FORT COLLINS — Emily Satterlee wants to empower musicians.
As a singer-songwriter herself, she knew one of the great stumbling blocks to recording music was finding a producer. Sometimes the artist and producer click and the intimate process of recording creates exactly what both the musician and producer have in mind. Other times, it can feel transactional and ultimately result in something unsatisfying.
While owning a building seems like something every successful business should do, that’s not always the case. For many companies, it makes more sense to continue leasing space, freeing up time and capital that can be better utilized in other ways.
After learning a bit about production, Satterlee took a technological approach to making the music recording process better for all parties.
The result was ItyDity, a Fort Collins-based startup that provides a marketplace and matching service for musicians and producers.
“It’s the only artist-run marketplace and network that intimately works with artists to help them craft their vision and song-match them with the perfect producer to create a market-ready track,” Satterlee told BizWest.
Here’s how it works: Artists can go to ItyDity’s website and upload demos of songs or upload videos describing how they want it to sound by citing influences, other artists they want to emulate or even styles and effects they like. Each song is then posted as a project on ItyDity, and producers can submit a request to work on a project, stating why they’re drawn to the song or the artist’s vision. The musician then selects a few producers they would feel excited to work with. As an additional element, Satterlee and her co-founder, music producer Jonah Brockman — who together interview all the producers before they join the network — throw in some wild card choices they think might be a good match that the artist maybe didn’t consider. Those selected producers then move into the last phase of the bid process, uploading their own rough draft of what they would do with the song. The artist then blindly listens to the tracks without knowing who produced it and makes a selection. The artist and the producer selected work together to finish the song.
The final selected producer is paid for the work. Projects start at $699, although some artists are encouraged to incentivize their project by offering more. ItyDity takes a $99 cut of the sale. Satterlee said that based on her and her co-founder’s experience, $699 was a reasonable price point for a finished, radio-ready track.
“For artists, one of the value-adds of ItyDity is that a new artist starting out doesn’t know what to expect to pay,” Satterlee said. “It can be intimidating finding a producer on Craigslist and not having a trusted third-party. We find that most people don’t balk at the price point of $699.”
While the benefit to artists, especially first-time artists, is the security of a third-party platform rather than searching through Craigslist, and the end result of a market-ready song, producers also benefit from using ItyDitty. New producers can use it to build up their portfolio, while established producers can use it to find new artists they’re excited to work with. It’s also great for producers who don’t live in major music cities like Nashville or Los Angeles to work with talent.
For Satterlee, working out of Fort Collins was an intentional choice.
“Fort Collins’ music scene is why we’re there,” she said. “The Music District is a music-focused co-working space and events center run by musicians in all aspects of the industry. It’s a unique and unparalleled music ecosystem that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Colorado.”
Satterlee said originally she thought she might need to move to L.A. to launch her startup.
“But some friends were like, ‘There’s something brewing here; talk to the people at the Music District.’ They launched around the same time as ItyDity. As soon as I met with them, they were so gracious and gave us a lot of early support.”
In fact, Colorado has made a statewide effort to increase its music influence. The Colorado Music Strategy was launched through a private-public partnership via Colorado Creative Industries and Fort Collins-based Bohemian Foundation to increase revenues for Colorado musicians and businesses. It also aims to raise Colorado’s stature nationally as a state for musicians and artists.
Recently, ItyDity won a chance to meet with Techstars’ music accelerator in L.A., after placing second at a pitch competition during Fort Collins Startup Week. The company has been bootstrapped, and Satterlee said the plan is to continue that. In addition to taking a portion of the fee a producer gets for making a song, ItyDity is considering taking a royalty fee and facilitation fee. However, Satterlee said the company plans to keep it lower than the record industry standard: while ItyDity’s service fee is $99, many record labels have it set at 30 percent.
ItyDity is also looking at onboarding more producers. So far, there are about 300 producers on board.
A main goal of ItyDity is preventing dissatisfaction from the artist or the producer. The platform has built-in communication tools to help the artist feel out producers before making a final selection. And if the two do butt heads, ItyDity steps in as a moderator to help work out the issue. If an issue can’t be resolved or if the final product just isn’t what the artist wanted, ItyDity has third-party mixing and mastering specialists who can help make it right.
There is also an algorithm that helps eliminate any possible collaborations that won’t be good matches, such as a religious artist who wants to only work with a producer of the same faith. However, while many music platforms might rely on algorithms and machine learning to predict what a user might want, Satterlee said ItyDity is very much hands-on. She or Brockman interviews every person who signs up. It’s what allows her to make those wild card recommendations.
“My main concern is always to be able to get a high-quality final result for the artist,” she said. “That means I like to be more hands-on and not leave it to an algorithm. You don’t need an algorithm at the end of the day. The final process is the artist selecting based on the creativity of another human’s submission.”
Ultimately, Satterlee said ItyDity is looking to solve a real problem in the music industry.
“In this new era of the DIY musician and professional studios shutting down at massive rate and not operating like they used to, they’re not doing artist development or using resources to match artists to producers. It’s left artists in a vulnerable state on how to navigate production on their own.”
She said ItyDity is looking to fill that role as a trusted third-party. What is more, producers are frustrated because of the widespread affordability of home recording equipment, unqualified producers are diluting the business.
“This is a new era and a new atmosphere in the DIY age of musicians,” she said. “We’re removing roadblocks that currently exist and are allowing both parties to reach their maximum potential.”