An Employment Assist for Audio Pros – Inside The Launch of IndieNinja

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Being a freelance audio engineer can feel like the epitome of going it alone. For pro audio practitioners who yearn for a broader network, however, a new platform has arrived that may make it easier to find the ideal gig.

The solution is IndieNinja, an artist services marketplace specifically tailored for the independent music community. Launched by a seasoned team from the music and tech sectors, this connection engine isn’t for just any ninja: It was created specifically for linking indies — music artists, managers, labels — to a hand-picked list of experts (the “ninjas”) that includes live touring road crew, marketing/promotion teams, accountants, attorneys, and more.

IndieNinja officially launched in private beta on June 6, 2017.

Audio pros, from live sound to studio mavens, are also being welcomed into this ninja nexus, which is currently in private beta and open for all buyers and sellers to register at the site. The marketplace’s initial focus is on North America and Europe, with other markets on the horizon.

The concept sprang from a need seen by co-founders Bill Wilson, Laurens Kusters, and Constantine “Gus” Mavromoustakos, to de-randomize the talent search process for artists, managers and labels who needed support. After seeing their colleagues post constantly on social media for everything from T-shirt designers to publicists and guitar techs, they sewed the seeds for something more formalized and selective.

In this Q&A, Kusters goes deeper into the workings of IndieNinja, and how they plan to bring a boost to pro audio careers.

There are many existing platforms to connect people who need services to people who provide them. What makes IndieNinja different and necessary?

Laurens Kusters co-founded IndieNinja with experience as a label executive, music publisher, and artist manager.

The first thing would be that we are focused on creating a marketplace for the music industry, which really hasn’t been done yet. Most similar sites will connect you with a plumber or a dog walker, but we are giving artist managers, indie labels, and indie artists a place to find professional guitar techs, publicists, radio promoters, T-shirt designers, photographers, and anyone else they may need to reinforce their team or otherwise support their music career.

That specialization is important, and we’re in a unique position to provide it because of our experience in the industry. My co-founder Bill Wilson and I are both independent label owners and have been at it for decades combined. Our Board of Advisors is also filled with music biz veterans, so we know exactly what artists, labels, and managers need and have a rich list of contacts who we are bringing in to become ninjas.

Indies don’t need to worry about hiring someone who can’t do the job, and our ninjas don’t need to worry about getting stiffed on their payment, as we collect their fee up front and hold it in escrow until the job is complete. What we’re selling is ease, and that’s an extremely valuable commodity in music.

IndieNinja says it is a “verified” marketplace. How do Ninjas get listed on the platform, and how are they vetted?

That’s actually the second thing that sets us apart: we curate all of our ninjas. As I mentioned above, we have a tremendous team with a diverse set of industry experience and contacts. Each ninja submission we receive is personally vetted by me, Bill, or our Board, so our users know they are hiring legitimate professionals.

At the moment, we are onboarding very organically, bringing in people we know personally who have done a good job for us in the past. We are also allowing them to suggest others who might be good for the service, who we then reach out to.

Finally, we have a request form on our Website’s front page for potential ninjas who would like to be included. We ask for their name, email address, and company name, and will be going through and vetting these submissions as well.

Can audio professionals list themselves as Ninjas on the platform? If so, what branches of audio do you anticipate will benefit early on from listing themselves?

Absolutely! We accept submissions for all aspects of studio tech, including mastering engineers, mixing engineers, recording engineers, producers, recording studios, sound designers, and more. Just go to http://www.indie.ninja and fill out the form.

IndieNinja hopes that audio pros, and the artists they work with, will benefit from their marketplace.

We’ll be slowly onboarding those who fill out a request and pass our vetting process over the next few weeks, after which they’ll be able to create a profile, select their profession, and input their location and three key music genres they work with. They’ll then receive notifications when relevant gigs are posted.

We think this will be a huge boon for all audio professionals, who will have a lot to gain from registering with IndieNinja. Every artist needs to record their music, and being able to easily find audio techs who complement their style will create more work across the board.

What are the company’s revenue streams — are there fees involved for buyers or sellers of services who use the platform?

Currently, we bring in money through a percentage-based transactional model. In other words, we take around 10% of the fee that our ninjas charge managers, labels, and artists for their services. We are also looking into a few additional options for those interested in advanced functionality. Stay tuned!

What do you see as being the biggest challenges of growing a connectivity marketplace like IndieNinja? On the flipside, how do you see IndieNinja benefiting independent music as it gains traction?

The vetting process will be the biggest challenge, as it is extremely hands-on. But there is a strong need in the music community for a single marketplace where indies can hire professionals without needing to worry about their quality, so we will not compromise on verification. Luckily, we have great connections and a fantastic Board of Advisors, which makes that process much easier.

It’s worth it, because the eventual benefit to the indie music community is enormous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone on Facebook asking for a merch company in the U.K. or a tour manager in Berlin. Bringing those people together creates tremendous value for both entities, and IndieNinja is all about making that connection as easy and successful as possible.

— David Weiss