RockStar Motel Wants to Turn Fans Into Record Labels

Site promises user royalties for music promotion

The RockStar Motel front page

If you believe the hype, we've entered the age of truly social music. Facebook recently increased its integration with music services like Spotify, making it easy (indeed, almost unavoidable) for people to see what their friends are listening to. Now Luca Sacchetti, CEO of startup RockStar Motel, says he wants to take those interactions to the next level.

Sacchetti has performed in a band himself, and he's skeptical about the value that the current wave of streaming music startups can offer up-and-coming musicians. On a service like Spotify, Sacchetti says "the relationship between the fan and the artist is static and passive"—it doesn't offer many opportunities for musicians to build a fanbase. 

RockStar Motel, on the other hand, bills itself as a place where fans can become a record label, of sorts, and it's opening to the public today. More specifically, fans can sign up to take on the promotional role of a label, talking up the band to their connections on RockStar Motel and on Facebook. They can also share "Promo Packs" which contain a biography, images, and music. As that sharing creates more fans, the promoters earn points, which in turn gives them a higher ranking on the site.

Eventually, Sacchetti says users will be able to buy and download songs directly from RockStar Motel (in addition to listening to the 30-second samples that the site currently provides). When that happens, fans with the right ranking will be able to earn a share of the royalties when they drive a song purchase.

RockStar has the rights to 12 million song tracks, Sacchetti says. Starting today, the artists behind those tracks can claim their accounts and use them to interact with fans. Musicians that haven't signed with record labels can join, too. Sacchetti says the site can also use the data it collects about musical taste to start recommending potential fans who artists should be connecting with.

The Seattle startup has raised $750,000 in friends and family funding. Now that it's out of testing, Sacchetti says he plans to raise his first round of venture funding.

It's a novel idea, but one that certainly raises some big questions. Perhaps the biggest one: Will music fans, even the serious fans that Sacchetti says he's aiming at, embrace a site that's all promotion, all the time?