With Relaunch, Indaba Goes Major

Back in early 2009, Indaba co-founder Dan Zaccagnino appeared as a guest on the Colbert Report. At the time, the collaboration-centric Indaba was very much an up-and-coming player in the new music space. They had over 125,000 registered users in over 100 different countries, and a more than respectable array of tools for collaboration and education.

Today, though, Indaba is on a whole other level:

  • In the 18 months since Zaccagnino’s Colbert visit, Indaba’s registered user base has mushroomed to 525,000, and over 600,000 musical collaborations have been started. But today, the collaborations are just the tip of a large iceberg. The site has bloomed into a hub of activity where artists can learn about and improve on every aspect of their careers.
  • Its Learning section, already filled with text and video lessons from authorities ranging from Greg Osby to Jackie King to Electronic Musician magazine, now features way more than practice methods and production tips. Thanks to site co-founder Mantis Evar, the site’s Artists in Residence program features career mentoring information from people like Rick Goetz and Sammii D.
  • Its cloud-based DAW, Mantis, which launched in March, recently got a 10,000 clip audio library, and thanks to a thoroughly redesigned front end, it easily supports its 1,000-odd daily users. Before long, users will be able to submit their own clips to the library, either under a Creative Commons license, or for sale through their user profiles.
  • Its contest section, which by Zaccagnino’s own admission on Colbert, initially served as a marketing opportunity for artists and labels as much as anything else, has become a full-fledged marketplace for both A&Rs and aspiring remixers. Artists ranging from Laurie Anderson to Snoop Dogg, and brands ranging from Skullcandy to Ableton, have hosted or sponsored contests on Indaba; most recently, Linkin Park held a remix contest for their song, “The Catalyst,” and the winning submission appeared as a bonus track on the band’s album.

These and other developments are part of a broader strategy to turn Indaba into a central hub for all kinds of musicians.

“The high-level impetus for why we did this expansion is we recognized that there are a lot of great music and tech companies out there, but the space is incredibly fragmented,” explains Nate Lew, one of Indaba’s developers. “Most of us here at Indaba are musicians, but we’ve got to have 15 or 20 accounts on 15 or 20 sites.

“We saw a huge opportunity to create something where the sum would be greater than the parts.”

To that end, they’ve created API documentation so users and outsiders alike can build new apps and features for the community, but there’s far more going on behind the scenes.

As Lew and his colleagues see it, there’s no reason that their site shouldn’t offer advice and tools and opportunities at each stage of the musician’s process. The site’s four verticals – learning, collaborating, producing, and selling music – are distinct and robust, but they’re also easily brought together, something the Indaba team intends to do more of in the coming months.

Soon, users will be able to buy sheet music on Indaba from Alfred, one of the world’s largest sheet music publishers in the world, then learn how to play it from an Artist in Residence.

Once they’ve gotten good enough at playing it, they can upload recordings of their performances of the songs into Mantis, cut them into loops or clips which they can offer to the clip library, or use them for collaborating with other members.

If that yields something amazing, they can then turn right around and sell the finished product, both direct to fans through Indaba, or through iTunes and keep 100% of the profits (Indaba membership fees substitute for the cut that sites like Bandcamp or Reverb Nation take).

Lew and his colleagues have noticed that most of Indaba’s members tend to use the site for one particular thing, whether it’s the community, collaborations, or the contests. But the simple fact that a site finally allows artists to do everything under one login shows that the digital music space has started to go major, and that Indaba’s gotten there first.