TapTape: Opportunity and Hand-picked Talent

Lately I’ve stumbled upon an Entrepreneur post by Alice Guilhamon about TapTape. Reasons enough for me to get in touch with co-founder Christopher Nolte to talk about why he and Jared van Fleet founded the new player in music crowdfunding focussing on hand-picked crowdfunding campaigns for artists about two years ago.

50K MUSIC: In early October last year you and Jared van Fleet launched TapTape. What were your reasons to start another music crowdfunding platform?
Chris: Simply put, I’ve loved the idea of financially backing great artists online for a long time. In a way, I wanted to show those artists my support, and of course prove to my friends that I was right about them being up and coming. Unfortunately, there was never any platform that made this possible for the artists I loved, was reading about, and was constantly telling my friends about. We wanted to build something for those artists.

50K MUSIC: And what’s the difference between TapTape and established platforms like Pledgemusic or Musicraiser?
Chris: Two main things. Opportunity and hand-picked talent.

  1. The rewards fans receive are determined by how much money they contribute AND by how well the artist’s project (i.e., tour or record) does. This pseudo-investment model is completely different and creates a world of opportunity for the fan, rather than asking the artist for charity.
  2. By not making artists ask for hand-outs we remove the stigma associated with crowdfunding, and as such allow can with premier artists.

50K MUSIC: Sellaband and Slicethepie for example have tried out the investing approach in music crowdfunding offering supporters a share of artist’s revenues – in the end with sparse to no success. What are you going to do better?
Chris: We heavily researched and in some cases spoke with the founders of all competitors that came before us in this regard. We found 3 main reasons they didn’t work.

The first, as mentioned, was that the artists on the platform weren’t attractive enough. We believe if you target early adopter music fans, you need to have the artists those fans (we lovingly call them “music snobs”) appreciate. For this reason, we’ve taken a very careful approach to which artists are on our platform.

Second, the investment models of these sites weren’t fully fleshed out. They sometimes struggled with legality, were just “one feature” rather than the main purpose, or were not very transparent in their execution.

Lastly, we think timing plays a big role in all innovation. It is very possible that these sites, being very early pioneers, were too far ahead of the curve in terms of fan and/or artist adoption of this type of funding.

50K MUSIC: You’ve started TapTape beta with the K Theory campaign. Are you happy with the result?
Chris: We’re very happy with the result. Even though the K Theory campaign was a beta launch on a brand new platform, we achieved conversion rates comparable to those published by Kickstarter. The artists have already started engaging with TapTape users on tour and are planning to release merch very soon.

50K MUSIC: And who will come next? Which campaigns are in the pipeline?
Chris: We’re currently working on campaigns with top tier hip hop acts. Once we have these campaigns set up, TapTape will be representing hip hop artists with millions of streams. Our very next campaign is a pure tour-focused model with a young and very talented artists on an exclusive German electronic music label. It should be launching soon. Stay tuned!

50K MUSIC: If I got that right TapTape chooses the artists who run campaigns on the platform. Does it mean that there’s a limitation on access to TapTape for artists?
Chris: Yes there is a limitation. As mentioned, hand-picked talent is one of our differentiators. Each campaign on TapTape is carefully curated by our team, along with the labels and artist managers we work with. Sadly, we’ve had to turn down quite a few artists.

50K MUSIC: Why should supporters and fans join TapTape?
Chris: Supporters and fans should join TapTape because we truly believe early fans are an ESSENTIAL part of an artist’s team and should be recognized as such. Our experience gives that feeling to fans and makes them part of the industry. We’re setting out to make TapTape a true community for fan investors where users can support artists they love and also place bets on quality artists they discover, all while competing with others to prove they’re the top A&Rs in the world.

50K MUSIC: What are your plans for 2016? What are you going to work on over the next few months?
Chris: We’re mainly going to be working on ramping up the rate at which we launch campaigns, while also rolling out new features in the platform and hopefully distributing the first TapCoin investment returns from our first campaigns.

50K MUSIC: And last question: Is there anything you want fans and artists out there to know?
Chris: We think TapTape can help move this industry from one that points fingers to one where everyone is pulling in the same direction. Artists will benefit from this, and ultimately we’ll all benefit from the art they can create. Let’s push aside the corporate church. Let’s connect the right artists with the right fans in order to give talented artists financial freedom and artistic flexibility. That’s our mission!

Christopher Nolte is a MIT graduate and has worked at Booz and Booz digital. He and Jared van Fleet have founded TapTape in the spring of 2014. Jared has performed with several indie bands like Beirut and Voxtrot. TapTape has won the Creative Arts Prize at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and the Business Plan Competition at SXSW’s Interactive Startup Village.

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