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Beringea recruits modern music college to Detroit with $3M investment

A trio of musical entrepreneurs are crossing the Atlantic Ocean and setting up shop in Detroit, thanks in part to the encouragement and investment from Michigan's largest venture capital firm.

Beringea is investing $3 million in the Detroit Institute of Music Education, a music college for contemporary musicians set to be launched this fall. Sarah Clayman, Bruce Dickinson and Kevin Nixon launched Brighton Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, England, in 2001. They sold the business in 2010 and were recruited by executives at Beringea to open a U.S. version in Detroit.

"It was a really easy sell," says Charlie Rothstein, founder & senior managing director of Beringea. "They were getting there on their own. Everything that is happening in Detroit is saying loudly to open up here."

Detroit Institute of Music Education, commonly known as DIME, will open up in 15,000 square feet of one of Bedrock Real Estate Services' buildings in downtown Detroit. The company will offer lessons in playing instruments and musical entrepreneurship. Initial projections call for 150 students in the first class, with a goal of up to 1,000 students in future classes. The business is already looking to hire up to 30 instructors and support staff for the venture.

Detroit Institute of Music Education picked Detroit over other major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago because of the Motor City's impressive musical culture and the warm welcome from regional business leaders like Rothstein and Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert.

Source: Charlie Rothstein, founder & senior managing director of Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Ourtunez mobile app mixes mainstream, indie music

Finding music on the Internet is pretty easy these days. Whether it's mainstream hits or independent artists toiling underground, there is no shortage of services that specialize in bringing a certain type of music to your computer.

Ourtunez, a Macomb Township-based software startup, thinks it can carve out its own niche by exposing people to all sorts of contemporary music, ranging from mainstream to independent musicians.

"Our main differentiator is indie music," says Chris Ciaramitaro, co-founder of Ourtunez. "While we have all of the mainstream music, we have all of the great independent artists from across the nation."

Ciaramitaro and his co-founder, Sam Munaco, loved to search out new bands in high school. As free time became more sparse as they got older, they found less and less time to do it. So the friends decided to make their own easy-to-use, web-streaming service that mixes both mainstream music and independent artists.

"We started out grassrootsing it," Munaco says. "We found them on Facebook, told them about our product and went from there."

Ourtunez has attracted a number of bands from across the U.S., including Taddy Porter (Oklahoma), New Hollow (Ohio) and Kaleido (Detroit). The team of five people launched the service in September. It now has 200 independent bands and  10,000 users.

"If we continue to have the numbers we had last month, we'll double in December," Ciaramitaro says.

Source: Sam Munaco & Chris Ciaramitaro, co-founders of Ourtunez
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Yessian Music scores film incentive for work on 'Northern Light'

Yessian Music has been around a while, 40 years to be exact. During that time it has ebbed and flowed with Metro Detroit's creative-based economy, making music for commercials and working with local musicians. Now it's moving into Michigan's 21st Century creative economy, taking on music work for films and television.

"TV commercials mostly," says Brian Yessian, chief creative officer of Yessian Music. "We have been getting more and more into film and TV."

That has allowed the Farmington Hills-based firm to expand its staff to 22 people, hiring two in the last year. It recently opened an office in Germany and expects to add another 1-2 jobs over the next year.

Yessian Music is also benefiting from a recent film tax credit awarded for Northern Light. The film showcases the history of Edmonton, Alberta from 12,000 years ago through 1928. The firm will handle the music composition and voice-over work on the film.

Northern Light recently received a $40,000 tax credit for the $100,000 it plans to spend on working in Michigan. So far this year, Michigan has approved 16 projects worth $55.7 million of film spending in-state. Those projects have received $23.2 million in incentives.

Source: Brian Yessian, chief creative officer of Yessian Music
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Livio Radio expands Internet radio into auto, federal government markets

Livio Radio is growing its business by taking Internet radio to new places, namely your car.

The Ferndale-based company got its start when Jake Sigal turned his electronic tinkering into a hot-selling Internet radio in 2008. That attracted a venture capital investment and an expansion into the automotive realm.

"We've been focusing on car/Internet radio," says Nicole Yelland, brand manager for Livio Radio. "We'll be launching the Kit later this month, which allows you to manipulate the Livio car radio applications."

Livio Radio has leveraged the revenues and outside investment into a significant growth spurt. The business has recently hired two new engineers, bringing its staff to 15 em[;oyees and four interns. It plans to continue hiring as it expands.

Livio Radio has also been reaching out into activities indirectly tied to Internet radio. It recently host Social Media Day Detroit at Motor City Casino. It also has been able to place its products into the FCC's Open Technology Center for Employees in Washington, D.C.

"It allows them (federal FCC employees) to really interface with these products," Yelland says. "It's a museum for employees so they can tinker."

