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Sharing jams with a click

Ed Donnellan (l.) and Joseph Fradelakis, co-founders of Astoria-based company BandJamIt, want to help educate music lovers and promote great sounds. Photo by Alysa Stryker
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While the days of musicians being discovered by major record companies may be gone forever, a new Astoria-based social networking site, started by two Long Island entrepreneurs, may help aspiring musicians to gain exposure and new fans.

Launched in October 2011 out of an accounting office on Steinway Street, bandjamit.com provides music enthusiasts and aspiring musicians alike with a friendly community for all things musical.

The brainchild of Ed Donnellan and Joseph Fradelakis, the free-to-join-and-use site combines user-generated video with chat and allows users to upload personal videos of either their own music or instructional videos meant to teach other musicians how to play.

In addition to trading musical tips and tricks, visitors to the site can also listen to a wide variety of music organized by specific genre or musical repertoire. Some of the categories include rock, pop, gospel, country, blues and metal as well as a range of eclectic sub-genres within each category.

For example, one such unusual sub-genre of music is called “Screamo,” a vocal styling that is commonly used in Death Metal songs. “I didn’t even know what Screamo was,” said Donellan, 51, a CPA who lives in Suffolk County. “But I added it because people were uploading videos teaching that style.”

“Our overall aim is to create a music community,” said Fradelakis, 25, a DJ who lives in Manhasset. “We want people to interact with each other. We want people to get involved.”

And, by all accounts, that’s exactly what is happening as the site, now with more than 1,700 members from 200 countries, continues to gain traction as well as an international fan base among up-and-coming musicians and their supporters.

An acoustic guitar player himself, Donnellan explained that he got the idea for the site while searching through instructional guitar videos on YouTube. “I thought that if I had access to these instructional videos when I was first learning to play, it would have been much easier for me.”

And so Donnellan said he had the idea for the site for a few years until he discussed it with Fradelakis, with whom he worked.

“I had worked as a DJ throughout college and I always loved music,” Fradelakis said. “I had designed some websites for myself, so I had some knowledge and I did most of the layout and the colors for the site, but we hired someone to do the coding as that’s not really my thing.”

Donnellan recalled that the site’s start-up costs were a bit higher than he’d anticipated. “I remember having sticker shock,” he said.

But while Donnellan didn’t want to get into specifc numbers, he said he was able to get several investors together to cover initial start-up capital. “In all, it was definitely under $100,000.”

Organized geographically, the site can also be an invaluable resource for musicians to connect with each other for all types of reasons from professional advice to recruiting new band members.

A key premise for the site is that it is based around the general public and/or aspiring musicians and not famous musicians.

Further, the site brings together a selection of videos from unknown artists and organizes them in a useful manner.

Although the site is still in the beta-phase and will initially be targeted only to the U.S, it already has members from Australia, the United Kingdom, China and Argentina and will eventually be available globally. “Many people just want to show their talents… there’s lots of passion on the site,” Donnellan said.

Also coming soon will be public forums relating to music as well as a Craig’s List-style classified section where people will be able to buy and sell instruments and musical equipment.

Moreover, contests are sometimes held for the most viewed video and Queens’ musicians are strongly encouraged to participate. Contestants can upload a new video of their music or encourage fans to check out older videos already on the site. Contest winners will be featured on the site’s homepage.

“There are many different stories out there about how they began playing music,” Donnellan said.

He recalled one musician’s story, a heavy metal guitarist, about having to flee her home in Iraq, just so she could be free to play her music.

“We’re trying to reach people who haven’t made it,” Donnellan said.

Yet another upcoming feature will also organize musical performances by zipcode so artists can get local fans out to their gigs. “There are many talented people out there that no one knows about,” Donnellan noted.

Fradelakis also said that the site is planning future parties where they’ll have music industry people on-hand to help discover new talent.

“We want everyone to get involved,” he said. “We don’t want people to just look at videos and leave.”

Posted 1:22 am, November 29, 2012
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