Click this play button to hear Tom Pernikoff’s interview with KMOX Radio’s Charlie Brennan:
The music industry wasn’t always this way.
There was a time — in the 1960’s and ‘70’s in particular – when the path to fame and fortune for a musical performer or band involved being good, then being discovered by a scout in the field who could connect you or your band to a record label. The label would arrange promotions, radio airplay, concert tours and TV appearances, and send your record to record stores. If it all went well, you’d become a star – wealthy and famous — and the record company would do pretty well financially too.
That all changed with advent of digital media: CD burners, the Internet, Napster and other file sharing services that could, according to Dallas-based music blogger Val Serrie, “provide a mechanism to share all of this fancy music for free. Suddenly the fancy restaurant food was free out the kitchen back door, so no one was paying to go in the front door anymore.”
However, asked if he would rather be playing in the music industry space of four decades ago, or today, St. Louis singer and guitarist Tom Pernikoff doesn’t hesitate in saying these are the good old days. “I think it’s a more exciting time now. The way the industry works today, it really allows the cream to rise to the top. The fans decide who is best.”
Tom Pernikoff and his brother Rick are the founding members of The Pernikoff Brothers, a critically acclaimed indie touring band from St. Louis. They are also the founders of Tunespeak, the startup company that bills itself as a “musician-to-fan loyalty platform.”
“Rick and I have been musicians all of our lives, but we spent four years creating a startup in Silicon Valley,” says Tom Pernikoff. “All the while, we were also playing music – at bars and coffee shops in San Francisco. We had the idea for Tunespeak while working in Silicon Valley and playing music at night. We were watching our favorite bands run sweepstakes on Facebook and Twitter. We realized that sweepstakes don’t reward a band’s most loyal fans nor do they incentivize fans to spread the word. So, we set out to create a true merit-based loyalty platform for bands and artists. That’s what Tunespeak is.”
Here’s how it works: Fans follow their favorite bands or artists on Facebook & Twitter. When those artists announce a Tunespeak contest, fans are directed to Tunespeak, where they can earn points by listening to music, viewing videos and photos, and sharing with their friends. “We showed some of our friends in the music industry what we had built and there was a lot of excitement. We launched in January of this year. And we have run more than 600 contests with over 100 artists in just over ten months,” notes Pernikoff.
Fans benefit from contest prizes and through the point system. In an era in which having a passionate fan base is the primary way for a performer to maintain a sustainable career, Tunespeak’s primary selling point to bands and solo acts is helping them engage and grow that fan base. Tunespeak also provides participating bands with rich data about their most passionate fans – who was listening to what, how many people they’ve reached out to, what those fans like on Facebook, and a variety of other nuggets of information.
Revenue for the Tunespeak team will come, eventually, in the form of a charge to participating bands, sponsorships and advertising. Having created his own band, as well as a company that is helping connect other bands with loyal followers begs the question of Pernikoff: Does he think of himself as more musician or entrepreneur? His answer: both.
“ I think to be a successful musician nowadays you have to be a bit of an entrepreneur. And to be an entrepreneur in this space – the music industry – it helps to be a musician.”