All (of us) music pros now have a new friend in town. As is well known, the definition of what a music professional is or is not continues to be the subject of discussion and debate: BantaMu was born out of the assumption that, alas, there are many questionable people in the music business. I am sure that some of you have heard of it, or that at least one of your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn friends has posted something about it. I am also sure that many of you have either briefly wondered what it was or ignored the subject altogether. And that is why we have decided to investigate a bit more on this project and to get in touch with Giacomo ‘Jack’ Garufi, the creator of BantaMu and basically its only financier.
We have seen many ‘revolutions’ being proclaimed on the Internet, especially with regard to the music industry and job-finding portals, and some of us have registered with LinkedIn, Music Jobs or other social media platforms for job seekers. Have we ever actually benefited from that? Not really. In fact, it seems way easier to get in touch with other professionals through Facebook than through job-seeking platforms, at least as far as the music industry is concerned.
Against this backdrop, BantaMu makes the web available to music pros (as explained on the website, the name is a compound of two names: ‘Bantam’, a type of audio cables, and ‘Mu’, a fictional submerged continent). Three days after BantaMu Beta went online – about a month ago – Jack contacted me on Skype and immediately started telling me about those first 72 hours:
Giacomo Garufi We’re still on Beta and we have so much stuff to do, but in just three days the feedback has been amazing. Many people are registering with us and using BantaMu, which is already working. Just to give you an example: Irko, an American producer and engineer, subscribed only yesterday and has already been contacted for some mixing jobs. Other important people in the industry have registered with us, including the photographer Guido Harari (who has worked for Bob Dylan), the sound engineer Michael White (Whitney Houston, Talkin Heads, David Bowie), Steve Addabbo (who has also worked with Dylan), and Cristiano ‘CriZ’ Mozzati, Lacuna Coil’s drummer. In short, the word is getting around and, so far, the feedback has been really good. Our aim is to promote and facilitate collaboration in the industry, which is clearly evolving, and basically provide a platform where you can find real pros, whether you are looking for an audio engineer, a musician, a producer or other professionals such as music video directors, artwork designers, photographers, and so on. The idea is to have sort of a sector-specific LinkedIn.
CS I can see that the website is very easy to navigate…
GG Well, you know, I’m not really into social networking: I just wanted something plain, easy to use and, above all, something which would actually work. The idea came from my personal experience: I needed something like BantaMu, where I could put my credits and everything. Indeed, to my mind the most interesting thing about it is the credits chart: there, you have the chance to make your own CV listing the artists you’ve worked with. Every time you add an artist, BantaMu automatically creates a link to that artist, so that users can trace the professionals a specific artist has worked with, and viceversa. In addition, we are developing a semantic engine: if a registered user imports his/her favourite artists from LastFM, Deezer or Facebook, BantaMu can provide him/her with the names of the professionals who have worked with those artists. The idea is to understand users’ preferences in order to facilitate collaboration. The interface is dummy’s proof, and that’s also because I’m not much of a computer geek, so I liked the idea of a very simple, user-friendly website.
CS Many websites of this kind have been launched in recent years. Is this the nth career-ads website?
GG No, it is more like a showcase or social working website. We do want to develop a job opportunities section, but ads will be carefully filtered and selected. It won’t be the usual ads page – such as that of Villaggio Musicale (or Music Jobs, ed) – where the lowest price wins. We also want to introduce a media management section to make it easy to link the BantaMu profile to Soundcloud, Vimeo or other external websites with portfolios. We already offer the possibility to link BantaMu and LinkedIn profiles, so that professionals can register via the latter and get a ‘verified by LinkedIn’ account.
CS Is the service free or do you offer also Premium accounts?
GG Obviously, the Beta version is and will be completely free. Later on we will start offering a Premium service which will provide its subscribers with more visibility, information on the people visiting their profiles and other extra-services. For the time being, however, we are offering our services free of charge: after all, we still need to see how things will go, also because our primary goal is to facilitate contacts between professionals.
CS Let’s have a look at the website: besides user profiles, there is a section called ‘featured artists’. What’s that?
GG That is like a show window featuring different artists every month, including indie bands and lesser-known professionals. There’s also a favourite artists section, where users can import preferences from other platforms.
CS Is it possible to send messages to other users?
GG At this time we do not have an internal messaging system: it is possible to contact people in private, via email or phone. Later on we will introduce an internal system, like the one used on LinkedIn and other social media sites.
CS This website is targeted at audio engineers (audio engineering is your field, and the very name of the portal is connected with it), music video directors, photographers, and musicians. What about managers, press offices, or journalists working in the music industry?
GG Honestly, at first I thought that BantaMu would be targeted at technical professionals within the industry. However, many managers of US artists have already registered with us, so I’d say that they, too, are part of our audience!
CS How many people are on staff?
GG Currently three: me and the two programmers, Simone Dall’Angelo (back end) and Antonio La Scala (front end). Then, depending on the success of the website, we will decide whether to hire more people.
CS How do you market the website?
GG Well, at present mostly by word of mouth. Of course, before launching the project I presented it to many key people in the industry, but really, most of it is just word of mouth, especially outside Italy. We have been online for a few days only and we are still basically a startup, but it’s crazy how many people have already registered with us!
CS Where did you get the idea for BantaMu?
GG I basically got the idea speaking with other pros: I realized that LinkedIn is completely useless in our industry, that we need a sector-specific portal. So I started working on it with the programmers and, a year later, we managed to complete the Beta version, which we will probably upgrade in 2014. There’s no rush, though: first we want to see how things work out and get some feedback. We have many ideas in store, but what I’m most interested in now is the feedback from early users, who will see how the service works and suggest possible improvements.
There’s not much left to say: BantaMu is online and is just waiting for new people to subscribe and start interacting with other professionals. Turning to indie music, Jack Garufi has given us some anticipations concerning Gli Amanti, with whom he has worked as a recording engineer: “their new album will be released with Universal Music in March and the band are about to start promoting it. The album is sick! We recorded it on tape at Bonsai Recording Studio in Orvieto. The atmosphere was amazing – outside there were hens, and we were in the studio all day and all night long – and it translated into the album. Their music is kind of inspired by Mumford & Sons’ folk sound, something quite unusual in Italy, with less compression, a strong live component, and almost no editing. You will realize what I’m talking about as soon as you listen to it!”.
So, good luck to BantaMu and Giacomo Garufi! Now it’s your turn, dear music professionals: make this platform work!
[translated by Elena Miraglia]