New music platform Orfium offers an alternative to the likes of SoundCloud and Bandcamp. Could it be the best option for music makers?

Launched this week, Orfium is a new music platform which combines some of the best features of existing platforms such as SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Beatport, allowing users to share their tracks, promote them and sell downloads. In addition, it promises to introduce a range of interesting new options for music makers and labels, including the payment of streaming royalties and the ability to upload DJ mixes while compensating all artists whose music is included.

Uniquely, Orfium takes an artist-driven approach to music. The platform could prove to be a strong rival to existing sites such as SoundCloud, which have come under fire in recent months for their heavy-handed approach to handling copyright infringements and their apparent focus on securing lucrative licensing deals rather than listening to the voices of their users.

A lot of information is available from the site’s welcome page, but to find out more about the platform itself and the company’s plans, we spoke to Orfium co-founder and CEO Chris Mohoney.

 

Attack: First things first, can you explain to us what Orfium is?

Chris Mohoney: Orfium is an open social music platform for hosting, listening, sharing, selling, and licensing music and it is built on a back-end system for rights management. Our mission is to provide an open, elegant, and flexible music platform that puts artists and rights holders in complete control of all forms of promotion, retail, licensing, and distribution of music in the digital age, and to provide fans with the best discovery, sharing, and listening experience. Orfium was designed so that anyone in the industry, up-and-coming independent artists to distributors, publishers, and major labels, can tap in and participate, and one of our goals is to create the most efficient marketplace for music.

Orfium's Christopher Mohoney

Orfium’s Chris Mohoney

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: there are already lots of similar platforms in existence, from SoundCloud to Bandcamp to YouTube. What is Orfium going to offer to set itself apart from the rest?

Some music platforms are unoriginal and only differ by name while others have unique technology to offer, however the one thing they all have in common is that they are incomplete solutions for the music business. The difference between Orfium and other music platforms is the same as the difference between a smartphone and the gadgets it contains such as a clock, telephone, camera, flashlight, and MP3 player. None of the gadgets can do everything that a smartphone does, but a smartphone can do everything each of the gadgets does. Likewise none of the other music platforms offer everything that Orfium provides, but Orfium does offer everything that each of the other platforms provide, and like a smartphone all of the functionality is elegantly and conveniently integrated.

All of the tools which other platforms sell to “Premium Artists” are provided for free at Orfium including unlimited free hosting. Our philosophy is that artists are the ones adding the most value which brings visitors, not the other way round, and to charge them upfront for services such as hosting is completely backwards. Orfium operates purely on a revenue share with an 80/20 artist/Orfium split so Orfium only makes money after artists do. Orfium is also the most flexible as artists can customize which service they want to use and can opt-in/out at any time of individual services on a per-track basis. There is no legal risk and no financial risk, just maximum freedom.

many other platforms are run by technology entrepreneurs and programmers who don’t understand how the music business works

Does the Orfium team have a background in music? I think one of the fears of a lot of producers is that the people who run this kind of platform are just in it for the money and don’t understand the concerns of music makers.

Yes and actually this is a great point because many other platforms are run by technology entrepreneurs and programmers who don’t understand how the music business works nor the complexity of music copyrights, and they forget to build this into their back-end architecture. This is likely what happened to SoundCloud, and once you have a huge database it is very difficult to go back and reconfigure the architecture, and it is probably the reason SoundCloud Go was not cleanly integrated. Likewise most music professionals lack the programming experience necessary to communicate solutions to complex problems with adequate precision to developers. Solving the problems of the music industry really requires someone with cross-disciplinary experience in both the music business and computer programming.

I previously managed both a sync-licensing library consisting of over 400,000 audio files and also was a music rights administrator managing over 6 million music copyrights in YouTube’s Content ID system. Both operations were run by the same company where I held dual roles as head of accounting and head of product development. As head of accounting I supervised all client royalties and as head of product development led the engineering team. I’m an experienced programmer and completed both a bachelor and master in accounting at the University of San Diego.

Our Co-Founder and President Drew Delis also attended the University of San Diego and also completed law school at Pepperdine with an emphasis in music rights, internet law, and intellectual property.

