By Julie Sagoskin
Looking to discover new tracks or for an organic way to reach local audiences with your own music? Well, now there’s an app for that! Athina Vandame and Bilal Khalid recently introduced Limelight, the first location-based music discovery platform!
“The simplest way to explain it is—it’s basically Tinder for music,” explained Vandame. “You can like or dislike tracks that come up on your feed from artists around you. When a listener engages positively to a track, we increase its outreach and more people will be exposed to it locally.”
The app was built to be ergonomic; listener outreach is readjusted in real-time. “We allow artists to expand their reach,” added Khalid. “They start within their own city, and we rely on user engagement. It’s like an infrastructure for talent-based growth. You post your music and it works for you. It goes beyond just posting on your social media or any swiping features out there.”
Limelight functions like a democracy; the listener is in the driver’s seat. This allows for organic growth as opposed to exposure gained via marketing and promotion. It gives users an initial number of how many people they expose their track to and then calculates an outreach radius based on the concentration of the population. Whether you’re in a small town or major city, you have an equal opportunity to ensure your music is heard equitably.
But how did Limelight come to life? Let’s just say it took a lot of sleepless nights, and maybe even a little –or a lot– of much needed insanity:
“I became obsessed with this idea and making it real,” explained Bilal. “I knew something like this would blow up because you’re creating competitive zones everywhere in the world. The first person who becomes a Limelight user somewhere, starts their own ecosystem, and then new artists can compete to become the best artist in that area and go from there. I had never attempted a whole music platform, not even when I first started it. I spent all summer, every single weekend, just sitting down and programming. I was even working on my birthday, because to me it just didn’t even feel like work.”
Shortly after its launch, over 20,000 users had signed up for the app. Limelight had quickly jumped to number nine in the App Store charts. Through passion and ingenuity, Khalid was able to lay a foundation for Limelight, and in turn the perfect base for himself and Vandame to build off of.
“Within two months I had a recurring revenue of over $2,000 a month,” said Bilal. “It was crazy because the platform was incomplete and that started stressing me out. I started asking myself, how do I manage all of these people? I wanted someone who was just as passionate about it as I was, and as soon as Athina sent me a message, I knew that she was the right person. She told me my website was pretty terrible, and I love that kind of stuff.”
“There were a lot of bugs,” explained Athina, who had gone to school for programming. “But people just wanted it so badly that they were still willing to sign up and pay for it. That was just confirmation that a platform like that was in high demand. I wanted to help turn it into a real marketable product.”
After meeting up in New York, they decided that they needed to restart the app from scratch. It wasn’t long before they started redesigning everything: from the branding and the logo, to making the whole user experience as appealing as possible for both artists and listeners.
Forming a sense of community is what really comes first for these two entrepreneurs who are both passionate about music. After all, Athina and Bilal want to help those around them get ahead based on their talent. “To me, this is a solution for a huge problem in the music industry that hasn’t been solved yet,” explained Bilal.
Aside from helping artists, Limelight is just as exciting for listeners. “I love discovering new music all the time,” said Athina. “And I especially like supporting underground artists. This new platform is the easiest way to find emerging talent. On Apple Music or Spotify, I’ll only find music that’s already mainstream and I’m not interested in that.”
Having just launched in March, the impact of Limelight is already being felt.
“Even during beta I knew this platform was going to work,” explained Bilal. “There was this artist named Ozy who went to my high school who had never gotten more than 400 streams on a track. He uploaded his music on Limelight and the next thing you know, he starts topping the charts. He ended the year with 100,000 streams on his most streamed track on Spotify. Artists can link this to other platforms as well so that they can make money. We don’t pay artists —yet—but we plan to eventually. Right now, it’s for exposure. We want this to be an essential tool for artists.”
“Coming from Toronto, there are so many talented artists who don’t get the exposure they deserve. This gives us a chance to make a real impact,” explained Athina.
In addition to having a profile to add to the social feel of the app, A&R Value was recently introduced in order to add a gaming component for listeners. This new feature allows listeners to get a score based on how accurately they’ve predicted a track’s success over time and compete with each other to see who has a better eye –or ear– for the next big talent.
An Android version of the app is in the works and is expected to be released soon. Download Limelight in the App Store now and help restore the underground.