Interview: Vasja Veber, Co-Founder of Viberate: The IMDb of Live Music

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In an ever-changing industry where technology can sometimes be friend or foe to the growth and success of artists, I find myself speaking to Vasja Veber, the co-founder of Ljubljana-based music platform Viberate. Viberate’s goal is to become the IMDb of live music - a single, verified and artist-approved source for music information. They use a combination of crowdsourcing, curation, and blockchain allowing artists and other contributors control of the information.

Viberate lets artists, music professionals, and even fans to add artist profiles, agents, venues, and festivals to the platform. Entries are then curated by a team of about 80, located around the world. Each artist is assigned an individual ID and their profile is updated automatically as social and other content surfaces and catches on. Fans can search by their location or favorite artists. Venues and festivals can now have a one-stop source for verified information.

I love the idea of a concept like Viberate, what made you think of this?

We started it as a pet project, measuring only 1,200 DJs in terms of their social media following. Back then we were only measuring how many followers, likes and fans artists were getting on a daily basis on their social channels. We wanted to do it to see how one of our founding partners UMEK, who's a world-famous techno DJ, is performing in terms of popularity and compare him with other similar artists. The thing took off and we ended up with 30,000 user-generated artist profiles, so we saw an opportunity in it and started a company. We purchased a domain Viberate.com, where the extra "e" is there because we are "rating the vibe". Also, the domain was much cheaper than Vibrate.com, but we later purchased that one as well, but decided to keep the extra e in our brand. We went away from only featuring DJs and today we have around half a million artist profiles in the database, along with 200 thousand venues, 3 thousand festivals and around half a million events at any given moment. We also improved our analytics engine a lot in the last four years, so we are far from only measuring the audience, we look at a variety of engagement metrics, analyze relationships between artists online, how events influence the popularity of venues and artists from the lineup, we can highlight the artist's hottest content from the past week or month etc. We are slowly but steadily becoming a standard, which is our long term vision.

As an artist myself I think this platform as an amazing potential to help upcoming artists build credibility, do you think this is something artists can use to submit for press opportunities and festival bookings?

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One of the examples I usually give to artists when they ask me about Viberate is exactly this - artists can use their Viberate profile instead of their official website, because the profile contains all the information necessary to pitch to a club or a promoter. We use metadata to showcase the hottest work the artist has been putting on their official channels, you can check verified upcoming gigs, see which artists are following this particular musician etc. This gives promoters enough information for a quick due diligence. We are also using popularity metrics to produce all kinds of charts, so if you want to know who are the top 10 rock bands in Norway or top 50 DJs in the US, we can tell you that.

I always encourage my fellow artists to find out more about the industry instead of solely focusing on music as technology can help enhance our reach so much. Can you explain to newer artists what exactly Blockchain is and why this is so important?

Explained in layman terms (as much as I can), blockchain is a network of computers that share the same database and synchronize it simultaneously as it changes. Usually databases are stored centrally on a server, so when a certain parameter changes, this change is done on the server. But on the blockchain, this change is recorded across the whole network. So even if you remove certain parts of that network or add new ones, the result stays the same. If you want to make any changes to that data, that change will be recorded and will be visible on the network forever, which contributes to transparency. It is a secure and totally transparent protocol that will probably replace a lot of protocols in different industries that are in place today. In music, blockchain can be used to fairly distribute royalties, to record an artist's verified gig history, to securely issue and transfer event tickets, even to process payments for the artist's services or intellectual property rights. There a lot of start-ups around the world, building services using the blockchain, but we are in a very early stage of the development, so it will take a few years for the first full-on blockchain service to become mainstream. In Viberate's case, the two most exciting blockchain features in our pipeline is an artist booking system, capable of accepting crypto payments and holding them in escrow, and transferring artist digital IDs onto the blockchain, thus giving all data rights back into the artist's hands.

It’s great that there is a marriage between technology and user input with Viberate, for a user who isn’t an artist, how can they contribute to the success of the community you’re currently building?

Viberate's database of over a million entity profiles is crowdsourced and curated. Anyone can add new profiles or edit the information on existing ones. However, each and every entry is then verified by our database curation team, that currently employs over 70 people in our HQ in Ljubljana and all across the world. There are so many artists, venues and events out there that it would be impossible for us to list and map all of them. But with the help of thousands of contributors this becomes a much easier task.

What does it mean to be an ambassador for Viberate? Is that position just reserved for major label artists?

Currently we have two ambassadors: the first one is UMEK, who is also Viberate's co-founder. He is a renowned techno DJ and producer, who played almost every electronic event that you can think of from EDC Las Vegas and Ultra to Berlin's Berghain and Ibiza's Space and Pacha.

The second one is a two-time Grammy award winner Imogen Heap, who is a big blockchain believer and is building a very compatible service MyCelia, where we see a lot of potential to further improve Viberate's artist data aspect.

To become Viberate's ambassador, you don't necessarily need to be signed to a big label, but it will definitely help as we are looking for influential figures from the music industry with a broad reach and high reputation. Artists or other music industry professionals, such as managers or high-profile festival promoters, who are into tech, can become our ambassadors. We'll make sure to promote their profiles and also work with them to see how we can improve our service to benefit their careers or businesses.

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Many of you may already know the importance of ownership in the music industry in terms of masters, assets and contracts, but social ownership is just as important. A platform like Viberate is really helping artists to establish themselves in a professional and meaningful way as they develop their careers.

Artists who have been doing it since before we ascended into the tech age can now get on the platform and document the things they’ve done along with their fans! The frustration of not being credited for certain performances and experiences can now fade away as each artist holds the power to control and change their narrative. Stay connected with the Viberate team as they grow!

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