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OurStage: A New Kind of Popularity Contest?

OurStage

OurStage is one of a growing number of Darwinistic web sites that strive to highlight the best new music. Using two patent pending algorithms, it ranks songs based on listener feedback. Artists compete for a monthly $5,000 grand prize and exposure on OurStage’s partner site, AOL Music.

The judging is broken up into four stages. Most of the month is spent in the unnamed “open” phase, where listeners are subjected to all levels of musical talent. If you enjoy watching the American Idol auditions, this is the stage for you! One week before the end of the month, the top 20 songs in each category move to the quarter-finals. Four days later, the top 10 move into the semi-finals. On the last day of the month, the winners in each category compete against each other in the finals for the $5,000.

It’s no coincidence that I’m writing about OurStage three days before the end of the month. “We’re Not Getting Any Younger” from my new Color Theory album is currently #1 in the semi-finals for the “Electronic/Electro-Pop” category.


ourstage

That’s a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. While OurStage claims that their algorithms are structured to prevent artists from gaming the system, I’ve noticed that the top song routinely gets knocked off its perch. You might think that’s only natural, but hear me out.

I didn’t really give the site much attention until I got an e-mail notifying me that my song was in the quarter-finals. I decided to spend some time judging, to get a feel for how it works, and yes, to vote for myself. The song “battles” are actually quite fun. You can either sort four songs from favorite to least favorite, or judge two songs head-to-head by indicating the degree to which you prefer one song over the other. After each round of head-to-head judging, the system tells you what percentage of other listeners agreed with your decision. Going into the quarters, I was ranked #1, so people must like my song, right? And yet virtually EVERYONE was voting against it. Once the ratings were updated and it fell into 7th place, the snipers set their sights on the new king of the hill. When the dust settled, I was back at #1 for the start of the semi-final round, which ends at midnight tomorrow (technically Saturday, but that’s not how my brain works).

With that in mind, I’m asking for your help. I hate being that “vote for me” guy, but $5,000 would come in handy right about now, and you’re inspired to check out the site anyway, right? But don’t just go in there and declare my song the best by far, and everything else garbage. We’ve got to be smart about this, because their algorithms rule out erratic judging through a proprietary honor system. Here’s what I suggest:

First, sign up for an account, click on “judge,” and select “Electronic/Electro-Pop” from the drop-down menu. Judging defaults to sort 4 battles, but you can switch to head-to-head at any time. Since there are only 10 songs in the semi-finals, it won’t take long to familiarize yourself with them. I suggest writing down your own personal ranking of the ten songs, so that you can vote consistently through the 45 battles you’re allowed for this round. That should guarantee the greatest amount of influence with about a 20 minute time investment, depending on how much of each song you choose to listen to.

Due to the “king of the hill” factor I discussed earlier, my guess is that the closer you vote to the deadline, the more influence you’ll have. I suppose it’s kind of like sniping an eBay auction. Considering the inordinate sway that artists have on the process, one or two dozen people may very likely determine the final outcome. I’ll keep you posted!

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    NJM
    January 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Tried registering like three times. Page loading problems I guess.
    Site seemed kind of annoying from what I got out of it…
    Wish you luck though. From what I heard (bits anyway) you had the best sound going! Maybe I’ll try it again shortly.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    January 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I’d appreciate it if you would! I heard back from a handful of fans who signed up and did it with no problems. Personally, I think it’s kind of fun. I bought two CDs as a result of my discoveries.

  • Reply
    zootnarf
    January 30, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I didn’t have any trouble signing up, and it was pretty fun. Though I thought there were a few clunkers, for the most part the other songs were quite good. You have some stiff competition, and I think it means a lot that people are ranking you quite high. Even if you don’t win, which of course you will, that’s quite an accomplishment!

  • Reply
    EchoVictor
    January 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Voting done!

    I’m really surprised. Except for yours matching at #1, my #2-#5 were ranked #6-#9 on their site. Weird.

    Later,
    EV

  • Reply
    Guy
    January 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    And now you’re in the finals. The real challenge will be how you fare against other genres. Your music handily dominated the electronic style, but personal tastes of the many more “mainstream” music fans will probably have more of an influence here than skill, since all of the artists must have been exceptional to get this far, right? In any case it means something that you can wear the crown of your genre. It is well-deserved!

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    January 30, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Can you believe it? I owe it all to you guys. Right now I’m writing on a follow-up post to rally support for the day ahead. No time to sleep!

  • Reply
    Sharona
    January 30, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I think Brian’s got a good chance against the other genres. My personal opinion of many of the other songs – UGH!!! But Brian’s song is poppy & mainstream enough I think, to make a good impact!

  • Reply
    Cendrine
    July 17, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Hello,

    I have used ourstage for a while. I want to share my experience.

    After the Spoken Word/Poetry channel and a dozen others were deleted, many artists were forced to enter their tracks in other categories. It was obvious that the choice that was left us was very limited. But we tried to compete nonetheless, because we live for our art.

    As soon as one of my tracks started ranking in the top 50 of the new category it was in, I received a pre-formatted email from staff at ourstage explaining that many people had complained about my tracks not being a good fit. It was removed with no warning. This happened twice in one week.

    I discussed this situation with a few other Spoken Word artists and they told me that they had encountered the same issue.

    Ourstage is a money-hungry website that uses hypocritical ideas to get publicity. They want to help independent artists and save the world from mediocre music. Give me a break. We have complained countless times about rappers and other musicians spamming our channel with tracks that did not belong to the Spoken Word category. Nothing was done, no track was ever removed. Instead, they deleted our channel!

