I wrote about OurStage a couple weeks ago: it's a battle-of-the-bands site that's actually worth looking at, as it requires no up-front payments to participate, seems very hard to "game" by stuffing the ballot box for your own or your friend's bands, and offers prizes of actual value.
On Wednesday, the company signed a deal with concert giant Live Nation, which owns many top concert venues in the U.S. and has been signing so-called comprehensive record-plus-touring ("360") deals with acts such as Madonna and Nickelback. Under the terms of the deal, Live Nation will offer opening gigs in the new OurStage Marketplace.
With the Marketplace, bands can sign up to create a free electronic presskit, then submit them for these gigs--which include big arena gigs like the Punk Rock 2008 Festival at Colorado's Red Rocks and opening for the Allman Brothers at the 20,000 seat Comcast (formerly Tweeter) Center outside of Boston. Unlike OurStage prizes, which go only to winners of the head-to-head competitions, any act can participate in the Marketplace.
Long-term, OurStage envisions itself becoming a clearinghouse where emerging bands can connect with venues that need to fill spots. It's an interesting concept, but OurStage will have to amass a fair number of proven high-quality live acts--not just kids in bedrooms with Garage Band--to become a trusted source for venues. So far, I've liked some of the artists I've heard on the site, but not enough to write their names down. That points to a chicken-and-egg problem--a lot of artists probably feel they can get "noticed" in the traditional way, by making great recordings and playing lots of local shows, getting press writeups and radio play, and attracting the attention of A&R men and concert bookers. As long as OurStage is free, bands have nothing to lose by giving it a shot, but it will be interesting to see how entrenched the traditional gatekeepers of the music business really are. I'm betting these old institutions won't die away, although they might use online sources (such as OurStage and--more likely--MySpace) as one more way of discovering acts.