Connecting musicians with fans takes students to world finals

30 April 2018
Left to right: Matt Bastion (seated), Ryan Howlett, Ben Sweney, Rivindu Weerasakera (seated)

A new platform to help emerging musicians get discovered has earned its University of Auckland student developers a ticket to Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Worldwide finals in July.

“Hypebeat” shows musicians and their management which actions and strategies work, so that they can connect with new fans. It recommends a “Playbook” of strategies that have helped similar artists in a genre and location at the same stage of their journey.

And the developers are now looking for musicians to test-run the platform; interested artists should get in touch via the Hypebeat website or Facebook page (details at end).

Says Matt Bastion from Hypebeat: “In the age of digital music and social media, the landscape for making it is pretty daunting – you don’t know which of the thousand possible actions you could do in one day could lead to a better following. It’s more complicated than ever before, but if you work hard in the right ways you’ll be somebody else’s idol.

“Our technology can work out which actions work for related artists, so we can recommend strategies based on what works rather than on hunches.”

Hypebeat uses data analytics and machine learning to scour the internet, pulling together publicly available information to show an artist how they are doing, and to plot the strategies that worked for comparable artists.

It used to be that artists had to find a manager with the right experience and music industry connections. “It wasn’t necessarily easy, but at least it was a clear pathway.”

To reach their target audience musicians and their management faced many decisions – which street corners, venues, festivals, radio stations and media sources to use; which musicians to gig and write with. Today, it is even more complicated as musicians have to choose between differing strategies on the social media and music platforms that host their content.

“What works varies massively between different genres and different locations. An obvious example is that a lot of New Zealand musicians don’t really use Twitter, but in some countries Twitter is essential. So if those artists who just rely on Facebook and Instagram try and break into those countries they’ll hit a wall, or waste a lot of money on promotion.”

Hypebeat generates a “Hypescore” based on mentions in news, internet interest and social media; a “Playscore” showing how often their music is streamed or downloaded; and a “Gigscore” which predicts the crowds they would pull at a gig.

The platform will use a “freemium” model – a basic version will be free, while the full version will need a paid subscription.

Bastion, 21, is in his final year of a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law. Last year, he was the CEO of student entrepreneurial development programme Velocity. Other members of Hypebeat are Rivindu Weerasakera, 26, previously the COO of Velocity and a current PhD candidate in Engineering; Ryan Howlett, 23, also completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law; and Ben Sweney, 19, a Bachelor of Commerce student who sold his first technology at age 10.

The idea came from conversations the friends had about all the artists they loved but would never get to see because they were still relatively unknown in New Zealand, so lacked the fan base to justify a gig.

They talked to dozens of New Zealand and Australian artists in the design phase, and now want other musicians and managers to try out Hypebeat in order to refine it ahead of its full launch mid-year, in time for the Microsoft Imagine Cup Worldwide finals in Seattle.

Nicole Lin, Microsoft Imagine Cup NZ Lead says, “This is hugely exciting because this is the first time in the Cup’s 16-year history that three teams will be representing New Zealand at the same world finals.”

The other two Australia/New Zealand world finalist teams in 2018 also come from the University of Auckland. UniRide, made up of Engineering students Winston Zhao, Sukhans Asrani and Andrew Hu, created a social ride-sharing app for university students. Sentinel, made up of students Jia Dua from the University of Auckland and Zach Preston from the University of Canterbury created an Internet of Things solution for water management to encourage sustainable usage habits and help homes autonomously manages water supplies.


The Microsoft Imagine Cup

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the biggest global competition for student technology and entrepreneurship, with up to USD100,000 in cash for the overall winner and mentoring opportunity with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. For 16 years, Imagine Cup has inspired nearly two million student technologists from all academic backgrounds to collaborate, innovate, and showcase their technology, with University of Auckland students consistently achieving impressive results.

Pat Stanton from Microsoft Corporation says, “For the first time, Australia and New Zealand student teams went head to head in an Imagine Cup ANZ regional final. The quality of Imagine Cup ANZ technology projects continues to rise and the students are showing more professionalism than ever before. Three teams from New Zealand have qualified for the 2018 Worldwide competition and we are quietly confident in how they will perform on the global stage.”

Nicole Lin, Microsoft Imagine Cup NZ Lead says, "The teams have done exceptionally well, and we're very proud of their hard work and achievements, with thanks for the support from Microsoft ANZ, mentors and Microsoft Student Partners. We’re excited for their next steps and hope they will win for New Zealand and Australasia at the world finals."



Nicola Shepheard, Media Adviser, The University of Auckland
Tel: 09 923 1515   Mob: 027 537 1319