Turning It Up
Creators of indie music site share a groove for business
During college, Brett Woitunski ’03, Nate Hudson ’04, and Mitchell Pavao ’03 had something in common even before they met. “I think we were all bitten by the same bug,” Hudson recalls. “We didn’t want a ‘job in a box’ when we got out of school.”
A scheme for avoiding that doom first hit Woitunski, during his senior year. He considered creating a social-networking Web site for college students. But then a site that provided free MP3 downloads was shut down for music copyright violation, leaving 700,000 unsigned bands homeless on the Internet. Sensing opportunity, Woitunski junked his original idea and began planning a music-networking site.
In seeking technical help he found Pavao and Hudson. The three soon launched PureVolume.com to promote new music and emerging artists. It provides each artist with a profile that typically includes basic information, updates, pictures, show schedules, and streaming audio. Artists can also offer songs as free downloads. Listeners and fans can create their own profiles to interact with artists and one another and to track and share music. Indie music aficionados and recording industry executives comb the site for promising talent.
The business started modestly enough, in Amherst and with the cheapest possible office, furniture, and equipment. The site’s earliest income came from “pro” memberships to bands. “The first day we had someone sign up for a year—70 bucks—and someone sign up for a month—eight bucks,” remembers Woitunski. “It wasn’t much but it was good for the first day.” The site was soon popular enough to sell home-page placement and banner slots.
Today—with Woitunski as CEO, Pavao as CIO, and Hudson as CTO—PureVolume is headquartered in Los Angeles. It uses more than 50 servers, hosts more than 650,000 artists, and has more than 1.2 million members.
If the payoff has been big, it hasn’t come easy: Woitunski tells of routine 18-hour workdays and of being haunted for the remaining six hours by the next day’s demands. “You sort of have to be obsessed to make a business successful,” he admits.