Source: Nicole Yelland, brand manager for Livio Radio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Green Light Go Publicity goes national with nice girl business approach

Janelle Rogers worked in the marketing and artist development end of the music industry for years and watched a number of the negative stereotypes come to life, such as labels taking advantage of musicians. That prompted her to start her own company in 2002, Green Light Go Publicity, based around a nice-girl approach.

"I really wanted to be that company that was based on honesty, integrity and compassion," says Rogers, owner of Green Light Go Publicity. "I wanted to set up a safe haven for bands. Sort of a beacon of hope that shows you can trust people in this industry."

Green Light Go Publicity's integrity-based business model has borne fruit since then. The Ferndale-based firm (it calls Paper Street Motors home) has grown to five people, including four hires over the last year. Business has grown 25-50 percent each year, and Rogers expects that to continue. She plans to hire two more publicists by the end of the year.

The firm represents a number of national acts, including The Handsome Family and Detroit-based Almost Free. Rogers says she has purposely kept her client roster small so her business doesn't over extend itself and makes sure the staff loves the music of the bands it represents. The company has also
recently launched an Internet-based marketing campaign based around a fresh website, social media, blogs, and integrating the client bands with all of these facets.

Source: Janelle Rogers, owner of Green Light Go Publicity
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Ferndale's Paper Street Motors fills with 14 tenants, looks to open more spaces

Metro Detroit's new economy can often be found in aged shells of the old economy. Case in point: Paper Street Motors.

Paper Street Motors began when Andy Didorosi stumbled upon an old, empty warehouse a year ago in Ferndale, just southeast of its downtown. The 20-something didn't see the tattered relic of an old automotive industry, but a place for small businesses to take root and grow,
where they'd have the flexibility to get their feet under them financially without breaking the bank.

The Russell Industrial Center-style small business incubator at 1151 Jarvis filled up with a number of emerging businesses almost immediately. The 14 tenants in the 22,000-square-foot space include Green Light Go Music Publicity, a national band promoter. A year later, Didorosi is sprucing the place up both through its aesthetics and service offerings.

"Basically this place was a depressing battleship grey," Didorosi says. "Now we're completely redoing it."

Part of the Paper Street Motors (Paper Street is a reference to Fight Club) redesign is the installation of cubicles and a dynamic office environment. He is also looking at setting up additional locations in downtown Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Detroit, where members could utilize all of the spaces like a gym membership.

"So if you're a member of one then you're a member of all of them," he says.

Source: Andy Didorosi, president of Paper Street Motors
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Stage 3 Productions diversifies workload to spur growth

Before the Great Recession hit, Stage 3 Productions relied almost exclusively on the automotive industry. Now that the downturn is starting to let up, the Warren-based studio has survived and grown, thanks to a newly diversified client base.

Stage 3 Productions relied on automotive photography and other media for at least 80 percent of its work just a few years ago. Today automotive accounts for 50 percent of its business. The rest is a mishmash of computer generated imagery, photography touchups, studio rentals for events, the defense industry, and even music videos.

"The automotive work has turned around in the last 2-3 months," says Art Bonus, business manager for Stage 3 Productions. "We're shooting some projects right now that we hope will turn into long-term things."

The 25-year-old company employs nine people, an intern, and draws upon a stable of about 20 independent contractors for some of its projects. Those include a recent video for a duet song between local rapper Sean Forbes and Academy Award winner and Dancing With The Stars contestant Marlee Matlin. Both entertainers are deaf and are behind the song "
Lets Mambo." It is also doing some defense work through TACOM.

Bonus expects this new variety of work, along with the rebound of the auto industry, to boost his business significantly this year. The studio hopes to add to its staff in 2011 and is even considering the possibility of expanding its space in Warren.

Source: Art Bonus, business manager for Stage 3 Productions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Restored Crofoot Ballroom doubles staffing to 50 people

It's been three years since the Crofoot Ballroom project began in earnest, creating one of the more stunning turnarounds and successes in Metro Detroit today.

Blair McGowan took a condemned historic building (the oldest commercial structure in Oakland County) in downtown Pontiac, a Cool Cities grant, and some ambition and turned them into one of the hottest new music venues in the region, on par with Detroit's St. Andrews Hall and the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. The Crofoot Ballroom now has 50 employees (up from 25 when the project started) and three interns. He expects to hire even more people this year as he continues to expand his business.

"The word is out that the Crofoot is here and it's a beautiful venue," says McGowan, who also helped start St. Andrews Hall and Clutch Cargoes in Pontiac. "It has great sound and lights. People appreciate it."

The musical venue features rock bands, hip hop groups, electronic DJs, and a host of other music genres popular with today's youth. It is branching out and bringing more shows to places like the Compuware Arena in Plymouth, MOCAD and CAID in Detroit, and The Factory in Rochester. The Crofoot is also experiencing a good bit of growth from helping some smaller bands grow by letting them play on the building's smaller stage (the Pike Room), the main stage, and then onto bigger venues like the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

"We treated them right the first time so they keep coming back," McGowan says. He adds that the venue is also hosting other events, such as wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, political gatherings, and business meetings. "We're just responding and it's working," McGowan says.

