When trying to be musicians on the Utah concert circuit, Hunter Derrick and Brandon “Bowie” Roy said they struggled to find out who else was playing around them.
“The majority of people who come to these [local] the shows — and who know the local music scene — are just the friends and family of the musicians themselves,” Roy said.
It was “crazy,” Roy said, that there was no way for people to discover music by location.
This idea, and Derrick and Roy’s direct experience as musicians, inspired them to create Mixlo, a starter mobile app that offers a location-based approach to streaming music.
Roy, chief product officer for the Salt Lake City company, said Mixlo combines location-based software — like what he said dating app Tinder uses to find potential partners in your area — with a music platform, connecting people to music produced by bands and artists. where they live.
The main selling point of the app is its hyperlocal orientation.
“We are the first platform to create location-based music charts,” said Derrick, CEO of Mixlo. “Rather than trying to collect artist data and then say, ‘Here are the Salt Lake City charts,’ we start at the source.”
The app, which is still in beta testing, will be driven by user experience — connecting people not just to “like-minded music fans” where they live, Derrick said, but with fans and music enthusiasts around the world.
Another goal of the app is to support artists in their careers, such as connecting them with relevant people in their communities, Derrick said. He said the app could help provide a springboard into a musician’s career — something Derrick and Roy didn’t have when they worked as musicians in Salt Lake City.
The idea of networking is also how Mixlo, which Derrick and Roy started working on in 2018, has grown.
“A big part of Mixlo is about networking and connecting,” Derrick said. “We were able to tap into some of our networks and bring in some really good people from across the country who wanted to help.”
Part of that networking is putting musicians and app developers on the same page, Roy said.
“When we first thought of these ideas, it seemed to us that the people who know the need for them — the musicians — don’t have the wherewithal to create this kind of app,” Roy said. “And people who can afford it don’t really know what musicians are going through.”
An admitted blind spot on the Mixlo “team,” as noted on the company’s website, is that all of its employees are male. Derrick said the company is encouraging more women to apply for jobs there.
Plans and payments
So far, with the app’s planned launch in late fall, around 100 artists have uploaded their work to the beta. Now the question arises: how much will they be paid?
In the era of digital music streaming, this is a contentious issue between artists and platforms – how much an artist gets paid is often determined by the platform’s revenue model.
According to the Headphonesty website, Apple Music plays a penny, $0.01, per stream, and Spotify pays a third — $0.0033 — per stream. Also, for a stream to count, the song must play for at least 30 seconds.
More often than not, streaming services use a royalty-based system — and that can vary depending on what an artist’s record company puts in place, according to a February article in the music journal Billboard. How labels calculate these royalties, writes Billboard, “is hidden behind an opaque process and nondisclosure agreements, frustrating artists and some labels who feel disadvantaged by uneven playing fields.”
The result is that many artists earn next to nothing on streaming platforms, no matter how dedicated their fans are.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the companies that are streaming,” Derrick said. “That’s how the model works, how it realistically unfolds.”
In the days of CDs, he said, “if you took 10,000 albums and sold them, you made thousands and thousands of dollars,” Derrick said. “But now if you have 10,000 album streams with ten songs, you’re going to be between $400 and $500.”
These issues are worse, Roy said, for artists whose popularity remains local.
“If you’re a small artist who has maybe 1,000 fans, if they’re super dedicated, why should the monetary value of your streams be capped at a very low value?” said Roy.
It’s important to Mixlo, Roy said, that artists can be successful at any level of popularity. That’s why Mixlo plans to pay artists per stream — somewhere between 20 and 138 times more than other streaming platforms, Derrick said, based on their projected numbers so far.
And the company plans to offer an incentive to “boost” artists, Roy said. “You basically give them a boost, they get more exposure and more money too,” he said.
For all of this to work, however, Mixlo itself has to succeed – and that’s not a sure thing in the world of mobile apps. According to the expert we believe, the success rate of startup apps ranges from 1 in 10 to 1 in 10,000.
Indie and beyond
Mixlo bills itself as an indie music hub, in particular, that dates back to its Utah roots. “Indie is most dominant in parts of Utah,” Derrick said.
“When I think of indie, I think of indie, those people who do it themselves and usually don’t have a big backing behind them, like a label,” Roy said.
The company is thinking bigger, however – offering a range of genres when it releases, and eventually expanding to music hubs such as Nashville and Austin.
One example of an artist Mixlo helps, Roy said, is Young Yankee, a hip-hop group from Salt Lake City who not only uploaded their music to Mixlo, but were also guests on the company’s podcast. The purpose of the podcast, Roy said, is to get to know musicians better and learn what’s important to them.
Mixlo is “not just another project”, Roy said. “It’s something that we all realize can be important and can really make a difference for musicians around the world.”
Editor’s note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Please support local journalism.