Aspiring musicians to have new gig

A website created by a Las Vegas-based company is being touted as a vehicle for aspiring musicians to showcase their talents to a potential global audience, allowing fans to interact with the performers and promote the acts throughout their virtual connections.

Think of "American Idol" meets "The Social Network."

Las Vegas businessman Jack Wishna spent the past three years developing Rockrena Inc., the parent company of RockCityClub.com, which is scheduled to officially launch on Oct. 15. The management team, partners and investors Wishna attracted to the business includes Internet entrepreneurs and music industry executives. One of the original creators of MTV and co-founder of Internet service provider NetZero are listed among the company’s board.

Rock City Club will include a "producers circle" of music industry executives and insiders who will work with the musical acts that achieve the highest amount of attention from fans, who are expected to promote them through the website.

Wishna has dubbed his creation the music industry’s first social network, letting music fans from around the world engage with undiscovered artists while having a hand in creating their success.

He said he hopes Rockrena will develop more than 100 technology and customer service jobs in Las Vegas and help create a technology center in the valley. Meanwhile, the start-up has attracted at least $7 million in a private-placement investment.

"We truly believe this is the next generation of the music industry, and it is being done through a format similar to ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ in discovering talent," Wishna said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for a musical act to be discovered, have their music heard, followed and be promoted."

Wishna has done business with the late entertainer Michael Jackson, brokered the deal that landed entertainer Wayne Newton at the Stardust in the past decade and is best known in Las Vegas for bringing together billionaire developer Donald Trump and casino owner Phil Ruffin to create Trump International.

His current idea is to target musical performers and acts struggling to be discovered. "American Idol" will fill a stadium with auditioning acts, but the producers might take a half-dozen performers out of the group to Hollywood. Wishna said RockCityClub.com will target the thousands of would-be performers left over from the auditions. Programs such as "American Idol" target "the needles in the haystack," while RockCityClub.com will feature the whole stack.

Aspiring performers will be able to upload the songs or music videos to the website. The music will be categorized under more than 150 different genres. Music fans will be able to listen to the music or watch the videos.

Using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, fans promote the acts.

The idea has worked before.

A few years ago, a 15-year-old aspiring Canadian singer named Justin Bieber used YouTube to post dozens of homemade videos of himself performing songs by various artists. The videos collected some 10 million views and caught the notice of performer Usher, who helped Bieber earn his first recording contract. Bieber is now one of the music industry’s most popular performers.

Wishna said RockCityClub.com will be far more targeted on musical acts than is YouTube.

Stacy Haitsuka, a co-founder in NetZero and a Rockrena board member, is helping to develop the technology. He said fans will be able to interact with the musical acts though a Foursquare-style approach. Based on the number of times they connect with a performer and get friends to also connect, the fan can earn a tag anywhere from "virtual groupie," virtual roadie" or "virtual promoter."

"There is a gaming element to this that keeps fans coming back," Haitsuka said. "The focus is to keep fans involved with the website."

Performers will be charged to upload their music to the site after the first month. Users can log onto to the website and listen to performances for free, but will have to pay to download a song. Wishna said he is in "active discussions" with potential advertisers and sponsors.

One incentive for both performers and fans will be an annual live concert by the website’s most popular acts at the Palms. A kick-off event for RockCityClub.com following October’s launch is being planned for January at the Palms.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal. com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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