This isn't the first reincarnation for the building at the corner of Pike and Saginaw streets. In the 1830s the Crofoot survived a fire that decimated much of downtown. In the 1840s it was renovated by Michael E Crofoot, a prominent business man who helped build the 1880s-era Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Detroit. That resulted in a Mansard roof and Victorian-style tower, which were eventually removed by World War II. The building nearly fell victim to 1970s urban renewal projects, but survived.

It was abandoned and on the city's demolition list as late as 2005 before McGowan saved it. He restored it much to its 1850s state, preserving a number of interior details such as old wood beams and brick walls. Today it serves as a place with an incredible amount of character in a downtown filled with architectural highlights.

Source: Blair McGowan, owner of the Crofoot Ballroom.
Writer: Jon Zemke

VC firm Beringea invests in Ferndale's Livio Radio

It looks like the signal between Beringea and Livio Radio is coming through crystal clear now that the Farmington Hills-based venture capital firm is investing in the high-tech radio maker from Ferndale.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the investment from Michigan's largest VC firm will allow Livio Radio to launch new products for its Internet radio line, while expanding sales and marketing efforts.

"What really attracted us to the company was its founder, Jake Sigal," says David Ruby, an associate with Beringea who helped broker the deal. "He had a lot of success with other companies before forming his own. It's really a bet on his talent and his ability to develop products for his company."

Sigal, 28, helped create the first USB turntable. He founded Livio Radio in 2008 when he created a simple radio that let users listen to popular Internet radio station Pandora. It now allows users to listen to NPR and 16,000 additional stations from around the world. That has allowed the firm to expand to 10 employees and five independent contractors. It recently added four positions and expects to add three more before the year is out.

"We're doing well," Sigal says. "We have retail distribution in the U.S. and Canada. Plus, we have a lot of stuff coming down the road."

Livio Radio recently launched an iPhone application, the Livio Car Internet Radio, that lets users access Internet radio stations during their ride. It's also working on apps for other smart phones and the iPad. More products are also cooking further down the road thanks to the recent infusion of venture capital.

That money comes at a time when venture capital, seed capital, and financing of just about any kind is hard to come by in the wake of the recent financial crisis. Sigal says he has been working for months to land Beringea's "smart money" (a combination of cash and business expertise) in his start-up, which has already raised a couple of rounds of seed capital from angel investors.

"I was successful because I was boot strapping all the way," Sigal says. "That's why I was successful -- by pitching a product and not a story."

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO of Livio Radio and
David Ruby, an associate with Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

Paxahau grows up, hires staff in time for Movement

Paxahau is showing its age a little bit these days, and that's a good thing for the electronic music promotion company.

The roots of Paxahau trace back to when its three founders began taking part in the electronic music raves of the 1990s. The company took over Movement (formerly the Detroit Electronic Music Festival) in 2006 and is now starting to really feel its oats. It's doing that by filling out a year's worth of electronic concert schedules and offering other products, such as music podcasts.

"The company has become a little more adult in that it has become more organized," says Jason Huvaere, president and co-founder of Paxahau. "We're growing up without growing old."

Its staff is growing, too. Paxahau employs six people on a full-time basis and two part-timers, which is up from a 4-4 split when we last checked in in late 2008. It also has 34 interns today. The company's payroll will grow to 150-200 strong for Movement this weekend, and there is plenty of room for growth after that.

"We have a strong desire to hire at least one more person," Huvaere says. "We have several people here who wear several hats. I'd love to have 1-2 more people by the end of the year."

The Ferndale-based firm is also looking to sink some roots into Detroit. The company plans to maintain its office on the north side of 8 Mile Road and to set up another for its founders in the greater downtown Detroit area in order to facilitate the Movement weekend and all of the summer festivals taking place in the city.

"This is just a wild time for us right now," Huvaere says. "We're really put to the test during these next few weeks."

Source: Jason Huvaere, president and co-founder of Paxahau
Writer: Jon Zemke

Music start-up Panache Group expands in the Midwest

Two types of musicians stood out to Jonas Pascua when he started the Panache Group five years ago. There were the really talented ones who had horrible business models and even worse customer service skills. And then there were the ones who weren't quite as talented but had great business acumen.

Pascua decided to bridge those two stereotypes with a new live music start-up. It provides software that makes it easy for customers to book acts and for the artists to give the best performance possible.

"No one has ever taken a strategic approach to creating a brand for live music," Pascua says.

Most artists who utilize Panache's services (Pascua is a violinist) are classically trained. Think string quartets and the like that can play everything from traditional classical music to Guns-N-Roses.

The Troy-based firm has been able to take over the Michigan market and move into Chicago and Cleveland over the last year. It is looking at expanding into Indiana this year. That has allowed Panache to expand to three employees and 180 musicians. It hopes to add one or two more employees and 80 musicians to its roster in 2010.

