A unique startup model, SoundPond is an Adelaide, SA-based live streaming site showcasing an endless variety of live electronic music 24/7. So far, it has reached over an incredible 100 countries – and it’s not going to stop there. We chat to founder and managing director ADAM DAZE.
Do you mind telling us a little about yourself, Adam?
Yes [laughs]. To be honest, I tend to avoid questions about me because what we’ve been busy creating was a team effort by hundreds of performers and volunteers. The body of work we’ve assembled and our rate of growth really speaks for itself – both in terms of our competence, and desired direction. My personal desires to put people on platforms has been demonstrated by action, not words. Rather than take centre stage, I’d rather let performers, artists, creative and my work be the focus. That said, if you want to get to know me, I write a lot on my personal blog adamdaze.wordpress.com.
We understand SoundPond started as a Monday night experiment – but how did the idea of SoundPond originate in the first place?
One night, the two founders were watching a movie about pirate radio in the ‘60s UK – The Boat That Rocked, I believe, a classic movie already. Todd “Skippy” Skipper, the co-founder, was actually raised in London around the pirate radio culture. We essentially thought, “hey, we should do some jams and broadcast them here”. Not being too savvy with radio gear, we decided to do it online.
Looking back, it all seemed so simple, but in retrospect it wouldn’t have happened so fast unless I had the background in IT and knowledge of technical audio to make it happen, and Todd brought his cultural and music experiences to the table. We were also both performing at venues weekly, so we had some contacts. Monday night was a happy accident: we were both “free”, but it’s also the night everyone’s at home looking for something to do online. This combo gave rise to exponentially increasing viewer numbers in each week. In the second week, we added a video feed and a chatroom. That was something different: this was just before the rise of “live streaming” as a buzzword. Nobody knew what Ustream or YouTube Live were, and here we were, broadcasting our fly-on-the-wall camera with a chatroom on the world’s simplest website. It was raw, and I think that’s why people liked it. Eventually our “people who wanted to jam” and “people who wanted to watch” lists grew out of control, and the idea of a station was floated. When we put the word out, we filled a seven-day, 12-hour schedule within six hours.
Was the Beatshed studio part of the original SoundPond plan?
Apart from the fact there was no original plan [laughs], it wasn’t. However, the first time we sat down and really thought “okay, how do we make this station financially viable?”, the training and production studio concept came up. We actually wrote down what we wanted from a project first, like “community, passing skills between age groups, income generation, minimal admin overhead” etc, and found that the second studio concept ticked all the boxes. That turned out to be another state-first in our area. Nobody else had a practice/production studio open 14 hours a day, seven days a week in the heart of Adelaide.
Is Beatshed going to be affected by [sponsors] Allans+Billy Hyde going into receivership?
In a nutshell, yes. They provided over $15,000 of equipment for that studio, very generously, on a “free long-term hire” basis. That ended abruptly with the recent media release – we needed to hand it all back within 48 hours. We’re currently considering options but the massive, massive response from our crew and the community already has been humbling. SoundPond will remain unaffected, however; we own our own gear in the broadcast area. It’s actually well-timed – this may be a great thing to rally around for the crew and fans alike. “Damn the man, save the Beatshed” is how one fan put it.
Is there a likelihood of SoundPond branching out to other major Australian cities in the future?
Yes. We’re currently chatting to interested parties in Melbourne – flying there soon, in fact. With nearly three years experience and a track record for doing the right, legitimate thing every step of the way, we’ve proven that we’re a rare breed: creatives that have a business knack. In retrospect, that’s bloody awful: all the creative funding agencies seem to think we’re loaded, and all the businesses think they can pay us in hippie dollars… I jest! We actually secured around $30,000 in sponsorship in the last six months, which is about the same length of time we’ve been taking the whole concept “seriously”.
We are very keen to talk to anyone that wants this kind of thing in their area. You can spend years figuring out that social/community/business model, or you can get us down to absolutely kickstart that process, create a local hub and get to work showcasing talent. We’re interested in franchising it out to other operators, but we would want to have a heavy guiding presence in the early stages. To put it simply, any kind of community model, you can’t fuck that up. You don’t get a second chance, and you probably shouldn’t.
