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.
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!