Source: Jonas Pascua, CEO and president of Panache Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Beringea invests $1.25M in Eagle Rock, plans more deals

Beringea continues to make investments in growing businesses at a time when seed capital commands a high premium.

The Farmington Hills-based firm has made a $1.25 million investment in Eagle Rock Entertainment, which has offices in both North America and Europe. Beringea also is planning to spread more seed capital this year and soon.

"We have several deals with signed term sheets and we are expecting to close in the next few months," says Andrea Wilmes, director of marketing and communications for Beringea.

The venture capital firm has offices in London and Los Angeles. It commands tens of millions of dollars of investment cash in the U.S., Asia, and Europe.

Beringea employs 21 people. Its Farmington Hills office has eight staffers and a few summer interns.

Source: Andrea Wilmes, director of marketing and communications for Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Few Records capitalizes on Detroit music scene, creates jobs

Dominic Arellano's record label The Few Records isn't constrained by genres or labels or stereotypes. It's all about good music, hence its motto: "No genre, just good music. We are the few."

The label, based out of Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood, has artists that specialize in hip-hop, electronic, jazz, indie rock, post-classical, and funk. The six artists run the gamut of music in Detroit's smorgasbord of talent.

"I think people listen to a lot more music these days in a lot of different genres," Arellano says.

The 2-year-old company has three employees and six artists. Arellano hopes to hire another two this year and sign a few more artists. He also plans to release a lot more music this year from artists like Silver Ghost and Will Sessions.

"We will be releasing quite a bit of music," Arellano says.

Source: Dominic Arellano, owner and founder of The Few Records
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's Ghostly International turns interns into employees

Too many companies bring on interns and let them go. Ann Arbor's Ghostly International turns them into employees.

Excerpt:

Interns could have a big future at Ghostly International. The electronic and ambient music label has recently brought on three interns and plans to hire another 1-2 this fall.

The Ann Arbor-based firm intends to use the three-month internships as a tryout of sorts for new employees. The interns who do well and make a spot for themselves on the Ghostly team will be brought on as full-time employees.

Read the rest of the story here.

Crofoot, 323East team up to create Rocketmonster contest

Rocket Monster. It sounds like the name of a Jim Henson Muppet or character from Where the Wild Things Are. Go beyond the surface and realize it's the newest place for musicians and video producers to show off their work.

Royal Oak-based 323East and Pontiac-based Crofoot have teamed up to create RocketMonster.com. The online film festival website lets local bands and filmmakers broadcast their music videos and compete for a grand prize of $500 cash, $500 in merchandise from Konquest, and a year of text message marketing service from Fyremobile.com.

The video creators can win by entering their work and promoting it virally using social media tools. Viewers vote for the 10 best films and website staff choose another 10 to make it to the final round on Oct. 4. The one with the most votes by Nov. 5 wins.

The idea is to spur more creativity and collaboration in the music and film scenes while promoting artists' work. The low cost of creating Internet entertainment is expected to open the contest up to a lot of up-and-coming bands and filmmakers.

323East and its companion company Ohm Creative Group have put these sorts of principals together in downtown Royal Oak for years. The Crofoot, an old blighted building in downtown Pontiac turned into Metro Detroit's up-and-coming concert venue, also works closely with these companies and employs many of the same principals.

Source: Jesse Cory, partner of 323East and owner of Ohm Creative Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ferndale's Livio plans to cash in on Internet radio

Internet surfers are increasingly jamming out to online radio stations like Pandora these days. Ferndale-based Livio wants this to continue, but also wants to free listeners from their computers.

The start-up just released an independent Internet radio for Pandora fans. The small box, about the size of a toaster, uses Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection to tune into Pandora. That way users can enjoy commercial-free music without the ball-and-chain of a laptop or desktop computer.

"There is no AM or FM dial," says Greg Kim, sales and marketing manager for Livio. "It works completely off of wireless Internet."

The radios sells for $150 a pop. The guys at Livio think this market, with 69 million listeners and counting, has a lot of room to grow.

"We see ourselves taking off and doing well, especially with the ups and downs of satellite radio," Kim says.

When that happens it will mean growth for Livio's payroll. Right now the start-up employs 10 people and hopes to add more later this year. Staff will be on display June 12 at the official Livio Launch Party at D’Amatos, 222 S. Sherman St. in Royal Oak.

Source: Greg Kim, sales and marketing manager for Livio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bongotones.com rings up new jobs in Royal Oak

A trio of recent college graduates is going all Silicon Valley on Metro Detroit with their new website, BongoTones.com.

Grads from the University of Michigan (David Pakhchanian and Nareg Sagherian) and the University of Toronto (Soheil Banifatemi) launched BongoTones last fall as an easier way for cell phone users to get more custom multimedia applications. They operate the company virtually, but are in the process of setting up a base in Royal Oak or even TechTown.

"We are inquiring about relocating closer to the city of Detroit, since most of the opportunities and our immediate connections are based there," Sagherian says.

