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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Commentary

Soca made him do it

Mark Lyndersay writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

Here's everything you need to know up front. Ravi Ramkeesoon is developing a data-driven app designed to connect musicians and bands with their fan base across the world.

Here’s something you probably don’t need to know. The 36-year-old entrepreneur was raised on a chicken farm at Las Lomas No1 before leaving TT to join his family in the United States 30 years ago.

The migration began with his father’s departure in November of 1988 and he made the trip in June of 1989.

It would not be accurate to say he’s never looked back.

“Five years ago, I was listening to Machel Montano’s Mr Fete,” Ramkeesoon recalled.

“That song just represented such a leap forward in how soca was packaged and produced. I couldn’t see any difference between that and anything that was playing on mainstream radio in New York. Why wasn’t it on the radio?”

So he decided to find out. He convened focus groups and braintrusts of people interested in Caribbean music and in mainstream music marketing.

“I needed a wider scope of talents and experiences, not just people who are embedded in the music industry.”

So he called on people from a range of disciplines, people at Viacom, Billboard, MTV and more.

The discussions revealed common themes that kept arising and led to deeper discoveries about what’s happening in the music industry globally and a deeper insight into what the problems are.

He also began to draw on his interest in the analysis of datasets. The problems and challenges tumbled around in his head until March 2016, when he ended up chatting with a Microsoft engineer at the MIT Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp Startup Pitch Competition in Korea and a solution began to take shape.

A month after that, he immersed himself in data visualisation and began to realise that the “avalanche of numbers” could be turned into actionable form.

“Information is king,” Ramkeesoon said, “and I became interested in data, and being able to predict what people will do before they decide to do it. Data analysis is a change agent.

“Entrepreneurship is a holy word for me. Having a vision and building a company are both complementary and necessary things. I need to have an understanding of the technology as well as all the elements that support the business.”

The passion project that Machel Montano fired up five years ago is now called Findmyfans and it’s actively seeking funding. It has an introductory website at findmyfans.co and will begin by providing data analysis culled from social media to give musicians insight into where their work is being played.

If an artist is big enough (or organised enough) to have a Wikipedia page, the app will be pre-populated with information from that source.

At launch, musicians will be able to view the popularity of their music and drill down almost to the street level to see where their fans are.

The Findmyfans app will also create localised charts of popular music at the same level of granularity.

“This really isn’t a music business, it’s a data business, and the first problem we’re solving is a music problem.

“Every single time we have analysed data for artists both big and small, there have been surprises. There will be these pockets of interest in countries they had no idea about. Music gets to people. This project is an opportunity for the creators to connect with their customers.

“Fans you don’t know about are a pot of gold you haven’t visited yet.”

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com, an expanded version of this column can be found there.

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