from Illinois Ventures through their iVentures10 program which gives seed funding to young college teams.

That's a great way to get initial funding. Congratulations! So who are your main competitors and how do you compete against them?

We consider our competition to be anyone in the crowded online music space. The biggest players are sites like MySpace, PureVolume and Pandora.

We believe we offer consumers a unique way to interact with up and coming bands and a chance to finally take an active role in the music discovery process.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

Starting a company is a lot more complex than I ever could have imagined. We have spent the last nine months basically thinking about different aspects of the site and I still feel like there are a million things we haven't covered yet. Also I figured we would work long hours but I never imagined how all consuming it would become.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I wish we had been able to start it sooner!

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

Networking. Reaching out to the right people and getting connected to influential and intelligent people has helped us do more than we ever could have done alone.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Make sure that it is something you want to think about 24/7 because if you don't love keeping up to speed on the competition and talking about the idea, there is no way you could make it work.

That's great advice, and it's something that many new entrepreneurs don't consider early enough. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, Alex, and good luck to you and your partners in growing your business.

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What's your perspective on this entrepreneurial story? Do you think The Next Big Sound has discovered a nice niche in this competitive space? We welcome all comments, questions and suggestions. For more interviews with entrepreneurs, browse the rest of our site.

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