The trio began the start-up as an easier way to get content to cell phones and to allow artists to build awareness of their work. Today its Beta platform delivers 15,000 user-generated ringtones with an easy search function. It also allows bands and musicians to convert their original music into ringtones.

All of this is available for free. The BongoTones trio is working with users, advertisers, and carriers to create revenue streams.

Source: Nareg Sagherian, co-founder of BongoTones
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ghostly International capitalizes on decade of growth in Ann Arbor

After a decade of successes, Ghostly International, the hipper-than-hip record label, continues to haunt the Ann Arbor's business scene.

Excerpt:

Ten years ago this August, the idea behind Ghostly International was only a dream for Sam Valenti, a dream that the University of Michigan student incubated in his dorm room in Couzens Hall.

Today it's an internationally recognized electronic and ambient music label that supplies paychecks for six employees, a handful of independent contractors, and numerous musical artists. It continues to grow, moving into places like retail stores and iPhone applications.

"We've tried to move with the times," Valenti says. "Obviously, the record industry was in tumult or recession before the country was."

Read the rest of the story here.

Paxahau spreads wings; 378 staffers for Movement techno festival

More than a bunch of concertgoers will be dancing away at Detroit's Movement festival later this month.

Excerpt:

Putting on one of North America’s top techno festivals isn't a one-man or even a one-company show. That's why Paxahau plans to employ 378 people to make this year’s Movement possible.

That number crosses a lot of lines, including 75 production and staffers, 100 security personnel, 80 bartenders and food vendors, 23 ticket takers/sellers and 100 artists/entourages. And then are the people who aren't really being paid, such as the 20 interns from Northwood University and 150 volunteers who will serve as everything from greeters to runners.

"Our goal by involving them (the interns) is they get acclimated to Detroit and involved," says James Canning, a spokesman for Movement.

Read the rest of the story here.

Local graphic artist takes reins of Movement '09

Movement is on the, well, you know, move this year now that it has picked a local brand designer.

Excerpt:

Derek Kuschel was named the brand designer for the Movement festival in a competition organizers held. The 27-year-old Ferndale resident beat out 134 other graphic designers and artists this year to win the opportunity to design the theme for this year's festival.

That means he's responsible for the overall visual aesthetic of the event, including festival advertising, t-shirts, banners and the web site. Kuschel also gets $5,000, VIP passes for friends/family, and festival gear.

Read the rest of the story here.

DEMF design contest winner to be unveiled tomorrow

Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival is starting to warm up in Detroit.

Excerpt:

This year's Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival look will be released to the world Wednesday.

Paxahau and 323 East (the Ohm Creative Group guys) held a come-one-come-all competition this year to find some local talent to design the look of this year's festival. DEMF's fan voted for the top 10 contestants via Paxahau's web site. Here are the three runners-up.

Read the rest of the story here.

Wayne State’s Motown classes explore Detroit's impact on music

Wayne State University students are starting to understand just how big of an impact Detroit has had on art, music and pop culture around the world thanks to a new the Motown Global Learning Community.

The new program uses two English classes over one year to study everything from slam poetry to Motown to The White Stripes. Nationally and internationally known poets, songwriters and musicians pop into the classes.

Students tour through some of Detroit’s most famous neighborhoods to get a better idea of where the music came from. There is also an optional study abroad portion in southern Germany.

World-renowned poet and Wayne State Prof. M.L. Liebler is organizing the program. For information, click here.

Source: Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Paxahau goes to the people to find brand designer for 2009 DEMF

Detroit's Paxahau is looking for a few good votes to see who will design this year's DEMF brand.

Excerpt:

Paxahau and 323 East have launched an online contest to find the brand designer for this year's Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

"It really is in a lot of ways the people's festival," says Jason Huvaere, president and co-founder of Paxahau. "It's the fans that have kept it alive."

The winner will be responsible for the overall visual aesthetic of the event, including festival advertising, t-shirts, banners and the web site. They will also receive $5,000, a VIP chalet for family and friends at the festival and a gift bag with festival gear. The winner will be picked from the top 10 contestants, ranked by votes from the web site.

Read the rest of the story here.

U-M Dearborn Prof's book on gospel music makes notable books list

When people mention music in the Motor City, a number of images come to mind, ranging from Motown supergroups to sonic thrash of The White Stripes' garage rock to Eminem's fist-pumping hip-hop.

The white (or purple) robes of gospel aren't usually one of musical images associated with the Motor City, but it has been a underrated and all-too-important cog in Michigan's long-time thriving music scene. A new book by a University of Michigan-Dearborn professor dives into that genre and its impact both locally and nationally.

U-M Dearborn English Prof. Deborah Smith Pollard wrote "When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music," which has been named one of this year’s 20 "Michigan Notable Books" by the Library of Michigan.

The book is a collection of essays on topics in gospel music, including praise and worship and the clothing worn by gospel artists. It made the Library of Michigan's annual list because of detail of the state's cultural heritage in gospel music. It's a subject Pollard is well acquainted with since she is the gospel music program on Detroit radio station WJLB-FM.