Our philosophy is that the purpose of every business in general is to solve a problem, and we are determined to create a solution to the fragmented music industry that solves the problem for all parties

Our philosophy is that the purpose of every business in general is to solve a problem, and we are determined to create a solution to the fragmented music industry that solves the problem for all parties, and not at the expense of any individual party. We spent a tremendous amount of time thinking through the right way to build Orfium, and many of our friends are musicians who helped plan and test Orfium. We also spent the last six months discussing feedback from artists who were part of the 22,000 that tested the beta version and based on their feedback spent the last two months making changes for this launch. We believe that money is just something that follows from solving a problem, not the other way around, therefore solving the problem is the goal. Unfortunately many other businesses don’t operate this way as they focus on the money first, create artificial problems, and engage in anti-competitive practices which completely contradicts their primary purpose. The ironic thing about it is that it actually makes them more vulnerable for two reasons, 1) if they are monopolistic and making too much money then competitors will be attracted to their market, and 2) they are much more likely to be disrupted by a competitor who offers the same or better solutions with no side effects. It’s just annoying that we all have to deal with them before they are disrupted.

Maybe money only exists because people have not grown up enough to trust each other to return favors. If you consider what the most advanced civilization that will ever exist in the universe would be like, maybe they wouldn’t need money at all because they would simply be always willing to help each other and collaborate rather than compete.

Will artists get paid each time their tracks are played?

When streaming subscriptions are launched, yes. We are just working on getting more music on the site before launching subscription streaming. Until then, artists can sell digital downloads, license their music for synchronization deals, and generate earnings from rights management services.

One of the big problems with existing platforms is the issue of spurious automated copyright claims. If artists upload tracks they made, how are you going to make sure they don’t automatically get removed for copyright infringement?

There are actually two parts to this answer. First, instead of automatically removing music that is detected to be potentially infringing, the uploader would receive a courtesy notice first and they would have a grace period to dispute the claim in which case the content would remain until the dispute is resolved. In the mean-time all earnings generated would go in a sort of escrow account that would be released to the rightful party at the conclusion of the dispute. Second, like YouTube, we plan to make it easy for rights holders to collect earnings generated by content that uses their copyright (such as unofficial remixes) so they would be less inclined to issue takedowns since there would be no money in that. My experience with YouTube Content ID was that very few rights holders ever wanted to issue takedowns when they had the option to collect earnings generated by their claims if they allowed the content to stay up.

In the case of unauthorized remixes where the uploader has not cleared the rights, the monetization rights to the remix on Orfium would be abstracted and assigned to the original rights holder.

Clearly a big part of the value of existing music platforms comes from uploading things like remixes and edits. How will that work on Orfium?

The remix uploader can tag the original track, which will both credit the original track and also allow the remix to be recommended on the original track’s page next to other derivative versions. For the second line of defense we are working on implementing a fingerprinting system much like YouTube Content ID that will identify remixes and create these tags automatically.

In the case of unauthorized remixes where the uploader has not cleared the rights, the monetization rights to the remix on Orfium would be abstracted and assigned to the original rights holder. In the case where the remixing artist does not want the song to be monetized, we plan to also allow the remixing artist the option to purchase a license as an alternative means of compensating the rights holder.

Will Orfium focus mainly on individual tracks? What if I want to upload an album as a whole, or even a DJ mix containing multiple tracks from other artists?

Orfium supports both albums and tracks, which is also another difference from SoundCloud. Also a single track can be added to multiple albums so there is no need to duplicate tracks and its statistical data if for example one were to create a “Greatest Hits” album, which both keeps the data cleaner and makes recommendations more accurate. We will also support DJ mixes and podcast series which include tagging embedded track lists and in the case of unauthorized performances it will be handled like a mashup where monetization rights will be split among the multiple rightsholders.

These features have been planned but just didn’t make it in the initial launch as we were eager to get the latest build out to the public so that we could start getting feedback. In general we are continuously rolling out updates which often begin with a simplified version of a new feature which we then rapidly enhance based on feedback. Also since we have noticed cases of users already uploading podcast episodes and live performances as tracks we will make a simple process to allow these users to covert these to podcasts and sets once they are officially supported.

How will the platform work for other parts of the music industry? Is everything targeted at artists acting independently or will there be features aimed at labels and other rights holders?

Orfium is actually meant to be a solution for the entire industry so we do have special accounts for labels, managers, publishers, distributors, curators, and event production. However we have been heavily focused on helping the artists first because they are the first source of value in the industry and sadly have been the ones who have been neglected the most and that needs to be fixed.

We absolutely will be working hard to bring fans to the platform as it would not be a complete solution without them.

How are you going to attract music fans to the platform? Will it just focus on the music makers themselves, or will there be efforts to draw in consumers who don’t necessarily make music but want to be a part of the community?

We absolutely will be working hard to bring fans to the platform as it would not be a complete solution without them. For the latest release we actually added many nice consumer features in the right sidebar that allow Orfium to function as a full-featured cloud-based listening platform including the ability for fans to create and share playlists with their friends. Currently we are focused most on getting music on the platform as that will attract more fans. We index all music with search engines so fans who search for music on Google will find Orfium. Many artists who embed their music on social media and other sites will also attract their fans, however we will certainly run broader consumer targeted campaigns as we transition beyond the content acquisition phase as well as build more features that make discovering and sharing music easier and more enjoyable.

