May 19th, 2009


caught up with Brenden Mulligan (@bmull), founder of ArtistData, this week.  Brenden, a seasoned business manager and do-whatever-needs-to-be-done kind of entrepreneur, started in the music industry through a work study program at Creative Artists Agency in Nashville.  He moved from there to work for Aware Records and Asquared Management, where he was on the label and management teams for indie and signed artists.  A lot of his time was spent in the initial signing and development of an artist named Mat Kearney.  He left Aware to found ArtistData, a data synch-and-syndicate system for musicians.  In the early days of ArtistData, he did some consulting, serving as a strategy consultant for an online CD store, the tour manager for Mat during his arena tour with John Mayer, and the manager for a small Chicago folk rock band called The August.  When ArtistData took off, he stopped the various consulting projects to focus on growing the company which has been financed by angel investors as of last year.

1. Brenden, how did you arrive at the problem which ArtistData is gaming to address?

I started in the industry at an agency and then worked at a label in Chicago.  During my time at the label, MySpace exploded and then the birth of music network/profile sites started.  Part of my job, and a large part of each day, was spent trying to make sense of an increasingly crowded mess of social networks, concert databases, etc..  It seemed really inefficient and tedious.  The ArtistData concept was born out of making that complicated mess a little simpler.

2. How do you plan to make ArtistData a more ‘complete’ resource for artists and agents in the future?

We constantly struggle between focus and “completeness”.  Some artists want us to do everything: manage fan mailing lists, create stage plots, help them book shows, help them find new drummers.  I’m a firm believer in focusing on a real problem and trying to create a really good solution for it, as opposed to taking an approach to trying to create a site that does everything, but only marginally well.  So, realize that ArtistData is a content management system which syndicates information out to multiple destinations.  We’ll stay on that track.

Some immediate improvements we want to make to our system is finding better ways to get input INTO ArtistData (multiple user access, importing RSS Feeds to be distributed, mobile interfaces/applications for data entry).  We also want the data we distribute to be more widespread, so we’ll continue expanding our network to more relevant sites, including adding status updates to MySpace and Facebook Pages.  We’re also going to make the data more accessible to fans, so when they click on a twitter link from their mobile phones, it presents the information in a VERY clean and straight forward interface.

So we’re going to keep making it complete, while staying true to our focus of getting information as many places as possible without getting in the way of the band and fan relationship.

3. How are you spreading the word about your service and what kind of user acquisition and activity trends are you seeing?

Our service is word of mouth in the truest sense of the word.  Since our tools don’t necessarily have our branding on them, a lot of times you will be on an artist’s MySpace page without having any idea they are ArtistData users.  This is a huge positive for artists because their fans aren’t distracted by logos from all these different artist services sites.  Unfortunately, it really slows down our market penetration.  However, it’s a trade-off we are happy and excited to make.

So to answer your question, we spread the word by doing one thing: continuing to help our users be more efficient.  When we do that, they naturally tell their friends about the site.  We’re growing really fast (we’ve grown by 100% over the past 2 months), and it’s all because we have amazing users spreading the word because they find our site useful.  We love that.

4. What were/are the technological barriers to creating the ArtistData service?

The hardest thing is convincing other sites that it’s okay that the artists don’t update their sites directly.  So many sites are afraid that if they lose that relationship, they put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.  Every one of our current partners has taken the approach we believe in: that it’s better to have a lot more relevant content for fans than to have a more constant connection with the artists.

We find that the sites that are truly useful don’t see a drop in artist activity on their sites but, instead, see more meaningful activity.  What I mean is that the artists who are signing-in aren’t there to do monotonous data entry, but there to interact with the community, or use other resources of the site.  It actually leads to a better overall relationship with artists.

5. Who are your competitors and how is ArtistData different?

I’d say out competitors are those who offer artist promotional services.  This includes all the obvious names.  The iLikes, ReverbNations, etc… The difference, in my opinion, is that ArtistData has a more specific focus and is not interested in capturing the attention of the music fans.  We leverage the power of the sites that are already good at that.  So our approach is to put the information where it’s supposed to go onto MySpace instead of building a widget to be installed.  However, the widget has its benefits, and we will hopefully give bands that option at some point.

6. How do you hope to monetize ArtistData?

We’ve been talking to our users about this all year, and the conversation has led to our users saying it would be perfectly acceptable for ArtistData to be a paid service.  Because we have no intention of launching a social network where we could sell ads based on fan eyeballs, building a revenue model based on advertising is not an option for us.  We also have some interesting ideas that would allow us to keep it free, but unfortunately I can’t disclose them at this time.  Ultimately, we plan to keep ArtistData free for as long as we can and learn as much as we can from the artists that are using it.

Visit ArtistData at


Posted by:  Annechien Hardenberg