Source: University of Michigan-Dearborn
Writer: Jon Zemke

Paxahau goes from Detroit passion project to 8 employees

Paxahau is getting bigger and bigger and looks to become a big part of Detroit's Creative Corridor project.

Excerpt:

Just about everyone who has worked for Paxahau over the years has started out as a volunteer for it in one way or another.

The electronic music promotion company began as a passion project for techno enthusiasts inspired by the raves in Detroit in the early 1990s. Today it throws parties centered around electronic music in Detroit, including the city’s biggest techno bash -- Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

This allows it to employ four full-time people, another four part-timers and a handful of interns (its last intern became its latest hire). And that’s during the downtime. Paxahau employs more than 20 people and another 200 volunteers during Movement.

Read the rest of the story here.

Saline's Wadia Digital breaks into iPod sector and creates jobs

iPods are all the rave and Saline's Wadia Digital is cashing in on the craze while making jobs in Saline.

Excerpt:

As the iPod dominates the music industry is it any surprise that a company like Saline's Wadia Digital is cashing in too? The high-end audio firm's newest product is the 170iTransport, a radio-like piece of hardware that plays music from iPods.

The product is only three months old but it's showing the most potential to help the company grow 30 percent in the last year. The firm has hired two people so far this year and expects to add another two by the end of the year.

Read the rest of the story here.

All Media Guide to be acquired by Macrovision, remain in Ann Arbor

California tech giant Macrovision has inked a deal to acquire Ann Arbor’s All Media Guide, but never fear – AMG is staying put, says Michael Buchheim, EVP of Macrovision’s Distribution and Commerce Business Unit.

All Media Guide is a Web-based mammoth database for all things movies, music or video games. In acquiring the company – for a reported $82 mill – Macrovision hopes to get a handle on something you might not have heard of: metadata.

Metadata is the newest marketing tool, the idea that what consumers want is access to a rich depth of data on purchases or potential purchases, like reviews, biographies, art and editorial accompaniment, according to a statement on the Macrovision Web site.

Buchheim wrote in an e-mail that in 2008 the company will unveil an implementation roadmap, adding that "Macrovision plans further invest in the growing part of the AMG business."

The deal is still subject to some review, but is expected to close by year’s end.

According to the company’s Web site, Macrovision provides distribution, commerce and consumption solutions for software, entertainment and information content to the home video, PC games, music, cable/satellite, consumer software, enterprise software and information publishing industries as well as middleware solutions to enable the development of connected devices.

Source: Michael Buchheim, Macrovision
Writer: Nancy Kaffer


Top-ranked music site, SoulTracks, to host first annual awards show in Detroit

Chris Rizik isn't content to just be one of the area's leading venture capitalists -- he recently launched a new fund, Ardesta I, with long-time collaborator Rick Snyder.

The lifelong music fan noticed a dearth of good on-line information about classic soul artists so, in 2003, he began building SoulTracks, a website that has since grown to house a stable of twelve writers. Considered to be the top soul music website in the nation, SoulTracks averages 100,000 visitors and 250,000 page views per month.

The site has since evolved to include coverage of active artists that are influenced by classic acts. "This music doesn't get much play on the radio or coverage in the mainstream press," says Rizik. "But it's a fast-growing movement, mostly with fans in their thirties and forties."

A couple of years ago, Rizik began asking readers to vote for their favorite artists and records. This year, that concept is taking the leap from a virtual format to a live one, with the inaugural Readers' Choice Awards to be held in Detroit on November 16.

The event will feature performances from seven finalists including Maysa and Kloud 9. It is being held in conjunction with the Urban Organic Festival, which adds more concerts as well as a film festival to the weekend roster. "This will give lots of people from outside Detroit more reasons to come to Detroit," says Rizik. "It's a great music town."

Rizik is already looking ahead to growing the event into an yearly happening. "We think there is a big appetite for this to be an annual thing," he says.

A limited number of tickets are available on-line at GrooveTickets.

Source: Chris Rizik, SoulTracks
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Leon Speakers moves to bigger A2 HQ, plans to add up to 35 employees

When Noah Kaplan and Jeff Gordon founded Leon Speakers in 1998, they had no idea that, not only would they make careers out of it, but said careers would be thriving.

Leon's niche is the design and manufacture of custom-built on-wall speakers for flat plasma screen televisions. What really sets them apart, however, is the invisibility of the speakers. Kaplan, who is the company's president, says, "We make each cabinet to exact size and color of any TV, in three to five days." That one-of-a-kind craftsmanship coupled with a quick turnaround gives their dealers around the country good reason to recommend Leon to their audiophile clients -- they are currently able to produce 3,000 to 5,000 custom boxes a year.

Leon speakers are so on the 'down low' that there is no logo identifying them. As for their sound, Kaplan describes it as "high fidelity, with clarity -- vocal clarity and directional clarity. It's like a speaker on steroids, it's night and day from what we're used to hearing coming out of television."

