So Kerber pitched Locusic, a Pandora-style music platform that would play artists from within a 50-mile radius, to the creative minds at Startup Weekend. The entrepreneurs voted, the ayes had it, and Locusic was born.
It makes sense. Any community of reasonably creative techies (the hipster-not-hipster crowd) can see the value in a connective sharing platform like Locusic. It emphasizes local, it involves the community, it makes use of the Internet, and it provides musical entertainment. That’s ideal for towns like Des Moines, where the collective devours these hobbies.
In the founder’s own words:
“I think Locusic will be a connector and a marketing tool for the other parts of the music scene,” Kerber says. “People are already discovering bands on Locusic. Eventually Locusic will help people find out which bands are playing at which local venues. Then Locusic will help them find merch and tickets to those shows — likely through other local businesses and ticketing companies. So ultimately, Locusic will help music fans; local bands and labels; music venues and booking companies; ticket sellers; and other businesses.”
How it works
You, the listener, visit www.locusic.com, a platform to which hundreds of local bands have uploaded their tunes. You choose a genre (folk, jazz, reggae, pop, metal and hard rock, religious, etc.) and Locusic dishes out beats from within 50 miles of where you are. Simple.
“Most people in the area have only heard of a handful of local bands,” Kerber says. “Locusic gives the local bands exposure to new fans in the immediate area. These new fans are people that can go to the bands’ shows — because they live within a few miles of where the bands are performing.”
Furthermore, everything about Locusic is currently volunteer-based, which gets the community more involved. And Kerber is not seeking funding, a risky move for a startup. He wants to test the business model first.
Locusic operates under an advertising and “freemium” plan, where a user will hear an advertisement every once in a while with the free version. If they pay a monthly fee, a user will get an ad-free listening experience — and access to areas outside of his or her home location.
“I hope it helps bind local communities together by encouraging people to support local arts and local businesses,” Kerber says. “It helps people find out about the great music and businesses right in their backyards.”
And the really rad thing about Locusic is that it’s flowing outward from the middle — where the middle is the Midwest. Kerber had plans to go to the coasts first, hitting New York, L.A. and Austin — towns known for their music scene. But Kerber found that driving to Texas was a hassle, and he didn’t have contacts there like he does in Des Moines. So for now, Locusic is staying in the heartland. But that’s fine by Kerber.
“Part of me is looking forward to disproving the notion that something like Locusic has to be built in New York or Silicon Valley,” he says. “In the start-up world, you get the sense that things are much more cut-throat on the coasts or in other start-up hubs (and in other music scenes for that matter). Here in Iowa, all the start-ups and small businesses try to help each other succeed.”
Aside from the Midwestern perks of hardworking folks and a low cost of living, Kerber says that Des Moines also has a great music scene. The community has done a great job of building a local music scene and connecting its members, Kerber says.
So for now, Kerber is focusing on two main areas: Des Moines and Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, he’s helping bands upload content and spread the word to other band-friends. Sometimes he drives up and chats with music scenesters about hitting the goal — 1000 songs by 100 artists. When that happens, Locusic-Minneapolis will go live. The city is 25 percent of the way there, and more bands are joining every week.
And in Des Moines, Kerber holds upload parties, where he invites bands to music venues to upload their tunes. Soon he wants to partner with more local organizations and start holding Locusic events. In the near term, Kerber is working to integrate Locusic and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by creating a station for GDP acts.
“It will let any Locusic listener get a preview of what to expect from the show, Kerber says. “And hopefully this will lead to us working with other music festivals in the future.”
The Long Term
As of Feb. 27, 531 songs have been uploaded by 92 artists. Kerber estimates that number is less than 10 percent of the original music being produced in central Iowa. So he’s on the hunt for more. But Kerber says the number of sign-ups and band uploads has been accelerating over the past couple weeks, and Locusic may be at some sort of tipping point — though it may be too early to tell, he says.
But for now, Kerber is enjoying the ride — and working to get others on board, too.
“It’s been amazing,” Kerber says. “A ton of people have told me how much they like Locusic and what I’m doing. Some bands have told me that they found new fans specifically from people hearing them on Locusic for the first time. Every time I hear that it always feels great. That’s the whole point and it makes it all worthwhile.”