Creating an art community, one stream at a time

Creating+an+art+community%2C+one+stream+at+a+time

College students are guilty of short attention spans and endless multitasking, which often results in having Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Wikipedia, and other forms of entertainment open in tabs across an internet browser. We are social, we are restless, we crave exploration of information, and we want it all together, all the time.

In the past few years, the entertainment industry has undergone major changes in terms of the accessibility of material.Streaming services now deliver content —  ranging from film and television to music, literature, and photography — almost instantly to the masses via subscription. At Emerson, freshman visual and media arts major Spencer Gold is creating a company that combines all mediums of art into one comprehensive streaming site entitled StreamArtists.

According to Gold, co-founder of the company, StreamArtists aims to encourage interaction between consumers and independent artists by creating a subscription-based platform, through which users can access an artist’s entire collection of work, regardless of the medium. The site is open not only to music, but also to film, sculpture, paintings, street art, spoken word, comedy, and TED-talk-style videos. Along with established independent artists, the company will include those still in college and hoping to make a name for themselves, particularly from schools like Emerson that are full of filmmakers, musicians, and other creators.

“Emersonians are very artistic, creative minds and we’re trying to not only help them discover art, but also give them an opportunity to make it,” said Gold. “I can see it becoming something prominent here at Emerson because it combines interests from across all majors.”

Gold said he and his team intend to give artists all profits from music purchases on the site; StreamArtists as a company will collect only the $4.99-per-month subscription cost. Customers will also be able to leave tips for the artists to support future projects. By combining crowdsourcing with streaming, Gold and his team seek to give artists an alternative way to make money.

“The company is built from artists, for artists,” said Gold. “We want to make a home for them where the artists aren’t just clients to us, they’re our partners. They are part of the company.”

Gold and his partner, Ehiorobo Igiehon, began assembling the vision for StreamArtists in the summer, just before Gold left for Emerson. The two were inspired by their own personal failures while trying to break into the music industry, said Gold, and decided to find an alternative way to make a name for themselves while helping others with the same goal. They attended the same high school, but Igiehon studies music industry and production at Ramapo College in N.J. But despite living in separate states, the two were able to collaborate. Additionally, Gold said they have an executive board of other college students at various schools in the tri-state area to help with design, legal matters, and outreach.

“We’re very focused on realizing this project and this dream,” said Igiehon. “It’s not a temporary thing. I respect everyone on the executive board and their intelligence levels. They’re very focused.”

According to Igiehon, the drive behind launching StreamArtists stems from their frustration with the music industry and the way they said it treats and takes advantage of artists.

“So far through this process, I’ve learned a lot about how technology has completely morphed music distribution,” Igiehon said. “We’ve been looking at the industry and realizing what independent artists can do for it, and not have to deal with humongous record labels behind them presenting themselves as opportunists to the artists, when it should be the other way around.”

Igiehon, Gold, and friend Dwayne Wells — a sophomore political communication major at The College of New Jersey, who is managing legal work for the company — are all artists who produce their own music and videos. Gold’s younger sister is also a musician, and he said she has tried numerous times to find a break in the industry, to no avail.

“Our inspiration is people who have been hurt by record labels and studios,” said Gold. “We know how hard it is to succeed on your own. We want to help the nameless artist that struggles day in and day out, not to become a superstar, but to inspire and connect.”

The team began by drafting its business plan and entering the Mayo Business Plan Competition at The College of New Jersey. The results will be determined on April 9 after two rounds of finals in February and March, and the first place prize is $16,500. Currently, Gold, Igiehon, and Wells are paying the company’s expenses out of their own pockets without any financial help; their biggest investment thus far was the purchase of the site’s URL.

“Winning a competition would give us the initial surge we need to start out,” Gold said. “It would give us some type of recognition.”

In the meantime, Gold said he and his team are coding the beta site, a tedious process that involves constant refining to align the reality of their site with their vision. Gold said he began teaching himself how to code three months ago, and has been working on the site itself for the past two.

“The challenge right now is the technological aspect of starting the company,” said Igiehon. “When you do a web startup, there are a lot of things to take into consideration, like making sure it’s user-friendly. That, and we are also making sure that we market it to our intended demographic.”

StreamArtists will not be showcasing signed artists until later in the year at the earliest, but the founders tenatively aim to finish the website by spring and use it as a pitch to potential collaborators. Wells said their intended audience is college students who are passionate about art and music, while their intended clientele is simply anyone who creates.

 “After talking to some of our mentors in the business,” added Gold, “we’ve really adapted the philosophy that the goal is not to thrive, but survive early on.”

Creating an online presence is the prerequisite for their advertising campaign, which they said will consist of college tours in the tri-state area. Gold and Igiehon plan to talk to arts majors and propose affliating themselves with StreamArtists.

“We’re taking an unconventional tour,” said Wells. “We don’t want it to be bland, or conventional, or orthodox advertising.”

Wells described the planned ad campaign as akin to that for the OBEY clothing line: The team plans to distribute apparel and stickers printed with the StreamArtist logo. They will also host small live events, such as collaborative paintings, fundraising concerts, and lectures.

“The plan is to use artists’ existing fanbases and converge them,” said Gold. “We want to build a massive cult following of young, early adapters and innovators who love art culture and want to see it improve with us over the years.”

Though the company is in its early stages, Gold, Igiehon, and Wells work diligently each day to move toward their goal, and said they put in almost three hours of work each weeknight, on top of their schoolwork. The group is focused, efficient, and determined to pursue their dream, said Igiehon.

“We are driven to keep artists from falling off the radar,” Gold said. “We know this has potential. We want our artists to have a career and keep making art and doing what they love and really evolve under our flag. And we want to be there during the process.”