While the company typically built systems for high-end plasma TVs --they don't come with speakers-- they are also able to "do Leons" for those that do come with speakers built in.

Kaplan says the speakers are distributed through 500 dealers nationwide, with about 100 that he characterizes as "really super active." There are 18 Leon dealers in Michigan, including Paragon Sight and Sound in Ann Arbor and Audio Video Alternatives in Royal Oak.

Leon is in the process of moving from a 5,000-square foot building in Whitmore Lake to an 11,000-square foot one in Pittsfield Township. "We're more than doubling the joint," says Kaplan.

The expansion will also provide room for employee growth; the company plans to add 15 to 35 to its current roster of 15. Kaplan: "We're going to increase a lot craftsman and bring on interns in marketing and promotions, sound engineer guys and ramp up our manufacturing here in Ann Arbor."

The company chose to stay in Southeast Michigan for multiple reasons. Kaplan says, "Detroit is an amazing manufacturing city, with a ton of amazing machine shops and mills. The supply chain is amazing and the rents are far superior to any big major cities. We love the talent pool, with so many skilled people." He hopes for the move to be complete by the end of the month.

Source: Noah Kaplan, Leon Speakers

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanuagh



Royal Oak's Bellyache sells nostalgic candy & Detroit music to the world

The Bellyache Candyshoppe takes its candy seriously. Purveyors of still-made yet hard-to-find candies such as appleheads, NECCO wafers, Boston baked beans, cherry ZOTZ, candy cigarettes and Charleston chews, the on-line company based out of Royal Oak has found a sweet niche in their market, regularly selling out of their most popular products.

Bellyache was started in 2004 by Scott Hagen and Michelle Moore, true fans of novelty candy. They soon launched Bellyache Records as a companion business. Their first CD, Sweet Sounds of Detroit, was released in 2006 and sold out nearly its entire 1,000 copy run. It includes songs from local stalwarts SSM, The Sirens, Outrageous Cherry and The Hard Lessons.

Having already tasted success with its deluxe holiday candy packages, Bellyache will now take the obvious next step: combining the two arms of their company. They plan to release another compilation CD in October called Ghoul's Delight: A Monster Party Record and will offer a deluxe version of the  album that comes packaged with Halloween candy.

Next up are 45-RPM 7-inch singles from The Muldoons, The Dewtons and The Go, each of which will come with a candy bar made specially for the band. Hagen says, "Everything we put out on the label will come with something." He says their focus on vinyl records makes sense because, "The vinyl market is a very collectible market." Future planned releases also include a Gore Gore Girls single and a full-length CD from the Grande Nationals, a band for which Hagen plays bass.

Hagen says most of their orders come from out of state and that 75% are combination music-candy orders.

A future goal for Bellyache is the establishment of a bricks-and-mortar store. Hagen would like to locate "someplace with window-shopping -- and where there's kids." He says Ferndale and Berkley are possible locations and that the duo hopes to open the shop within the next year.

Source: Scott Hagen, The Bellyache Candyshoppe
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

GLEQ awards top plans from emerging businesses

The Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest awarded $25,000 to B.A. Maze, a Canton Township-based provider of tools and devices for the elderly and physically-disabled, Emerging Companies Business Plan competition.

Ann Arbor's promoVUZ nabbed second. (Be sure to check out promoVUZ president's metromode guest blog this week.)

Excerpt:

GLEQ Executive Director Art DeMonte said the impact these emerging companies have on the Michigan economy is profound.

"One third of all the awards from the 21st Century Jobs Fund for private companies have been awarded to GLEQ alumni," DeMonte said, adding that these companies are the good news stories in the Michigan economy for which everyone is looking.

Read the entire article here.


On-line pop culture mag, Detour, launches out of RO

Pop culture e-zine, Detour, launched last week. Headquartered in Royal Oak and helmed by publisher Anthony Morrow, the site covers the media gamut: movies, television, music, videos and live shows.

Morrow, recently of Metro Times, characterizes the publication as focusing on "indie stuff, underground stuff and also, guilty pleasures." Examples of recent posts fitting in each of these categories are a Larry Murray record review, a take on David Lynch's Inland Empire and an ode to 1980's Christian Slater/John Travolta film Broken Arrow, respectively.

Morrow is aiming for a "magazine-style format -- image-driven and easy to navigate." He says Detour's critic-at-large, Johnny Loftus, describes the direction of the publication as, "It's like joining an on-line conversation."

Morrow decided to launch Detour for a couple of reasons. Career-wise, he felt that "it hit a point where I'd done everything I could at a paper, and this seemed like a logical step." And, he believes he found the right team -- the staff of three is rounded out by promotions manager Dawn Wegner -- with which to take the plunge. He worked with Loftus at MT and discovered they shared similar tastes in movies and music, as well as a predilection to working with new media. "We share a lot of the same curiosities and guilty pleasures. A lot of our conversations led to this."

