Thomas Fearn

OOiZiT.com is a social networking site for up-and-coming musicians looking to launch their careers. Founder Thomas Fearn reveals how it works, and why he thinks it can take on MySpace

.net: What exactly is OOiZiT for?
Thomas Fearn: OOiZiT.com is a social network for new UK music artists and people interested in listening to new music. We cover all genres and all locations throughout the UK and provide artists with a space to promote and sell their music. Anyone can join, it’s free and they can engage with people in their local area.

.net: What does OOiZiT offer artists that MySpace doesn’t?
TF: MySpace is a great place to start, but it’s not really focused on new music, nor is it local. You can easily find yourself mixed in with of all sorts of profiles on the site, making it more difficult to achieve coverage.

Think of OOiZiT.com as a social network, traditional record label and digital download store all rolled into one. That’s basically what we are. We provide artists with a service that makes the whole process of creating an online presence, registering their music with royalty societies, uploading their music to sell and promoting their tracks much easier. Within minutes, they can do all of the above without being signed to a label.

With OOiZiT.com, users can ensure that they’re networking with like-minded people who are all interested in fresh UK music. Getting a hit single has never been harder for new acts. Record labels are signing fewer acts each year, which makes it nearly impossible for new artists to break into the industry. OOiZiT.com makes it easier for artists to get a hit. We offer artists a one-stop shop to sell their tracks and be eligible for the UK charts. This means no record deals, no signing your rights away, no exclusivity deals, you keep complete control over your music and do what you do best – make great tracks and promote your music.

In addition, members have access to detailed statistics, are able to exploit the site’s various promotional tools and most importantly, they get to keep 100 per cent of the royalties they generate. We think this really makes OOiZiT.com stand out from the crowd.

.net: How did you come up with the idea?
TF: I have a lot of friends in bands, and I kept hearing that other social networks weren’t, in their opinion, doing enough for UK acts. So I decided to create a new social network specifically for artists looking to break into the music industry.

.net: The site launched a beta in 2008, then closed in June 2009 and only went live in November. Why did it take so long?
TF: The simple answer is that we started completely from scratch. We changed platforms, changed workflow and customer transitions, plus introduced brand new features – all of which takes time to create.

We spent a lot of time working with the community to get it right which meant adding new features, responding to their feedback and ensuring they were happy with the look and feel. It was important to get as much input from the users as possible to guarantee they had all the tools required to increase their fanbase in the UK.

.net: How fast is OOiZiT growing? What’s the takeup of people listening to and promoting music been like, since the public launch?
TF: Since our launch eight weeks ago, we’ve had more than 800 new tracks uploaded which have been streamed over 10,000 times, we’ve sold over 1,000 tracks for unsigned artists and had over 500 new bands register.

We’ve got a lot of activity planned for the coming months, so we’re confident that we’ll gain even more traction, especially on a local level.

.net: Why did you decide to introduce the premium subscription? In the beta it was free to use the site and you said your business model was focused on advertising and micropayment services.
TF: It’s important to highlight that the premium service is only one side of the site. Users can still access most of the features for free – we were very clear on keeping the site open to everyone, not just professional musicians. For those musicians that want to push their career to the next level, from £4.99 per month they can gain access to the premium subscription.

We spoke with the community directly and asked how they would like to see it grow, diversify and become sustainable. Users are increasingly internet-savvy and were very aware that there has to be a revenue model in place. The feedback we received was that micropayments are seen as underhand and restrictive to site usage, whereas a monthly subscription is completely transparent, and with one easy payment, they can access the site in a completely unrestricted way.

At present, we aren’t running any advertising over the portal until the new year. It’s vital for all parties, the community included, that we partner with the right advertisers, so we’re being very selective at the moment.

.net: How do you promote the artists?
TF: All users get access to free information on how to put on gigs, sell tracks, create demos and so on. Also, everyone can user our music players and widgets on other websites too, which will help promote their music to the widest audience possible.

Each month, we select a featured artist to help promote on a more granular level. We help them in a wide range of ways, depending on what they’re trying to achieve at the time. We’ve helped bands launch singles, conduct UK tours and generate quirky marketing material to promote their music. Each artist is different, so we very much focus on their goals and objectives. We’ve produced everything from press releases to life-size signage and even beer mats – all for free.

.net: Can you give us any examples of success that artists have had through the site?
TF: Obviously we’re a new service, so we haven’t had a hit single just yet as a result of the site, but that’s one of our goals moving forward. We’re getting a lot of interest in some of our featured artists, including our current band called The Swiines. We’ve managed to secure interviews with the BBC and airplay on the radio for them, which, for an unsigned band, is a fantastic start. It’s great to see these unsigned acts getting the publicity they deserve.

.net: Who’s responsible for the design of the site, and what were the main challenges in building it?

TF: As a group, we’ve got a lot of resources internally, which has helped with the direction of the design. However, we’ve also enlisted the design expertise of a local company, Juno Web Design.

We decided very early on that the site had to be very artistic and look completely different to the usual suspects (such as MySpace). We took a lot of time to get this right and develop a design that could easily work for any genre of music, and we’re delighted with the result.

.net: How are you planning to develop the site over the next year?
TF: This year will see even more features and promotional tools added to the site for music makers. There will be new ways for them to engage with the community and sell their music on other sites too. Also, we’ll be introducing new ways for music artists to make money.

On the flip side, we’re going to be revisiting the music listener services. There are numerous possibilities that we have available to us for streaming services and we’re already starting to implement those.

We aren’t just about online either; offline is a big area for us as well. We have a lot of activity planned for working with our audience in a very personal, face-to-face way throughout the year.