Arts Desk

Listen Local First Plans a D.C. Music App

D.C.'s most enthusiastic group of music-scene boosters, Listen Local First, turns 1 today. And they're working on a local-music app.

Listen Local First, you'll remember, founded Local Music Day and sent the "mobile venue" pictured above to South by Southwest to highlight D.C. performers. The group has agitated for music-friendly government policies, like the establishment of a Metro-busking program that's fair to working artists—which is an important mission. They've also done a lot of work to promote the local music scene as a wholean aim I have some issues with.

But anyway! When Listen Local First launched Local Music Day last fall, local businesses paid to license a stream of selected local music, with the money going to the artists. Listen Local First co-founder Chris Naoum told me at the time that one goal of his group is to identify new sources of revenue for D.C. musicians.

Listen Local First's latest project might help that ambition. The group is working with Cannon.fm, which it describes as "essentially Pandora for local music," to create a D.C. music app by November. Currently Cannon.fm has only launched in one city: Columbus, Ohio.

I downloaded the iPhone version of the app, which is browsable by genre. You should, too, because the Columbus metal and reggae scenes are booming.

So how will this thing make money? From the press release:

Right now the App is just in its Beta phase. In the next couple of weeks/months users will be able to not only filter by city and genre, but they will be able to search for specific bands, create favorite lists, filter by upcoming shows, and create and share playlists with each other.

Once we launch this platform will grow fast, our first big goal after the launch will be to create a local musician marketplace for the artists, and develop a local business advertising platform into the App in order to eventually compensate artists through the stream.

Cannon.fm is conveniently mobile, but it already has a few Web-based streaming peers in D.C., including ESL Radio, Scoutsounds DC, and Hometown Sounds. In theory, such services have to pay one of two kinds of streaming royalties, which can be alarmingly piddly. Still, it's something—which is why Hometown Sounds' architect, Paul Vodra, even pays royalty and performance fees to the service StreamLicensing out of pocket, he's told me. If Listen Local First's plan works, attaching an advertising platform to the app could buttress minuscule streaming payments.

Listen Local First celebrates its birthday tonight with the latest installment of singer/songwriter Justin Trawick's "The 9" series at the Black Cat. That's at 8 p.m. and costs $10. Then there's an afterparty at 915 F St. NW, beginning at 11:30 p.m., which includes a set by Lightfoot.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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