Detour will be funded through advertising, as would be expected, but Morrow is also planning a fall music festival at multiple venues that will showcase both local and national talent -- much as will the website. "It's important for us to be here and have the festival here, but we do have a national focus. We're not going to be myopic."

Source: Anthony Morrow, Detour
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


PromoVUZ readying to launch on-line marketing tools for indie musicians

PromoVUZ was founded in Ann Arbor in 2006 by Ron Suarez to give independent musicians a pathway to the new music industry. A low-priced (like, $1-2 per month) promoVUZ package will connect MP3s of individual songs to networking sites where they can be downloaded for free – all in the name of viral marketing. 

PromoVUZ will host the MP3s as part of the service and will also provide musicians with easily accessible statistics in graphical form on which songs are being downloaded and geographically where they are being downloaded. Suarez explains that an artist might find that their music is particularly popular in Germany and "think about booking a tour." Suarez says that what his company essentially does is, "We are helping people moving into this space [of on-line marketing] to take advantage of social networking sites for viral marketing."
 
The company was inspired, in large part, from Suarez's work with Toolshed, a digital marketing company that has 30 independent record labels as clients. "We started doing this work with Toolshed, then decided to productize it. In our work with them, we've been learning a whole lot of what the successful independent artist needs. We are creating a path for an emerging artist to become a successful artist." 

The main principle that separates promoVUZ from other similar services is that there is no dip into artist royalties. Suarez says he is able to charge so little for the service because it started in the digital age, one that cuts costs such transportation from the equation right off the bat. "We're service oriented. You pay us a very reasonable fee and we'll provide you with tools to sell."

Suarez has firm beliefs on how much the internet and downloading have changed the music industry. "In the new music industry, musicians and managers are going to have to think about how they're going to get the work of marketing done." He cautions, "Our tools are not going to perform magic, but we'll make it easier to decrease the distance between artist and fan."

PromoVUZ currently has three full-time employees, several part-time contractors and two interns. He plans to soon begin hiring producers, directors and writers to develop an ongoing series of informational podcasts and blogs that will help promoVuz clients learn to maximize the internet in their drive to become successful independent artists. "There will be podcasts about podcasting and blogs about blogging," he laughs.

Suarez is deeply concerned about Michigan's "brain drain" of young college-educated people to other states. He hopes an investment in film production will do three things to stem that tide: "creating jobs for those people in that age bracket, helping to build a new industry and reaching some of those people in that age bracket." 

Suarez also plans to launch salesVUZ, a platform for musicians to digitally sell their own music. 


Source: Ron Suarez, promoVUZ
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Entertainment lawyers find growth due to Detroit music scene

Detroit's status as a music mecca has led to increasing business for entertainment lawyers both old-school and new.

Excerpt:

Rapid technology change, a resurgence in popularity of Detroit-based acts such as the White Stripes and Eminem, along with a following in hip hop and techno music are important drivers, the lawyers say.

Read the entire article here.

Ann Arbor Borders launches star-powered webcast

Borders Group Inc. will be bringing author readings, musical performances and other special events to the Internet. The new monthly series will bring original broadband programming from the company's flagship store in downtown Ann Arbor.

Entitled "Borders Live at 01," the premiere episode was released last week to Borders' 15 million "Shortlist" subscribers --the company's weekly email newsletter.

The first episode features author Christopher Moore, who signed copies of his new book, "You Suck: A Love Story." A highlight of the visit was the author's visit to the multi-media section where he discusses his favorite classic horror films.

The second episode of "Borders at Store 01" features British rock band, Gomez and an in-store performance promoting their latest release "How We Operate." The band then picks through the store's music section, discussing the first CDs they ever bought while pointing out favorite musicians.

April will bring a live performance from Rickie Lee Jones and Paolo
Nutini along with author Ishmael Beah discussing his memoir "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," his account of being a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

The marquis webcasts are part of Borders' attempt to build their online community of book and music lovers.

Customers can access the new "Borders Live at 01" series by visiting http://www.bordersmedia.com.

Source: Borders Group Inc.


All Media Guide all things to all media

Metro Times chronicles Ann-Arbor-based All Media Guide from its humble beginnings to its current position as an industry behemouth.

Excerpts:

The term "corporate culture" is a putrid piece of business jargon, but the staff of AMG definitely has a culture. AMG employees include members of area bands the Great Lakes Myth Society, the Avatars and Porchsleeper. Ryan Sult, the blogger behind motorcityrocks.com, works in data processing. Filmmakers Jason Buchanan and Matt Tobey are also on staff.

The company picked Ann Arbor for its rich talent pool, thanks to the university and the robust local culture. It moved in 1999, first occupying two floors of a building on Liberty Street.

Read the entire article here.


Newsradio WWJ launches Michigan Future blog

WWJ has launched Michigan Future, a blog that reports on the culture of innovation in Michigan.

Check out the blog here.
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