Spotlight: How Umek’s $40 Million Music Startup Is Helping Underrated Artists

See what Viberate is doing to help bring together live music globally.
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Viberate Umek

Umek

Being a full-time musician means spending weekdays in the studio and weekends on the road, but somehow UMEK, a techno superstar from Slovenia, manages to squeeze in some extra hours to attend to his music-tech startup Viberate.com. The project is far from being a garage company – today it is valued at $40M and employs 120 people in Ljubljana, Slovenia and across the world. Thanks to their 20 thousand contributors, Viberate is already the world’s biggest live music network.

We sat down with UMEK to discuss how he and his team are planning to change the music business as we know it.

Let’s say I’m an investor, and you have exactly 30 seconds to give me your pitch. What’s it gonna be?

Good one. My team is actually forcing me to memorize our elevator pitch, so let me give it a try.

Viberate is a live music network, bringing standardization into the music business by collecting and connecting millions of profiles of artists, venues, events and festivals all in one place. Viberate offers them data and tools to help their business. Picture us as a kind of IMDb for music. Profiles are super informative and up-to-date. I even deleted my official website because it got replaced with my Viberate profile.

When you say “standardization,” what exactly do you have in mind here? “Standard” sounds more like a term from the banking industry and not really a word that goes around a lot in the music business.

Back when I was starting my career it was all about skill. I needed to perfect my craft to stand a chance of becoming a pro musician, and that was the most important factor. Nowadays it’s different. You still need to be good, but most importantly – you need to get out there to get spotted by the right people. This seems to be the hardest part because there are millions of people like you trying to get that lucky shot. Even if you’re raking up thousands of plays on YouTube, you still need to let people know about it.

Here is where we come in – we present artists with comprehensive profiles that include everything that matters: gig dates, social media links, and the hottest content from the artist’s official channels; we look into how artists are following each other; we aggregate mentions on Twitter and Instagram and much more.

We analyze over a billion data points to single out those who are performing outstandingly well so promoters, agents or labels can easily find them. We also use our popularity metrics to pick the nominees in artist categories for the International Dance Music Awards, and that’s another step closer to becoming a standard.

Let’s say I’m a struggling DJ. How can I use Viberate to help make my breakthrough?

First you need to see if we have you in our database. There’s a good chance we do because currently, we feature almost half a million artists and counting. You need to claim your profile or add it if you can’t find it. Then it’s yours to use. You can follow my steps and redirect your official domain to the Viberate profile and start using it instead of your website. All you need to do is keep posting your stuff on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter… and make sure you add bookings on your calendar. Everything else is done by our algorithms. We’ll highlight your hottest content, match your events with ticket links if we get it through our feeds, pair you with similar artists, and if you really are as hot as you think – we’ll even feature you on our charts.

Half a million sounds like a lot, but when I think about it… It sounds like you still have a lot to cover.

We are not the biggest of such projects, but we are by far the most accurate. We don’t collect profiles by scraping various sources – we rely on our community. We have built our database from scratch with the help of over 20 thousand contributors, who have added profiles and are still curating them. We have developed an extremely functional system of crowdsourcing and curation, which means that anyone can add new profiles into our database, and their entries are carefully curated by our editorial team. Half a million artists already covers the majority of the global music market, and unlike many of our competitors from the music data sector, we really have a unique, clean and relevant service without double entries or corrupted data.

Would you say you’re still fully dedicated to being a professional DJ or is your tech job taking over nowadays?

I’m still a 100% professional musician. I co-founded Viberate with my managers, Matej and Vasja, because we saw the need on the market, but I’m the only one from the team who doesn’t work in the office. I serve as an ambassador to the project and an advisor. An important factor in Viberate’s success is the experience we got through the years of working on my career. In a way, Viberate was founded to solve our own problems, and because we knew that we weren’t the only ones with a poor overview of the global music industry. It wasn’t hard to get investors to put their money into the company, which then fueled our stellar growth. Supporting the underdogs has always been a passion of mine, and back in the days, I did it through my label 1605, where we launched a lot of relatively unknown talent into the electronic music stratosphere. I love discovering the tech aspect of the music business, but still my first love remains being behind the decks.

So, can we expect to see you rubbing shoulders with Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page or Elon Musk on the list of world’s richest techies anytime soon?

You never know! Daydreaming aside, I truly believe we can disrupt the live music market, and other companies are starting to realize that – we are getting interesting feedback from them on a weekly basis. Data is the new gold in this day and age, and music isn’t immune to that trend. Is it enough to get picked up by one of the entertainment or tech giants? I don’t know – ask me in 3 to 5 years.

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