What’s the long-term plan for Orfium? How do you see it panning out a few years down the line?

We probably have at least two years worth of work in terms of new features planned including mobile apps and we will be working hard on that. Other than streaming, radio, podcast support, and enhanced recommendations, we feel like we have many of the important front-end features completed. Much of the work planned ahead involves back-end tools for artists and users such as analytics, royalty accounting reports and integrations with other services and apps. For example we want to provide artists with data that will help them choose where to go on tour based on where there fans are. Orfium is expected to grow significantly over the next two years as more artists and fans discover it. In terms of artist revenues I would expect them to see the licensing and rights administration side to really spring up first but ultimately the consumer channel has the most upside potential as more fans join.

 

Orfium is live now. To find out more, head here.

29th July, 2016

  • Looked interesting, but you need to provide a photo of your Government issued ID in order to monetize your tracks. Why? No other service requires this. Sorry, but won’t be using.

  • Hi Steve, there are two good reasons for requiring proof of identity in order to access monetization features. First, for tax reporting purposes, and second to deter frauds from attempting to upload and sell your music as their own. Most other services only accept content from distributors who are supposed to do this check for them. As for other services that do allow selling direct uploads, I’m not sure how they solve these issues. Depending on where they are located they might not be subject to the same tax requirements that we are in the United States. In previous experience working for a licensing business that did allow direct uploads for sale, we had a big problem with fraudulent uploads and I want to make sure Orfium does not have this problem. We are looking into alternative methods to solve these problems. I’m probably also used to it because I have had to submit copies of identification many times for various business purposes to entities such as banks, landlords, and contract services. Also another thing to note is that our servers are secured including using SSL. Please share if you have a better idea because much of what we have built at Orfium is based on direct feedback and any help is greatly appreciate. Thanks!

  • Hi Chris

    Can a profile be set up for a record label?

  • Hi Paul,

    Yes, simply create a regular account and sign in then fill out the form at this link to have it converted to a record label: https://www.orfium.com/label/create/

  • Bahador

    Couldn’t agree more with this
    “If you consider what the most advanced civilization that will ever exist in the universe would be like, maybe they wouldn’t need money at all because they would simply be always willing to help each other and collaborate rather than compete”

  • Saikun

    So let me be sure I got it right, you can set up an account and monetize your content even if you don’t reside in the US right?

  • Yup, @Saikun you can monetize from anywhere in the world

  • Interesting website and I think it can compete against the others *easily*, seems fairly fast which is very important in my opinion. My only issue, and this has to do with all websites like this not just Orfium, there’s just too much to “wade through” to discover anything good. Also, artists put there music is certain styles of music, for example Experimental or Techno, and it sounds nothing like it! It’ll make it ever worse if they can put themselves in more than one style. Those two things are the biggest hurdles for me when using any website like this. All that being said, I definitely bookmarked the website and will look into signing up once I get some decent tracks together…adding to the already overwhelming amount of artists. :p

  • Dan

    You talk about copyright and giving credit to artists work, yet you have configured your web assets bundler to strip all the license and credits tags from the 3rd party script assets your website are using, such as the jQuery and SoundManager libraries. This is disrespectful to the open source developers who make your website possible.

  • @Dan, I just notified the devs about it and they are going to update the configuration settings to fix this. It was definitely not intentional as it was caused by some default setting. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  • Mark K

    Took me a long time to find trance tracks. Discover > Categories > Electronic/EDM > Scroll down(wait while loading) en this a few more times

  • Eelco

    @chris, I have been keeping an eye to Orfium for quit some time now. In all honesty, I can not discover any music which (not yet) matches either, my taste or the quality I am looking for. Is there something for the future which can handle that issue in any way or are you open for everyone to just upload, share and sell? Part of the success must be quality and easy to find material that interests the user (in this case myself).

  • Eelco

    @chris, some other thing what I do find difficult when looking for new music on for example Soundcloud, is the fact that people upload deejay mixes with music they did not produced (so I am not talking about live sets or playlists). Find that on Orfium also, which makes it hard to use it as a 100% resource for buying new music only.

  • Burly

    FAO: Chris.. just a FYI many of us hate the stagnant soundcloud …. if you guys work on improving your platform the uptake will trickle, flow, pour, and evolve… if you keep listening and making the changes that are sensible people sugguest and make your API work . you will do well .. be aware … we are quite tired of soundcloud…. it hasent moved forward in 5 years….. we are ready for change..

