NEW YORK (Hypebot) – For decades Billboard has been a must-read source for the music industry. Now, the narrowing influence of the major labels along with the growth of the independent sector and alternative media outlets like this one, have left the once venerable trade struggling to find its place.
Next month, Billboard in partnership with MySpace Music hopes to turn the tide with a new "Dreamseekers" subscription service for unsigned artists designed to help them get discovered. Unfortunately, at least as described by Billboard's publisher in a WSJ interview, the plan sounds a bit like those "We'll Make You A Star" ads that run in the classified section of every music magazine.
For about $100 a year, artists can join Dreamseekers, upload music and track activity on social networks and blogs along with radio airplay and sales. The results will be combined into a Dreamseekers chart published in Billboard. (There's no word yet if aspiring Dreamseekers will have to also pay the $299that Billboard charges for a subscription to actually see themselves on the new chart.)
Exactly what role MySpace Music will play other than as a promotional partner is unclear. But the social networker still delivers millions of page views and since the same struggling major labels own part of MySpace Music, perhaps they'll use Dreamseelers to scout talent.
Of course, Dreamseekers will not launch as the only company offering combined analytics for musicians. Big Champagne launched its Ultimate Chart recently and companies like Next Big Sound are offering what they call "actionable intelligence" drawn from a variety of sources.
But Billboard certainly needed to do something. Operating income in the magazine group that includes Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and related publications fell 62% to $34 million in three quarters of 2009; and Billboard's circulation fell from 33,000 in 2000 to just 21,385 when it was last audited in 2007. Subscriptions may have even fallen further since.
"You've had a contracting (music) industry," says Richard Beckman, the CEO of Billboard's parent publisher E5. "But you have an expanding interest in its subject matter. We want to make sure we're providing a product that is not just the book of record for the industry, but something that is of great interest to the people who love music."