Arts & Entertainment, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Creators of GR music app hope to change the industry

The radi8er app combines music streaming with maps of where artists are playing.

April 29, 2016
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Rob Anthony
Rob Anthony, above, a local musician, composer and producer, came up with the idea for the app and collaborated with Jim Czerew to bring it to market. Photo by Adam Bird

A Grand Rapids app that could potentially revolutionize the way the world listens to music is almost ready for launch.

Radi8er is a combination of the words “radio” and the acoustic term “resonate.” The app serves as a cross between a music/musician user interface and a map interface. It is being hailed as “music streaming meets online maps.”

The app, which will have both Android and iPhone versions, is expected to be launched nationwide in late May or early June.

Radi8er, which had a closed-beta launch March 30, was co-created by Grand Rapids natives Rob Anthony, chief creative officer, and Jim Czerew, CEO, who manage the app out of their space in Start Garden.

Czerew, who’s also the owner of his own IT servicing company, TechConnect LLC, said the app is named radi8er because it features a “resonating back and forth” between what a person wants to listen to and what a community is listening to. The app allows users to find their own “music DNA” — not just for the music they’re interested in but also the music of their city.

“The basic way to explain it is, it’s a music-streaming service with a very unique feature. You’ve got standard features (like play, pause, etc.), but the map is special because it’s all music control. That’s what separates us from everyone else,” he said.

“So, as you zoom in on the map, you get local music. As you zoom out on the map, you get a broader mix of music that can be more mainstream music, but then you can also zoom over to another city or country and hear their music, as well.”

Anthony, a local musician, composer and producer with a long history in the West Michigan music scene, came up with the idea for the app in March of last year. He said he was walking in a mall when he spotted a man who was listening to music through his ear buds and found himself wondering what he was listening to. Then he became intrigued by the idea of real-time music streaming based on location. Soon the idea went from a peer-sharing theme to finding out “the music of a mall.”

Anthony met Czerew through mutual friends and thought he was the perfect person to reach out to with his idea.

“He came to me with this gigantic idea, and it took me some time to parse it down to, “Oh, what you want to build is a hyper-local, real-time, crowd-powered, music-discovery platform,” Czerew said. “Grand Rapids has an amazing music scene, too. It’s such a hub and it’s starting to get recognized.”

Radi8er is looking to challenge social music’s entire social media platform. The app isn’t just a personalized radio that can help users find the “vibe” of a city; it also serves as exposure for local musical artists while offering users a new way to find them. The app will be free to download and free for artists, who can use it as a one-stop shop to promote themselves and sell merchandise.

At this point, Czerew and Anthony realized they were building more than a platform; they were building a data-mining goldmine for businesses, venues and artists. The app also allows users to see events on the map, click on one in the location and listen to the music of the artist.

It also offers an answer to the question: If you wanted to go hear live-music that would meet your tastes or interests, how would you find it?

“If you think back to the great music scenes — like Nashville, New Orleans, Detroit, Austin — these cities have a sound and they’re known throughout the world. So by having a map, it also opens up a lot more possibilities, such as being able to see events that are happening in your area,” Czerew said.

“The artists will be given data to not just see how many times their music has been played but where it has been played, so it can maybe help them to decide where to have their next gig. … The closer in that you zoom (on the map), the more granular your music range will be. You’ll be getting a couple of things. You’ll be getting bands who’s home flag is in that area, as well as the bands people are listening to in that area.”

This kind of app is especially needed in the local and West Michigan music scene, Anthony said. The local music scene is disconnected without a point of reference, and artists don’t feel like people know about the phenomenal underground music that is here, he said.

In fact, Scott Rider of local band Valentiger started a series of monthly talks at various sites called “Let’s Talk GR Music,” in which artists can voice their frustrations about trying to grow a fan base in their own city. There have been about five of these talks so far, Anthony said.

Radi8er now makes the local music scene “comprehensive — not only for music but also the live events and activity of a city,” Czerew said.

In a way, the app is “democratizing” music by allowing artists to put out their music independently and putting the promotion in their hands, he said. It’s reconnecting the music scene with its community.

In case anyone was wondering what the vibe of Grand Rapids’ music scene is, it’s “folk music” — and that’s been confirmed with the app, Anthony said.

“People are going to be surprised by the scope of (the app) and the functionality and the features. This is just the beginning for us. There’s going to be some great things happening that’s really going to benefit artists. It’s going to give consumers a new and different choice and it’s going to let businesses reconnect to the art scene in their area, and everybody, really,” he said.

“By treating live music events just as groups of people streaming something, there’s going to be really interesting interplay here because, as you’re listening through radi8er, what you’re listening to influences the people around, and what the people around you are listening to influences your play list.”

“So, what we’ve got is an automatic, on-the-fly relationship, almost like real-time social networks.”

Listening to Czerew and Anthony talk about their new app and sensing the possibilities for it is akin to listening to Mark Zuckerberg describing his idea for the online college database that eventually became Facebook. And given radi8er’s potential for musically mapping every city on the planet, their energy isn’t surprising.

“Let’s just say the inventors are calling us ‘potential unicorns.’ … There aren’t many apps with this ceiling potential. And it’s international — just wait until we go international,” Czerew said.

“Where are the next Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra? This app could help us find them.”

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