  • td

    A suggestion about the government ID requirement – get a ProtonMail.com email account set up – which has the best encryption available today – and require the ID holder to also get a free version of that service’s email.

    As long as both parties – sender and recipient – have a protonmail account, everything is automatically encrypted AND the ID sender has the option of making that email containing their ID image to disappear within a specific, user-defined length of time. This way, Orfium gets the needed verification of the sender’s identity and the sender can feel more secure about their ID. (As long as Orfium doesn’t cheat and keep that image on file! There is no particular justification for Orfium to keep ID images once Orfium verifies the identity of the would-be user. If a legal issue were to come up, Orfium could simply contact the user requesting a re-send of the ID as needed.)

  • Joey

    So by uploading my ID for tax purposes, Orfium is deducting any/all taxes and I wont need to report those myself? Or is this some type of double taxation (which has been a common way for international labels to NOT pay their artists fairly)? Or is this just Orfium reporting what I earn to the IRS, which they can later use to cross reference what I report annually? Some clarification on this would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Joey

    Oh and.. how does this apply to artists not based in the USA?

  • Joey

    also… (I know, right?!) how will this work with labels that have multiple artists located in various countries that have not registered individual ID’s with Orfium?

    *The reason I am asking about this is because it’s a little confusing… Normally, the market place pays the royalty to the (distributor/label and then the label pays the artist) artists and labels who are then each individually required to report and meet their own tax obligations in their particular country of residence.

  • @Chis Mahoney: your participation in a discussion about Orfium would be very welcomed on Gearslutz. Link: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/1109028-orfium-lets-talk-about.html

  • Bobby

    It’s a good idea, but 2 things:

    1. As a new store in the market place, you are charging too much. 20% is just the beginning because unless you are paying royalty cash by hand, PayPal etc. are going to take an additional 5-6% in transfer fees. If you are trying to replace Bandcamp, which charges 15%, I think Orfium charging the same or a lower 10% would be much more appropriate and attractive to artists.

    2. ID’s? No way am I sending you my ID! Why on earth would you need my ID? This is a really bizarre requirement. I’ve been selling music through labels, distributors and directly at just about every store on the internet for over 10 years now and have never even once been asked for ID. Everyone selling music has a PayPal and or bank account, even with Western Union and such, actual financial institutions, they all require ID to setup accounts and or receive money, so there is absolutely no valid reason for you, the store, to have my personal information on file. This has ID theft written all over it. So until you change this policy, no thank you very much.

    *Your reasoning is its a requirement for “Tax reporting purposes”? As a musician, I am self-employed and responsible for doing my own taxes, not you! “Fraudulent uploads”? How is sending you my ID going to prove I am who I say I am when most artists don’t use a real name? If My artist name is “Dr. Dumbarse”, how is my drivers license or passport going to prove it?! And for that matter, if I am a Daft Punk type of artist and part of my brand is remaining anonymous, why would I tell you and trust you’ll keep it a secret? This is just a bad bad policy man. When a dispute arises, there so many easier alternative methods for verification of who owns what IP. Liability? You do have a user contract, don’t you? Use it! Surely, you guys can figure it out.

  • Anon

    This service sounds great, but it’s doomed to failure because of the requirement for government ID.

  • tommy

    Like others have said, it appears to be a well thought out site and service, but the whole ID requirement idea is a deal breaker. I would bet you’re losing hundreds of potential users daily because of it. What a shame. Hope that changes soon.

  • JJ

    Another vote for no identification requirement here. I wont use the website until then, if I even bother visiting it again..

  • Hey everyone, I don’t get notifications when new comments show up on here so I apologize for the delayed response. First, I just want to thank all of you for your feedback, I am listening and we are actively working to implement improvements. In regards to the ID verification issue keep in mind that it only affects users who are monetizing their music. The challenge arises in that we are offering a retail service with an open upload gateway. Other retailers only accept music from distributors, big labels, and other aggregators who are legally obligated to handle identity verification before submitting music to the retailer so that the retailer does not have to worry about it. Therefore we have to solve the problem somehow and can’t simply eliminate the verification and ignore the problem, but we can find a better method to implement. I am planning to add PayPal as an alternate method of verification since if you have a valid PayPal account then it means you have a valid bank account which required identity verification. If you want to help with this, if you contact me at support@orfium.com I will personally read the message and it will be much easier for me to keep track of it and follow up with you than communicating via comments on here.

  • Ted

    @Chris RE: Paypal alt verification – Great idea! Please implement this ASAP! Thanks.

  • Attack Admin

    @chris thanks for pointing this out. We are going to fix that asap.

