Amplifying Burlington’s local music access

Not many business students attend introductory classes already knowing what career they want to pursue after graduation. In fact, not many first years plan to design and manage a business on top of the everyday stress of exams and decisions. Senior Ryan Orlove, however, was such a student. He has applied what he has learned attending UVM’s Business School to a web-based business, Amplified.fm. Originally called Burlington Underground, Orlove wanted to provide localized support for musicians in the Burlington area and promote their performances through a geographically ordered live music calendar, Orlove said. People curious about the downtown music scene can simply check the website’s calendar to find who is playing at Nectar’s on a given evening or stopping on tour at Higher Ground later in the week.  Through social networking capabilities of fan recommendations and reviews, navigating your next big show is a personal experience.  Orlove got started when he found himself in a situation all too familiar for college students.  “I was broke from going to concerts at Higher Ground so I started e-mailing managers requesting to interview bands,” Orlove said. “I started getting in for free.” Since then, Orlove has interviewed between 30 and 40 musicians and bands like Pete Francis of Dispatch, Easy Star All-Stars and Tea Leaf Green.  As relations developed, more stories about touring difficulties and record companies ripping artists off kept coming up. “Once I figured out how difficult it was to be a musician on the road, I turned to the business side … kind of like, okay, well, I’m interviewing bands that are going through problems because of what is happening in the music industry,” Orlove said. “How do we help these bands?” With Orlove’s entrepreneurship and the web design of alum Dan Mesa, Burlington Underground — now Amplified.fm — was born. Amplified.fm offers musicians a chance to make their music available for download on the website, thus correspondingly providing users with access to these MP3s. The contract for musicians is free and non-exclusive; the only requirement is a studio album, Orlove said.  The website will allow subscribers to purchase high-quality MP3s after successful beta tests, he said.  Beta testing is essentially working out all of the kinks in order to go “live” beyond Burlington. Now at 40 to 45 bands, Amplified needs to sign at least 150 to do so. Amplified.fm has a commitment to local artists, but has signed nationally acclaimed bands like Lotus and Assembly of Dust, Orlove said.  As a grassroots business, contracted artists will receive 65 percent of the MP3 sales, allocated accordingly from a $9.99 monthly fee for consumer downloads, he said.  Orlove was recently a contestant on the reality web-series sponsored by Sprint and Microsoft, Second Chance. The contestants competed with three other entrepreneurs for a grand prize of $150,000 to reinvigorate the winner’s business. The winner is chosen by voters. “Second Chance involves showcasing your former business, why it failed, and how your new business is going to succeed,” Orlove said. “Burlington Underground was organization and promotion of music. Amplified.fm is organization, promotion and distribution of music.” In addition to a chance to win a monetary prize, Second Chance has also provided Orlove with the opportunity to network and pitch his business model to investors. “I’ve met a lot of people through the show Second Chance, so I can actually take this model and pitch it to … investors, and then, [if we receive funding,] with that funding successfully implement it in Boston, Manhattan [and other cities] because that is where we can support ourselves [using the business] as a career,” Orlove said. By gaining subscribers in major cities, local bands just starting out will have an extended fan base, leading to increased concert attendance and merchandise sales. This is how artists make their money. People can vote for Orlove on Second Chance at BusinessonMain.com.