Last week I had a chance to speak with Erik Peterson of Plugola Inc. I initially met Erik on Google+ and had a chance to check out his work and he seemed like a very interesting character. He is what many may consider a journeyman sort of like myself a former artist turned multiple dot comer. After exchanging several emails he hit me with a quote from Giavanni Ruffin that really struck a nerve: “My philosophy is that you have to keep going until you hit something worthwhile.”
Erik currently is working on a new venture called hifidelics which is a is a record store built on top of a crowdfunding / fansourcing platform designed to help indie artists make more money and fund their latest releases.
Kelland: What is your background in the music industry Erik?
Erik: Well, I’ve been playing music since I was little kid touring and recording for most of my teenage years through my early twenties. Within the last five years or so, I’ve been focusing more on the business side. In 2007 I started a digital music site called Plugola. The basic concept was a music fan would purchase a record from the ir favorite act and in return they could resell it to their friends and get a commission of the sale. We wanted to be the indie alternative to i-Tunes.
Kelland: How did Plugola work out?
Erik: Chuckles.. I just did this long blog post about it lol. We ran into a lot of problems. We were doomed since we were out of the gates. One of the biggest factors was the economy. We had a ton of investors lined up and soon as the economy went south they all backed out. Some of it was experience and looking back I think we built it too big. We should of started smaller and scaled up. We were too busy trying to keep up with the current technologies instead of focusing what the artists needed. We were too worried about Mypsace, Reverbnation and other sites.
Kelland: Looking back what would you have changed?
Erik: For one thing we wouldn’t have focused on all the “bells and whistles.” I would of just focused on the bare minimum of what the artists needed to help them sell more music. You know? A lot of those things can come later and also you need to get a good idea of what people respond to and what they don’t respond to.
Kelland: Do you think the think that same business model of a fans selling to friends would still work now?
Erik: It’s hard to say now because digital music has changed so much in the last two years, and the whole pirating thing is crazy. Digital music is a great thing but people are not all that excited about it.
Kelland: Tell me about this new venture your working on now?
Erik: This new one is called hifidelics and its really my experience of not having a good experience with digital music.
Kelland: As an entrepreneur, musician or music lover?
Erik: Ha, all the above really. I’ve never really been that excited about digital music. However, before digital music I wasn’t aware of a lot of great bands that are out there. As fan when I purchase music I want something that is a little more tangible. So with this new website, hifidelics, the idea was to create something tangible that would help musicians create money in this economy. That has always been my goal with Plugola and with this site. My idea was to create something that was tangible in a limited edition. We have incorporated crowd funding to help the fans get more involved in the process of the release of the projects.
Kelland: How are your currently marketing hifidelics?
Erik: What I’m working on right now is building an A&R team that works with the the artists through the whole process. They recruit acts and work them with the funding process and in return they would get a piece of the album sales.
Kelland:What type would you give an indie artist?
Erik: Since my focus has always been online I would say you have to engage your fans. Some people think that posting concert footage on Twitter is enough engagement. Most artists are using Facebook and Twitter as an advertisement page and that’s really the wrong way to go. You wanna constantly be sharing what your doing using videos, photos, check-ins and all of that stuff which is a bit difficult if your a private person. You have to be more transparent and test all of the networks to see where your fans or hanging out at. Your fans may not be hanging out on Facebook they may be somewhere else. Target your niche fans and build from there.
Kelland: If you predict the future of music technology in five years, what would it look like?
Erik: That’s a tough one. Long pause… But, digital music is actually starting to make a profit now which is good. I’m surprised about it, but there are also a lot of people going against the grain wanting more tangible music. I see a lot of changes and mp3’s going the way’s of cd’s. I was reading and article Neil Young the other day and he was actually talking about how he and Steve Jobs were actually working on a new format. I see new formats and I really think there will be a new physical format.