2018 EOY Recap + Updates.
UpNext is the Game of Music Discovery. Players select up-and-coming artists for their virtual record label, compete with other users based on artists streaming, social, and live event metrics and receive rewards when they perform well. UpNext is a Chicago-based, Delaware C-corp.
Road to SXSW (Feb - Mar)
We partnered with our friends at ItsTheDrill.com to run a talent show-style competition leading up to SXSW. In Chicago, NYC, and Philadelphia, new and emerging artists performed for a chance to win a performance slot at our SXSW show. We used the UpNext Artist Score™ to curate the final show lineup.
Soft Launch of our web-app MVP (April)
This spring we launched our web-app MVP, “The Pre-Game,” with a focal point on our artist-scoring engine and data collection. With this web-app, users were able to view artists’ UpNext Artist Score™, add artists to our database (via Spotify), see which artist’s are trending in real-time based on metric growth, and create a short-list of potential talent before the game begins. Since organically launching, we have acquired hundreds of users who are currently tracking artist growth.
gBETA/Capitol Records accelerator program (Sep-Dec)
We participated in the inaugural gBETA MusicTech program this fall. This was a free, seven-week accelerator, powered by Capitol Records. This program gave us rare access to the stakeholders that power the music industry, education to make us a venture-ready startup, and support to take us to the next level. We were able to beta-test our artist scoring engine with execs and A&R teams at Capitol and Motown, and form some great relationships.
And being in LA at the historic Capitol Records building was the cherry on top.
KPI’s/Key Metrics: (Web-App) 2018
371 Users Acquired
8 week Retention Rate = 8.2% since soft-launch
Adding the Who’s Hot & Featured pages doubled our retention rate from July (3.1%) to (August 6%)
Users that “Scouted” an artist were 5x more likely to return the following month than users that didn’t.
2018 was a year of constant experimentation to validate/invalidate different business models. We now have a greater holistic understanding of our ecosystem and which revenue streams to hone in on, moving forward.
Here are a few of the revenue streams we experimented with in 2018:
Brand Integration/Sponsored Contests
We pitched several brands on the idea of running sponsored contests and other forms of promotion on our platform.
5 brands (2 lifestyle, 3 fashion) committed to running sponsored contests with us in the future.
In-App purchases/Contest Activation
We ran several offline/manual contests with our core user base in September-October. This helped us to understand which format of music discovery games most interest our users, and what they’d be willing to pay for.
In July we set up a portal on our web-app, where artists that want exposure could submit videos and tracks to be featured on our home screen. We averaged 18 submissions a month, and although not pushing the paid promo option (subtle placement), we received our first paid submission on Christmas day of this year. +1 for revenue generation!
Moving forward, artists will have monthly subscription options to maximize exposure on their music while receiving analytics performance reports.
Beta-Testing artist scoring engine.
Understanding that our platform also serves as a digital A&R tool, we beta-tested our artist scoring engine with several industry partners, including A&R teams from Capitol Records & Motown Records, and received some valuable feedback. We found that although our platform serves as a predictor of artist success to some degree, honing in on the granularity of this model will take us too far outside the core focus of gamified artist discovery.
Plans for 2019
We started UpNext with a broad global outlook on how to reach the masses. Taking a step back, we realize that the core problem we’re addressing (lack of exposure for upcoming artists) is better solved by enabling them to reach audiences that have a more vested interest in them. Let’s face it, people care more about Joe Blow in their own city, than Mr. Blow located in the middle of nowhere. Starting with a more narrow focus also enables us to have more boots-on-the ground relationships with local partners and stakeholders
Gamified web-app beta
We are priming to release our gamified web-app in Q1 of 2019.
iOS closed Alpha-test on Test flight
Our closed iOS alpha will be released in Q2 of 2019 to a select group of tastemakers and music stakeholders.
1st rev stream of artist promo/analytics
We’ll be pushing our first revenue stream of artist promo and analytics starting Q2 of 2019.
Ask for 2019
Our goal is to close on $150k of new funding in Q2 of 2019. We are looking for introductions to strategic angels, industry investors, and top-rated accelerator programs.
Thanks for being a friend to the company. We appreciate any time, advice or support that you have lent us. Stay with us in 2019 as we plan to take UpNext to new heights!
Happy New Year!
Ayinde Arnett, CEO & Co-founder