Think of it as a noteworthy endeavor. "We scour the country looking for up-and-coming bands," says John Wanzung, co-founder of Chicago-based Fresh Tracks. "We're trying to get this music into people's hands."
And so they do. Along with partner Kip Schaumloffel, 28, the 29-year-old Wanzung is hitting it big with a subscriber-based music service that sends out monthly compact discs in much the same way that beer-of-the-month clubs dole out bottles of brew. Their secret formula? The two entrepreneurs--both of whom possess music industry backgrounds--sell their 3,000 subscribers recordings of promising alternative and "roots rock" artists who have yet to hit it big. "Basically," Wanzung says, "it's an insider's guide to finding out who the next big bands are going to be."
Naturally, Wanzung and Schaumloffel rely on their own experiences and musical instincts to point them in the direction of the next, say, Dave Matthews Band or Pearl Jam. Equally important, if not more so, is the networking they do with local disc jockeys, music industry representatives and the like. All told, Wanzung estimates Fresh Tracks receives between 30 and 35 new-act submissions weekly.
So what determines which bands make the final cut? Aside from the obvious (and intangible) matter of personal taste, Wanzung and Schaumloffel also travel extensively to clubs to see how well prospective bands connect with live audiences. "Our goal," says Wanzung, "is to work with as many bands as we can."
And, not coincidentally, to expand Fresh Tracks' list of subscribers. Hoping to boast something to the tune of 20,000 subscribers by year-end, Wanzung sees his year-old company as filling the gap between artists in heavy rotation on radio airwaves and artists who get no mainstream play whatsoever. "We're definitely trying to create a community for the fans and for the bands," he says. "We're really excited about it."