At the rate things are going, maybe someday there could be a ReverbNation Bowl amid the mass of college football games at this time of year – with all the broadcast music coming from the company’s worldwide artists.

No bowl is on anyone’s radar, but with 2010 growth of 300 percent and no reason to expect less in the future, perhaps it’s something that co-founder and CEO Michael Doernberg should pencil in.

ReverbNation is a four-year-old startup that creates ways for musicians and fans to connect and helps the music-makers put their productions into the marketplace online.

The business is, Doernberg said in an interview with Local Tech Wire, is to let musicians “push content where their fans go.” That includes a recent agreement with Myspace that lets bands connect through their online pages there.

Reverb bills itself as providing “the best tools for musicians and the best music for everyone else,” and it recently signed up its 1 millionth band. The site is a way for musicians across an array of genres to showcase and sell their music and for fans to create personal collections and “radio stations.”

With an e-mail element to the operation, Doernberg says ReverbNation serves artists who are “trying to use their music to capture a relationship with their fans.”

“We don’t disclose revenue, but we’re a multimillion-dollar company in terms of sales,” Doernberg said. They grew 300 percent this year over 2009, running 5 and 12 percent monthly, he said. “2011 will be a great year” as well, he added.

The company will be at 30 employees – four in New York City and the rest in Durham – when the year ends Friday, Doernberg said. ReverbNation’s headcount is rising by 10 between Nov. 1 and next March, he said.

Novak Biddle Venture Partners is Reverb’s largest backer, followed by SeventySix Capital and Southern Capitol Ventures, which was Doernberg’s first backer.

Offering advertisers solid demographics

ReverbNation artists have 31 million verified-e-mail fans, Doernberg said, which lets the company connect them with companies looking for high-impact advertising paths to reach various demographics. ReverbNation and the bands both profit.

A recent campaign for Heineken beer involved 1,000 bands that agreed to deliver the brewer’s messages through their sites while Heineken got music to use in its campaigns.

Because the artists have relationships with their fans and ReverbNation has so much data about them, “What we’re able to do is build products that drive revenue for ourselves and for the artist,” Doernberg explained.

Fans open 28 percent of e-mail from their chosen artists, compared with about 2 percent for unsolicited messages, he said.

A third aspect of the enterprise, Doernberg said, is being a digital distributor for artists’ music.

ReverbNation can rapidly ingest content, collect and connect metadata such as album and recording track titles, then push the package to a variety of retailers throughout the world, such as iTunes or, in the formats needed for their sites. “We become their distributors,” Doernberg said. 

Booming market in television music placement

In August, ReverbNation signed a deal with APM, Universal Studios and EMI Publishing venture, that licenses and provides music for the “synchronization” market – background and lead-in sound for television and other productions. Those are the music shorts – perhaps 15 seconds – that the industry consumes in huge quantities.

Last year, for example, ESPN used 600,000 music snippets for its array of sports channels, Doernberg said.

The producers’ challenge if finding fresh music for their shows.

“We’re able to bring tremendously high-quality music at good prices,” Doernberg said, benefiting the company and its associated artists.

“We have had several hundred placements,” he said.

Doernberg didn’t say he has any ideas about football bowls in ReverbNation’s future, but he was helping reconfigure offices and was hanging a wide-screen TV before he spoke. Lots of electronics retailers consider bowl time to be a booming sales season. Who knows?

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