After working on the project for more than a year, Kowalsky finally launched Studio120Music.com in September. The site serves as a community for both musicians and fans; artists can post their music and fans can promote it through the site by posting it on their profile pages. Both fans and musicians can make a profit through this relationship.
Once an artist sets up a profile on the site for free, he or she can upload tour dates, pictures, a bio, music and videos. The site does not obtain the right for ownership of the content.
Participating musicians receive download revenues for their music. Fans can also add artists’ songs to their profiles and receive a 5 percent commission for the music that gets downloaded through their pages.
“The fan-sharing commission gives music lovers a value for finding and spreading the word on new music,” Kowalsky said.
The project has been a work in progress since the spring of 2011. During his freshman and sophomore years at UM, Kowalsky started working on his ideas at The Launch Pad.
“After going through several ideas, I really got into thinking about what I wanted to create with the site,” he said. “I knew the two things I cared about the most were philanthropy and independent music, and I realized that there was no true philanthropic music distributor.”
Kowalsky, who graduated as a management major with minors in marketing and music business and entertainment industries, found that his courses helped him accomplish his goals.
“I was able to develop my business plan in entrepreneurial management classes and my marketing strategy in classes like ‘Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Personal Selling,’” he said. “The music business courses gave me the knowledge on all the issues currently facing the industry.”
But fans and musicians aren’t the only ones benefiting from the site. While the artists receive 75 percent of the download revenue and fans receive 5 percent, music education programs receive 1.2 percent. South Broward High School in Hollywood, Fla., is the first music program that the site is supporting. From Sept. 15 to Nov. 15, the school will receive a portion of the site’s download and music subscription revenues. Direct donations are also accepted.
“Currently, we are focused mostly on finding local music programs which are in need of the extra funding,” Kowalsky explained. “We also welcome users to contact us and make recommendations for music programs to support.”
Since its launch on Sept. 15, the site has welcomed more than 130 artists and 300 fans. Most of the artists were specifically invited as top-selling independent artists, Kowalsky said.
“It’s a great place to just be able to put it up there and not have to compete with thousands of already-famous artists,” said drummer Victor Gonzalez, whose band, Evolution of Sound, is part of the Studio120 community.
“Everybody there is kind of on the same plane, the same level. And that’s very important as an independent artist because you’re not competing with people who already have millions of followers. You’re competing with people who are starting out, just like you, so everybody has an equal chance.”
Professor John Redmond, who teaches in the department of music business and entertainment industries at UM’s Frost School of Music, said the site is a great tool for independent artists who would like to promote their music.
“It gives independent artists the opportunity to a new and fresh way of exposing their music, marketing it, exposing it and selling it,” he said. “The artists, while doing this, maintain complete ownership of their song copyrights and their master recordings, a very important issue in today’s music climate.”
Participating artists set prices on songs and albums. But fans can also listen to the music on the site through an unlimited music subscription, which costs $6.95 per month or $69.95 per year. For special promotions and unlimited uploads, musicians can upgrade to a premium account for $4.95 per month or $49.95 per year.
As a slam poet, lyricist and musician, Kowalsky sees the site as a valuable resource for artists in today’s industry.
“As an independent artist myself, I feel the hardest part is promoting your music while you are trying to create great music,” he said. “It’s great to have a site which helps automatically promote your music with cause marketing and your fans.”
Although the site is already functional, Kowalsky expects to make a few additions. The site will eventually allow for artists to search for fans with the most sales. He is also working on getting videos automatically distributed to 25 other sites when music videos are uploaded to Studio120, which will help artists attract traffic.
“In the next year, we will start development of a Studio120 app,” Kowalsky said. “In the future, we will add venue and recording studio users, so that artists can book shows, sell tickets and book recording time.”
But Kowalsky won’t stop there; he hopes to have a worldwide influence with the site.
“We are working to build this into an international independent music site, so that we can have a profound impact with the donations we make to the music programs we support,” he said.