April 16, 2024
Groover bridges the promotion gap for independent artists


Last Monday, I discovered Walter the Producer, a Boston-based indie musician. His music isn’t on any of the playlists I follow, and he has less than 150,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. If I hadn’t searched for his song on Shazam while I was 2,000 miles away from home in a brewery in Phoenix, I probably wouldn’t have ever found him.

Finding new music has become somewhat of a game. Walter the Producer even pokes fun at this, too; his Spotify artist bio just says, “If you gatekeep me i will hunt you down.” Deep-pocketed artists have always had a leg up on independent musicians when it comes to promotion. But algorithm changes at Spotify, the rise of viral TikTok songs and strategy shifts at places like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone have made it significantly more challenging.

It’s easier now than ever to create music. This dynamic is what inspired the founders of Groover. The Paris-based startup launched in 2018 as a platform to help independent artists promote themselves by letting them submit music to individual curators who can provide feedback and amplify music they think is good. Romain Palmieri, co-founder and CEO of Groover, said that he and his two co-founders started the company to help fix the promotion issues they’ve all come across in their respective music careers.

“Independent artists have more access to music creation, which is great and creates more creativity, but the main challenge for artists is how can you promote the music and get heard by the right people and get the right curation by the right people,” Palmieri said. “We wanted to build something that could solve this.”

Groover just raised an $8 million Series A round led by OneRagtime, Techmind, Trind and Mozza Angels. Palmieri said that the company plans to use the funding to continue expanding into the U.S. — its largest market already — and to add new features for artists, including coaching and promotion resources.

The business model for this company stands out. The 3,000 and growing music curators on Groover set their own price, and each transaction gets split with half of the money going to the curator and half to Groover. Palmieri said that if a curator doesn’t listen to a song within seven days, the musician gets their money back, but that 90% of requests get answered in that timeframe.

While I like the concept of artists getting to have these more direct relationships with these different curators, it bums me out that pay-to-play has become the best option for these independent artists. The curators who work with Groover aren’t just promoting music they like but rather music they like that they were also paid to listen to.

But! I also get that music journalism is shrinking as the number of independent musicians continues to rapidly scale. Solutions are good even if I don’t find them perfect. The fact that artists get to choose who they work with on Groover, the outreach is relatively inexpensive, and the response rate is pretty high makes this seem like the most artist-friendly approach that isn’t earned promotion.

Palmieri added that the majority of independent artists just do not have better or more cost-effective options. They can either pitch music publications relentlessly with no measured chance of getting noticed or pay up for PR, which doesn’t necessarily ensure more success.

This system works better for music curators, too, Palmieri said. They also often have trouble finding the diamonds in the rough of the ever-growing sea of new music. Groover’s system helps them get paid for their work more directly while making their jobs a bit easier.

I’m glad to see someone working to fix this issue because as a listener, finding new music has been noticeably more difficult. I’ve seen numerous tweets, had numerous conversations with friends that show this issue is felt across the board. Only one person still posts in the pretentiously named Music Aficionados Facebook Group that my friends and I started in high school to share new music.

Groover isn’t the only startup looking to help small musicians, either. GigFinesse is another startup that helps both musicians and venues better book gigs with a more streamlined booking and payments system.

I liked GigFinesse in the same way I like Groover; that is, I like startups that offer clear solutions for both sides of the table. Both of these startups help the artists but they also help the folks in the industry needed to get those artists off the ground. The community needs each other to be able to thrive. Every musician starts somewhere.



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