The music industry is a harsh one.

A select few artists rise to the top each year, while the rest struggle for attention.

Luke Logan, a Stoughton High School class of 2014 graduate, wanted to make a difference and root for the little guys.

He joined with a group of lifelong friends, including Stoughton’s Max Fergus, and other area grads Ben Solomon, Elijah Isenberger, Luke Kollman, Derek Zenger and Curtis Rollo, to create a music streaming app called Live Undiscovered Music that restricts big-name artists and instead works to promote the music from artists and producers at a local level.

The app was born from a “think tank” session the group of friends had in November 2017.

All students or recent graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they wanted to find a unified direction to head after graduation and decided to start their own business within the music industry.

The app combines a streaming service with social media. Artists are able to add their music, promote shows and interact with fans, who in turn rank, share and stream the music.

“We started doing a lot more research into the music industry and we realized it’s in a really weak state right now, there’s a lot of unrest, and a lot of it comes from the increase in digital content and the value gap that has been created because of streaming platforms,” Logan explained. “It’s a difference in the money these current streaming platforms are making, and that the money is not being put back into the industry.”

Free to use, the app is in its beta stage and is planned to be released in full in August, when it will be ad-supported. In the meantime, the group is working on fundraising and finding more artists and investors to be a part of the project.

“We have a really close group, and that’s able to give us the confidence and connection to really make something happen,” Logan said.

Addressing a need

Logan said the app was a response to an unmet need in the market.

An avid music fan, he began taking a closer look at streaming services through the winter to try to learn more about shortcomings in the industry and how artists feel about them.

Logan found 99 percent of music streamed consists of only the top 10 percent of tracks, essentially the bigger artists that are played on the radio and selling out stadium shows. Those artists are able to profit, leaving the other artists, the 1 percent of streams, far behind.

Making things worse, independent artists have to shell out ahead of time, and the return value per play is just cents on the dollar.

Spotify, for example, pays $0.006 to $0.0084 per play. A Guardian report from 2015 suggests that the average payment a signed artist gets after their label takes its share is only $0.001128.

“Without the support of a label, it’s coming out of their pocket, so for these artists that have to put their music on these platforms just so it’s out there, it doesn’t really come back to them and it’s not getting circulated so they’re super limited in their exposure,” he explained.

While smaller artists are being hit the hardest, big-name performers are also feeling the heat. Taylor Swift famously fought back against streaming platforms Spotify and Apple Music for not paying out artists and labels and removed her music from Spotify in 2014 before returning late last year.

Big-name, mainstream artists like Swift can’t use Live Undiscovered Music, however.

The app instead offer local artists the ability to put music into their community at no cost and without the shadow created by those bigger artists.

How it works

The platform is a hybrid of the streaming services that already exist, using social media to spread good music.

Logan said fans will always desire the ability to share their favorite music with their friends, and sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter don’t have a way of sharing music in a user-friendly way. Logan explained that there isn’t a one-stop-shop social media that allows sharing, listening and promoting music, because existing social media platforms use others to share music, such as YouTube or Vimeo.

The app features a “discover” section, similar to what’s on Spotify, but it’s catered to regional artists and classified by genre. There will be an option to see who is playing where, and when, and rank artists based on a sliding scale of how much the fans enjoy their music.

Because artists don’t have to pay to use the platform, Live Undiscovered Music is currently operating based off funding from investors and artists who plan on using the platform once it goes live.

“It’ll be completely free, always,” Logan said. “We’re going to use ads, but we’re researching to find a way to use ads in a way that isn’t obnoxious and doesn’t disrupt the music stream.”

Local artists in communities around the country have already signed on to the service, which will be officially released at a party at Monona Terrace on Aug. 17. It will available on iOS first, Logan said, and will later be released for Android. It exists in a beta stage online, liveundiscoveredmusic.com.

“Music is our shared passion,” Logan said. “We love going to concerts together, so coming up with a plan to make the industry better is so rewarding.”

Contact Amber Levenhagen at amber.levenhagen@wcinet.com.