Thursday, January 31, 2008

Networking site Uber attempts to get talented musicians signed, sealed and delivered to your ears

For young, budding, doe-eyed musicians, the dream of darting past the local gigs into a record contract seems distant at best. But at’s “You Bring the Talent” competition, “making it big” is a hope hitting a bit closer to home. Uber, a social networking site tailored to showcase creativity, is hosting a contest for unsigned bands, with the grand prize including an EP deal with Atlantic Records, a music publishing deal with Peer Music, a show at Hollywood’s House of Blues, a booking deal from the Agency Group and distribution through ADA from the Rebel Group so the band’s eventual CDs can storm the stores. Talk about a fast track out of obscurity.

So why should someone who hasn’t even suffered the perils of national ridicule (and Simon Cowell) belting out tunes on American Idol participate here instead? “There’s a sea of websites with the same look and feel on all those pages,” says Uber’s head of music, Michael Steele, who points to the trend of gifted bands trying to market themselves, most unsuccessfully, on MySpace and Facebook. “How can bands get exposure?” With this contest, the year-old Uber offers a forum for promising talent not only a chance to be noticed, but to be adored. Hoping to create an online home for artists of every variety, the social networking site spares the winning band the pains of managing their own logistics, giving them the best shot at success possible. “We’re out to legitimize this,” Steele says. “This isn’t a BS competition or some battle of the bands. We’re out to truly help the band.”

Psyched to become the next Carrie Underwood (or anti-Carrie Underwood, for that matter)? First, part of the contest is just signing up for an account on Uber. Then, make sure everyone you know votes for you. “Work your fanbase,” Steele advises. Uber encourages their contestants to use their MySpace and Facebook accounts to generate more votes. Only the top 100 bands with the most votes will be considered by a panel of celebrated judges, including Andy Karp, executive VP for Atlantic Records.

So far, about 1,000 artists have signed up. “It's fun to see the competition you're up against and enjoy other talent out there,” says Kathy Phillips, one of the most popular artists on Uber at the moment. “It's great to see other people just like yourself who want the same thing as you do.” Besides recognition from Uber, many of the competing artists have received attention in a variety of forms from supportive fans shooting compliments to sizeable amounts of visitors checking out songs.

For those less musically inclined, Uber provides anyone to design and maintain their own websites alongside an energetic creative force of photographers, painters, writers, and fashion designers. Uber’s idea of “disposable web” translates into an easy-to-use interface for any moderately computer-savvy individual. In the future, the site wants to team up with Project Runway to offer one Uber fashion designer a slot on the top-rated show. So whether you’re an aspiring artist or a common Joe, Uber lets us all do same thing -- to sit back and enjoy the music. - Justyna Nytko

For more information, visit