  • @mark K @Eelco @Burly Hey guys, This is Drew Delis, co-founder and President of Orfium. We are currently working on making our discover page much more functional and helpful. We know its difficult to find the music you want when there is so much content. We are also working on recommendations as well as adding groups. Thanks for supporting Orfium!

  • Anthony

    @Drew thank you for implementing the mentioned user interface function improvements. I know lots of people are watching these developments. imo the biggest improvement you can immediately make is getting the paypal verification up and running. everywhere I hear about your platform the id thing gets mentioned. once the new process is working, I think your site will really begin to take off.

  • @Anthony Thank you for your response. The PayPal verifications is a top priority for us and we are working hard to get it out right away!

  • BC

    Very interesting concept … but seen the musical “quality” of the “top” albums I doubt they will attract any music fans of the pop genre. Taste is very individual, but browsing the pop genre and listening to the first(most popular) titles is horrible. Horribly produced, horrible performances. Not attractive at all.

  • Gem

    Apart from a few boutique stores with strict approval processes in place, the same can be said of all of the social ranking sites/stores out there today. With what these guys are offering, I think once Orfium allows for PayPal verification there will be a lot more people joining and therefor more selection and quality on offer.

  • Gem

    On that note, I think adding some incentives for exclusive content would be attractive to DIY professionals and indie labels looking for release alternatives. Would be to me anyway.

    Guys, when will this PP verification be available?

  • @all PayPal as an alternate means of verification has been implemented. All you have to do is connect a verified PayPal account if you’d rather not upload a photo ID. By the way just to clarify in regards to some of the tax questions (I’m also an accountant btw) we don’t withhold any taxes but depending on the payment method we use to pay royalties we could be required to file a 1099 or W-8 for non-US residents. All this does is reports how much we paid which the IRS uses to ensure the recipient did indeed report the amounts as income on their personal tax returns, but it does not require us to withhold anything. It’s not fun and I wish I didn’t have to do it, but the government requires all businesses in the US to do this. I believe we only have to do this for non-incorporated recipients of more than $600 per year in royalties. Also I believe that if we send payments via PayPal then PayPal takes care of this requirement automatically, but if we write a check then we definitely are required to do this.

    Next up we are working updating the upload process which will include an organized upload manager and mass upload tool, as well as official support for podcasts and sets, and also we are working on improving discovery and recommendation algorithms to help the best music bubble up to the top.

  • @Gem PayPal verification is now live on Orfium!

  • Julian

    Orfium start page has some scrolling issues i guess. not sure if it happens just here (win 7 \ Chrome) or that’s a real one. Page scrolling is a bit strange as it tries to hold the current section.

  • LOUD.CJ

    If Orfium doesn’t offer a playable Facebook widget then it’s the same as SoundCloud.

  • LOUD.CJ

    Also the backend of your site is so slow, even months after launch? Pay for better hosting lololol what the fuck is the main statement of your business plan anyways? To keep it extremely low on costs to turn a larger profit? Don’t you think AudioMack tried that?

  • Chris Mohoney

    We have the code declared properly, but Facebook just has to flip the switch to enable it for playback. Problem is that they don’t have a support inbox or any public or developer contact point anywhere other than a community forum that nobody looks at. Pretty shameful for a $300 billion company to not provide basic email support. We will always have people replying same day.

  • Chris Mohoney

    Could be a browser specific issue. Our app analytics are showing average to better than average speeds as compared with similar sites, which is not bad considering we have not yet raised institutional funds and the site has only been public for a few months and is maintained by four developers. Not sure what you are talking about with paying for hosting as we provide unlimited hosting for free. No where do we charge anyone any money, we only operate on an earnings share only keeping a modest 20%. The economic purpose of the business plan is to openly offer all digital revenue sources in one place in one upload gateway, with the most flexible and favorable terms possible for artists while offering an elegant social platform for consumers. I’ve never used AudioMack but just visited their website and first thing I got was a big obnoxious ad, which is something we would never do to visitors. I also don’t see anywhere where they offer licensing, remix monetization and digital rights management services such as YouTube Content ID royalty collection. Not sure what the negative attitude is about, but you are welcome to come back later after the early adopters have tried and tested and helped us fix the bugs and make improvements. What’s your contribution to the music community anyway?

  • Chris Mohoney

    Hey Julian, thank you for reporting this. It is the first I’ve heard of this issue as I don’t have any problems with my browser (win 10 Chrome). If you still have this problem would you mind please contacting us at support@orfium.com with more details please? I’d like to make sure we can identify the problem and bring it to the attention of the developers who are quick to fix these types of things. Thanks!

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