    Ourstage is a joke that has no respect for independent artists…

  • Reply
    Steve Winter
    October 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    AOL’s Ourstage has deleted the WinterBand fan page on behalf of a handful of false-christians who didn’t like what we teach and filed frivolous “complaints”

    Details and documentation are available at:

    http://www.winterband.com/Ourstage.html

    What has happened is outrageous religious censorship and discrimination.
    Whether you love us or hate us consider the precedent that this situation establishes.

    If anyone you know is investing time and effort building a presence and network of connections on Ourstage you owe it to them to make them aware of what is going on.

    Bro Steve Winter

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    October 2, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention Steve.

    I read the linked page and e-mails, but since I don’t know exactly what was on your OurStage profile, I have no basis to form any sort of opinion. It might help your cause to post that information, so that people can judge for themselves whether or not you violated their terms of service.

    The way I read it, if you’re offending people, they can remove the “offensive” material at their discretion. Sounds fair to me. I’d do the same here if someone posted something clearly out of bounds. Ultimately I’m responsible for the content of my site.

  • Reply
    Steve Winter
    October 3, 2009 at 6:45 am

    They deleted all of my material which was mostly songs, comments from friends and fans and links.

    If there had truly been anything offensive then they would have been able to be specific.

    This shows the unstable, untrustworthy, and unprofessional management at Ourstage.

    They have no problems with their hip hop groups posting obscenity, degrading women and all of that.

    No they are lying. Some false-christians didn’t like the Bible verses that were proving them to be fakes.

    Bro. Winter http://www.prime.org

  • Reply
    Steve Winter
    October 3, 2009 at 6:51 am

    One more thing, you can still search Ourstage for WinterBand and see all the songs to get an idea of how established we were there. Any of the friends and fans could affirm that there was nothing offensive there.

    http://www.ourstage.com/search?search=winterband

    Regards,

    Bro. Winter

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    October 26, 2009 at 9:16 am

    More about the WinterBand situation here: http://passivepromotion.com/final-thoughts-on-ourstage#comments

  • Reply
    Andrew Boyd
    February 22, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Nice job man! Good luck.

  • Reply
    Liz O'Connel
    March 22, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I signed up for OurStage, in order to help out a friend who had music entered into the folk and singer/songwriter channels. I began to explore some of the other genres as well, so far I’ve found a lot of great music in many different channels and have continued to recommend ourstage.com to others.

  • Reply
    James Grey
    September 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I don't really see these types of internet popularity contest sites being even an iota as effective as live concerts. I have a few for promotional reasons and I have come in the top 40 on our stage several times but none of that effort ever turns into monetization or fans that I interact with. live music will always trump the internet in my opinion.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    September 9, 2012 at 1:07 am

    I haven't found that to be the case, but it depends what style of music you're doing. I gave up performance altogether years ago.

  • Reply
    James Grey
    September 10, 2012 at 12:12 am

    yea i think you are correct because jazz def isn't a popular form of music on our stage or any other platform that i know of like it. I know for a fact that indaba has a tight knit community that sways its voting based on mutual interaction maybe more than just listening to the music. prob its just human nature. its no thing because if i had to depend on music to eat id be as thin as oliver twist. 🙂

  • Reply
    James Grey
    September 10, 2012 at 12:14 am

    some artist like wiz khalifa def start and grow their fan base in internet like youtube but then to make the real money they start touring and then selling albums after they are well known. a good model if you have a product the public wants i agree.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    September 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    There are many ways to skin a cat! As for Indaba, that's my sense too. But the actual winners of the competitions are picked by the hosts, not popular vote.

  • Reply
    James Grey
    September 11, 2012 at 2:29 am

    True. I read your thread about licensing. Thanks for the info. Very helpful. There is def a bridge that is quite long between performance and trying to make a living of any sort with music. Ive been involved in internet radio for many years now as well and that is a whole different animal indeed.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    December 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I'm a strong advocate for ReverbNation as well, but I managed to get my $100 gift card within the first couple months.

  • Reply
    Imking5
    October 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    i'm not worried about getting paid for my music, i just want it to really be heard….. there is so much in it, even though it's really raw, loud, and different, and a bit dark, there are things in them that, maybe, hopefully, could inspire some people to do or don't. Or help them to create works of their own and feel good about them. as far as popularity goes… i'm nervous at the thought of it.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    October 22, 2013 at 12:15 am

    In that case, I don't think OurStage is likely to be the best showcase for your music.

  • Reply
    Michael R. King
    May 20, 2014 at 12:05 am

    in the case of….? …what excactly? And then ,why? I mean I would like my music to be successful, and public forums are the key, but internet has made music free, therefore, being wrapped up and/or upset about getting paid is useless and a waste of energy. I’m also not saying my music is worthless. I have and will put my whole heart into all of it. I still won’t demand I get paid for it every time. There are circumstances for every situation. If people had made investments toward an album, then payment would be something to be planned for. And popularity is not something I can control, being nervous is natural, and overcoming is just a lesson in how to handle oneself in new situations. Realistic foresight, thought, and honesty with myself, I think, help me to prepare mentally for the future. Including the one where you say ‘no really, we are not for you, please step away from the keypad and go’

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      May 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at Michael. Some sites are better showcases for your music than others. Five and a half years ago when I wrote this article, I didn’t think OurStage was great for discovery, but maybe things have changed since then.

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