SoundPond has reached over 100 countries so far. Do you occasionally find yourself overwhelmed by how far you’ve ventured?
Funny you mention that. I think sometimes we spend a fair bit of time insisting people credit the “station” and not the founders. If people post on the stations page saying “hi Adam”, we’ll delete it, message them, and ask them to say “hi SoundPond”. As the result, it’s easy for us to be blown away by the station’s reach. Case in point: the first time we ordered merchandise, we got 50 hoodies. They sold out the night we announced them – before they’d landed. It’s not overwhelming at all – it’s awesome. It’s always amusing to find the chatroom’s been taken over by Brazilians for a night, even though about 75% of our traffic is Australian.
In your opinion, are there any electronic artists in Adelaide and beyond that everyone should keep an eye out for?
You know, every single time I answer this question, that person gets it into their mind that they should bugger off to another city or country – and usually finds success in doing it. I’m going to be cagey – there’s a lot of people doing amazing stuff in town, but one thing I’d really like to highlight is how SoundPond discovers people that may need the rep more than others. We’ve got this giant man-mountain named Proverbs, for example: he plays reggae and actually runs a reggae label. He takes local recordings, presses wax [vinyl] and has been on recent national and world tours, but not many outside our station’s influence span know that he exists right here in SA!
Can you name some of your favourite DJ sets broadcast on SoundPond?
We’ve got around 50 live shows a week and around 130 people a week coming past to spin. Nearly every show’s a different genre or niche and gets in touring/local/international guests. So… that’s a very difficult question, even on a weekly basis. I must say, the other week Mode:Masters blew up the “midnight show debut viewer record” with an amazing Ableton Live/scratching set. Three days later, Dalwy stole the crown with his new “Bend it like Bhangra” Bollywood themed show.
Here are just a few genres we showcase every seven days to give you an idea how hard it is to pick a favourite: bassline, ghettofunk, punk, funk, jacking, tech, electro, house, dubstep, grime, reggae, dancehall, glitch, hip hop, psy trance, autonomic, drum & bass, trance, progressive, blues, soul, UK garage, hardcore, industrial, j-pop.
Everyone’s doing apps these days. Do you think SoundPond is going to get an iPhone/iPad app?
Absolutely. We’ve actually got an iPhone site in testing at m.soundpond.net: it’s uglier than a slapped baboon, but it works. We’ve got a volunteer working on making it pretty and packaging into app form, but it’s a learning process. As soon as we have something better, we’ve got about 10 people keen to jump onto breakfast/drivetime shows – more on the talkback side than music, but hey… why not? It’s dead air at the moment: we only cast from midday-2am.
Are there any ‘name’ electronic artists/DJs you’d love to feature on SoundPond?
Yes – anyone that’s passing through town and wants to come on. Personal bias/dreams/wishlists don’t really enter into it. Hell, I dislike very few people, but even those few are fully aware that they are welcome to perform here, and do. Just like question one, I think our personal preference is the very least of concerns. Sure, we curate things away from the commercial, but that’s where our influence tends to end.
SoundPond started out without a business plan and became a revolutionary model in its own right. Do you have any words of advice for startups?
An entrepreneur is an enterprising individual who builds capital through risk or initiative. Initiative is the key word. Get the job done enough times and people will notice. Sitting at a conference by “entrepreneurs” for “entrepreneurs” to talk about “entrepreneurship” is not an initiative. If your research plan is to attend 50 of those, you’re a student. Bring something to the table, something more than a plan. Find a way to test it in the real world, get results. Show initiative. I’ve lost track of how many people have said they could “do this for us” but then wait for us to direct them. I can only imagine how a VC feels in those situations. You’re trying to be the expert on your idea – figure it out and surround yourself with others with the same attitude… and hey, if you’re getting the job done enough, they’ll come to you.
Thanks for the chat Adam!