Simon Perry is making a big bet that artist development can be done on a grand scale. ReverbNation’s Chief Creative Officer and Head of A&R has spent three years developing the company’s Curation and CONNECT program, an invite-only artist development system to identify the top echelon of ReverbNation’s four-million-strong artist community.

“CONNECT was born out of the realization that the best of these artists needed more assistance than the music industry was traditionally set up to offer them,” Perry explained in an interview with Amplify. With record labels cutting back on artist scouting and A&R, Perry said he saw a new opportunity for ReverbNation to step into an early artist discovery and development role.

“This is us as a tech-based company thinking about artist development at scale,” said Perry, who estimates that 35,000-40,000 join ReverbNation each month. His company combines algorithmic artist identification tools with multi-scaled curation. Songs and demos are listened to by influential journalists, bloggers, DJs and producers who form the ReverbNation Connect team. Artists are then scored, evaluated and the top echelon of artists are invited to participate in the CONNECT program. Artists are then assigned to a manager, who juggles 60-80 acts and helps top tiered performers get introductions to labels and booking agents.

“We’re moving them up through the tiers based on their readiness, not their ability,” Perry said. “Our program is designed to amplify the careers of those artists who are ready to take the next step.”

ReverbNation began in 2006 to help new and emerging artists manage their careers using internet based tools. The platform provides independent musicians with a suite of tools to manage their careers online. It quickly established itself as the global leader in this field. Additionally, thousands of emerging artists built large followings through strategic festival slots, radio play, sync and media.

Perry is a multiplatinum writer/producer who joined ReverbNation in 2013 to help the company build its talent incubator and identify artists who need a higher level of professional support. Working with CEO Mike Doernberg, the two combined their career experience — one in music, the other in tech — to tackle artist discovery and find a way to identify emerging talent early on in their careers.

One area that Perry said was ripe for innovation — music licensing. Wading through licensable music from emerging artists can be an arduous task, one that ReverbNation was in a unique position to disrupt. ReverbNation has 35,000 to 50,000 news artists joining the site every month, bringing with them 250,000 copyrights a month.

It was that analytical approach to music, coupled with some heavy-duty technology, that allows the company to curate its huge artist roster and discover the next Kacey Musgraves or Mac Miller, two artists who started with ReverbNation and went on to tremendous success. Other successful groups include Imagine Dragons, The Civil Wars and Alabama Shakes.


Perry said ReverbNation’s CONNECT program is designed to identify breakout acts as early possible. One artist he’s had success with is Vienna, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter. Perry helped produce the 18-year-old’s new track “What Are You Waiting For?” which debuted earlier this month on Fader Magazine’s website. The single will be released Nov. 3, as part of a new CONNECT series called The Watch List. Each month ReverbNation CONNECT highlights a single by one of their artists and supports the track with advertising, social media and publicity efforts.

When the time is right, ReverbNation CONNECT connects its artists with management and representation. After organizing his showcase at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, ReverbNation CONNECT helped emerging music prodigy Sammy Brue ink a co-management deal with Peter Leak at Red Light and bring on Jonathan Levine from Paradigm in August.

“Artists are like snowflakes, which means no two artists want the same thing at different times in their career,” Perry told Music Connection earlier this month. “We couldn’t say, ‘Let’s invent a funnel that goes straight to major labels.’ We said, ‘How do we divine a curation system that allows us to sort through artists and understand what they need?'”

It took ReverbNation two-and-a-half years of beta-testing and building their curation at scale technology before CONNECT was ready to launch. What they came up with was a platform that combines human taste-making with data-centric methodologies to listen and analyze every song and artist on the ReverbNation platform.

“We discovered that big data was not a silver bullet,” he told Music Connection. “Data only tells you about an artist when it’s too late, when a bunch of other people know about the artist as well. The only way to find artists that haven’t been exposed is to do old-fashioned A&R, surrounding yourself with people who are passionate about music and good at spotting talent.”

But algorithms can help ReverbNation CONNECT figure out which artists should be more closely looked at by its internal A&R team. Those who make it past the algorithm go on to be reviewed by a trained team of tastemakers. Comprised of DJs, music writers, producers, music supervisors and bookers, the team holds a meeting once a week virtually and four times a year in person. That’s when the curation team introduces their artists to ReverbNation community, who are then considered for the CONNECT program.

Making it into the CONNECT program can mean the opportunity to get in front of huge audiences. This summer, ReverbNation booked 40 of its bands to play SummerFest in Milwaukee, attended by 900,000 fans over an 11-day run that features over 800 bands from around the world.

“We’ve committed to serving as their exclusive online submission platform as part of a three-year deal,” Perry explained. “Many of the artists at ReverbNation have begun to develop growing audiences and we can access those huge fanbases for the festival. It’s a great partnership because we can provide our artists this huge platform, and SummerFest can book top talent without having to wade through thousands of artist submissions.”