Noncom Triple A radio has a great new way to share new music and build a sense of community: VuHaus [link]. VuHaus is a video aggregator of performances and interviews produced by stations. Content is available online and via mobile app. The point of VuHaus is Music Discovery, a trait shared by Triple A listeners, artists and stations.
VuHaus began when Mike Henry of Paragon Media Strategies [link] and a handful of station programmers sensed growing listener interest in seeing video of the artists they heard on the station.
Most Triple A stations have live segments featuring touring and local musicians. Stations are recording the sessions on video and producing high-quality, non-corporate, mini movies for online and mobile viewing. Enter VuHaus.
The programmers shared the idea with Public Media Company (“PMC”) a Boulder based nonprofit that matches capital with innovative public media ideas. In addition to PMC, VuHaus collaborators are KCRW in Los Angeles, KEXP in Seattle, KTBG The Bridge in Kansas City, KUTX in Austin, WFUV in New York City, and WXPN in Philadelphia. PMC provided the initial planning. CPB granted initial seed money of $750,000.
HOPING FOR THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
While doing research for this story, I read an interview with VuHaus CEO Erik Langner. (Langner is also Managing Director of PMC.) One comment by Langner that stopped me in my tracks:
Moving forward, we envision continued philanthropic support…
I’ve read hundreds of business plans, proposals and pitches over the years but I can’t ever recall seeing someone propose they will become sustainable with unknown gifts.
From my experience with corporate sponsors and noncom organizations that provide funding for public media, I know nothing is completely free. There are almost always strings of some sort. Increasingly, nonprofit funders want more than a feel good. They want results.
Given this reality, I contacted to Langner to learn more.
THE VUHAUS PLAN
KEN: I've seen you quoted as saying that VuHaus will depend in part on philanthropy for operating revenue after CPB funding tappers off. Can provide more info about any prospective donors?
LANGNER: Yes, major gifts are part of our strategy. VuHaus is a unique national nonprofit focused on music recovery and emerging artists. We hope this will resonate.
KEN: My understanding is that stations that want to become members of VuHaus will pay a fee. How much is the fee and how is it determined? How many billable stations do you need for continued viability?
LANGNER: We are still determining the particulars on this. Within the next month we should be at ten stations and up to twenty by this time next year. Our company was built to allow for this sort of scale.
If anyone can make this happen it is this team. Public Media Company is one of the best nonprofit organizations I’ve ever seen. They remind me a bit of the Public Radio Exchange – PRX.
WHAT VUHAUS CAN LEARN FROM PRX
PRX began as an initiative sponsored by the Station Resource Group (“SRG”). SRG is a consulting and advocacy organization comprised of leading NPR stations. SRG provided PRX support to get it off the ground and nurture its early growth. PRX then was spun off as its own nonprofit organization.
In its early years PRX faced many of the same challenges VuHaus faces today. Skeptics questioned its financial viability. Major program producers and networks didn’t think PRX would become a major public media factor. PRX’s content was once described by a pubmedia exec I will not name as an audio flea market.
PRX stuck with their plan and built alliances with stations and key independent producers. They created entrepreneurial projects to get more content providers involved. PRX really got its mojo working when it became a more active curator and started distributing national programs.
PRX’s hands-on curation addressed the grab bag feeling users had when trying to find the good stuff on the site. They used old-fashioned lists of popular posts, better search capabilities and relentless promotion of notable new content such as John Barth’s recommendations. In this way, PRX became a virtual community and the continued to raise its profile.
A few years ago, PRX became a national program distributor when online digital audio delivery became cheaper and easier. They perfected their delivery method with distribution of WBEZ’s Sound Opinions and American Routes. Both programs had been dropped by American Public Media (“APM”). Both programs added new carriage and revenue with PRX distribution.
[Disclosure: In the past I have worked with PRX as a paid consultant.]
Then PRX helped create, promote and distribute The Moth Radio Hour, and more recently Reveal, with innovative partners who were previously not involved with public radio. When This American Life left Public Radio International (“PRI”) last year, PRX became its new distributor. PRX’s SubAuto delivery system has proven to be reliable and popular with stations.
In a decade PRX went from being a fringe player to become an ESSENTIAL PLAYER in public media. In its own way, this is what VuHaus needs to do.