We recently spoke about Stereotribes, a new crowdfunding concept, the brainchild of musician/entrepeneur/digital marketer Travers Lee. We’re excited to have had the opportunity to speak to Travers, and hear about the Stereotribes story first hand.
EP: What’s the Stereotribes story?
TL: It begins with my own passion for music, which started when I was very young, when I was in primary school we were all marched into a room to listen to an old record player playing higher and lower pitched tones, and from that they picked the least tone-deaf kids and put them in a music programme. I was kind of disengaged in primary school, but when they gave me a saxophone, my whole world changed. That’s where my passion for music began. It stayed all through school, and when I left school I joined bands, and played festivals, and tried to be a professional musician for a while.
EP: Where were you brought up? That sounds like my primary school experience!
TL: It was a town in Australia, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, called Coolum. It was the 80s, it was just all rural, and it was kind of killing me, I was really disengaged, and the music programme was what gave me focus. So when I had a band, Regurgitator, who were one of my favourite bands, got really into us, and (their bass player) Ben Ely wanted to session with us. He played with us and helped us record our first EP and the rest of it, and he got behind it all – it was a dream come true for me, to have one of my stars want to play in our band! After that I went to university and then started a design business, and an IT business in the late 90s, and serviced the entertainment district in Brisbane, so I looked after all the Valley, I had a bit of a monopoly on that in terms of design and digital. I did that for 5 years, but I wanted to explore the world, so I sold my business and headed over to the UK in 2005. I worked for a fashion e-com in Kentish Town, then I got poached by the Qatar Museums Authority to help establish their digital marketing strategy for their arts.
EP: That’s quite a poach…
TL: Yeah! That’s because I was moonlighting on the side doing consultancy work and my details got floated to them – I didn’t even know about them! They brought me out to Qatar, and at the time it was led by a CEO who was the ex-president of RISD, which is the Rhode Island School of Design – they had connections, a lot of different people involved. I went over there, helped build up their community, there was no real art industry or community, I was quite involved in the organisation, had to build that up from scratch. I did that for five years and three years ago, I was just craving getting back into music, because in the Middle East, it’s just not really available. So I wanted to combine my passion for community building, for music, for digital marketing, and design, and offer something that could really provide sustainability for musicians. Through doing my research, I came up with the the industry I wanted to work in, and I just started working towards it, investing my own money, and so that’s where I am today. We’re completely self-funded, I’ve got a team of about 10 supporting me through the launch, and I’m very confident that this is something that not only the UK, but the global music community can benefit from.
EP: It does interest me – as you know I’ve got connections to the Jedward fandom, and so I’m very fan conscious, and I like what you’re coming up with. So – what is in it for bands, and what is in it for fans?
TL: At the moment, because it’s still in Beta version, it’s not the final version, it’s a platform where bands and fans can set up profiles or fan pages on the website, you’ll be able to aggregate videos, images, SoundCloud feeds, Spotify feeds, Twitter feeds…to really present yourself. It’s also a crowd-funding platform. It’s designed with a creative bias – so it’s simplified, the language is more approachable, the process is very visual; it just makes it more accessible for people to experience crowdfunding. More of a community open platform. It’ll be community managed. Essentially we don’t want it to be the same as everything else. We realise there are people who might want to even just practice, try creating a campaign and giving it a go – even if they don’t ever get fully funded, or get the result they expected, they’ll still be developing an audience, and that’s a good experience to have.
EP: Yes! It’s experience as much as anything else, isn’t it, because that’s worth its weight in gold.
TL: It is! We will provide whatever we can, pre-preparation support, so people know what they’re going into, and post-preparation support as well. We’re looking into creating mentors, from all kinds of key music hubs, to be points of contact. We really want to give a communal approach to what we’re doing – we’re still setting up, we’re still self-funding. Our aim though is to put value into the community, rather than just having investors. We don’t have lots of investors, which means that we don’t have to charge as much as other crowdfunding platforms, but we have more control over how we pivot our services, and promote ourselves in the community.
EP: So how can people get involved?
TL: We’re going to launch a competition on Friday to win two days’ studio time with Simon Gogerly, who’s an award-winning producer, and he produced U2’s ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’. He also used to be the bass player in Dead or Alive. He keeps a private studio in Essex where he tends to work with high quality artists, so this gives a chance for grassroots artists to set up a profile with Stereotribes, which is free, and we and Simon will review those artists and create a shortlist, and launch a sort of live battle, I suppose, and then he will choose the winner, and give them two days’ studio time. In terms of getting involved, all we’d like at this point is for artists to register a profile once this goes up, so they can have the chance to be seen by Simon Gogerly, to give us feedback on the site, maybe start practising creating campaigns. We’re not going to launch just yet, because we need to have a critical threshold of projects, but we’ll launch as one big tribe once we hit that.
EP: Sounds very exciting! Have you had a lot of interest in Stereotribes?
TL: Yeah we have! It’s hard for people to be really informed, because we’ve not been letting very many people into the site, there is a limitation to peoples’ interests – so what we’ve been doing is trying to talk on social media, create some engaging content. What people are liking is that we’re cheaper than other crowdfunding platforms, and that we want for people to set up a permanent hub, where they can promote themselves. What we want to do in the future is set up a social economy around that. Another thing is that we’re music PLUS. We’re not just for musicians, we’re for any project that’s music-related. There’s nothing like that out there at the moment. So maybe you’re a music documentary film-maker, or you might want to design some music tech, or a music app…or you might want to create some music eduation and go online for people, or you might want to start your own boutique festival, or you might want to just put up a really cool party for your friends, and you might need to get some money to get some DJs in…
We’re about acknowledging that fans also have the right to create music campaigns for their passion as well, that’s how we embrace the fans. We acknowledge the ecosystem, that everyone belongs to everybody, and it’s not just about the artist, it’s about the experience that everyone has when they celebrate music.
EP: Yeah it’s a symbiotic thing, isn’t it! The fans empower the artist, and the artist empowers the fans – you can’t have one without the other!
TL: Exactly! These days, even from a digital marketing perspective, fans and audiences are no longer passive consumers, they’re becoming more involved in the actual process of helping create the experience of broadcasting and the rest of that. They’re a very essential part of that ecosystem. That’s why at Stereotribes we’re about not wanting anyone to be lost in the crowd, everyone’s part of the tribe. It’s about changing the language from “crowd” to “tribe”, and to acknowledge the fact that fans, and innovators of music are just as like to be part of the tribe as the musicians themselves, because we need to stick together, to be able to support each other. It’s not about “I’m an artist, here’s an album, please fund me and buy the album” – it’s more about creating a social economy where people with a passion for music can get together and exchange ideas, content, and create a sustainable system. That’s what we’re heading towards.
EP: What’s hot at the moment? Who should we look out for? Who are you after for Stereotribes?
TL: Haha! I don’t play favourites! Stereotribes isn’t about who I think is good, it’s about the tribe relationship with each other – whether it’s death metal or it’s classical – it’s about the passion of the tribes for what happens in the next stage. We do have some great people performing at our launch on Friday night however, one I feel is very talented, is Natalie Shay, who’s won two London Big Busk Awards, she’s won the UK Open Mic, and she’s only 16. Another who I wanted to play but can’t make it is a band called Hands Off Gretel, they’re a post-punk rock band, really interesting band, their lead singer Lauren Tate has been laying down tracks since she was about 12 and posting them on YouTube. Young but very charismatic. Apart from that, it’s not for me to say what’s hot and what’s not, it’s for each tribe to express their own passion.
EP: What is one question that nobody ever asks you in an interview and you wish they would?
TL: Why am I doing what I’m doing?
EP: Yeah! Why are you doing what you’re doing?
TL: Nobody’s ever actually asked that!
I’m doing it because it comes from a place of spirituality, actually. I’ve got a drive to do good to the world, to create something that changes the world for the better. What I hope to see is the opportunity for creatives to have sustainability, that’s really important for me.
EP: You’re going to leave a mark on this world, aren’t you!
TL: You’ve got to leave it better than when you found it, so this is a lengthy project for me, and it’s been the past three years, it’s taken all my money, it’s good to see people getting behind it. We’ve got the launch and it’s not going to be perfect, but so long as we stay open and look after our community, and update ourselves, and be involved for the right reasons it’ll be the right approach.
EP: Well thank you very much for speaking to us Travers! We’ll see you at the launch on Friday!
Stereotribes have their launch this Friday night, 23 October, at London’s Alley Cat venue. For more information about Stereotribes, see their website, and be sure to follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.