American Idol meets MySpace at Music Nation, the online destination for independent artists to strut their stuff, and for fans to discover some aural pleasure beyond mainstream top 40 playlists. More than a forum to publicize their talents, the site also offers musicians the chance to compete and win major prizes including their own recording contracts.

It launched in 2006, and was co-founded by Daniel Klaus, Lucas Mann, Kevin P. Ryan, and Peter Read. Prior to starting the site, Klaus co-founded and served as the CEO of The Fabric Group, an interactive services and media strategy firm. Mann previously established Mann Media Partners, an organization involved in product distribution and brand consultancy and acted as the president of award winning new-media company Clique Inc./Sparkart LLC. Named one of the “50 Most Influential Business People” by Crain’s New York Business in 2005 during his tenure as the CEO of Doubleclick, Ryan was subsequently involved in the creation of Shopwiki and PantherExpress. A major music industry player, Read served as the president of VNU/Nielsen Entertainment Group, and currently operates Entertainment Insights Limited, a consulting company. The co-founders’ combined expertise thus spans the music publishing, development, entertainment product distribution, Internet media, and e-commerce industries.

Music, music, and more music – the site hosts artists in all genres, from hip-hop to electronic to jazz to just plain pop, and allows users to create personal pages where they can feature their favorite bands, make friends within the Nation, and receive feedback and commentary from other users. Video quality ranges from awesome to amateur, and many of the featured artists are comparable to chart toppers. Artists can upload videos, MP3s, photos, and slideshows, to their pages and enter them into a 12-week competition that grants its winner a recording contract. Finalists are chosen by a judging panel made up of industry bigwigs as well as members of the site’s registered online community. The first competition concluded in May 2007 and included 2,500 contestants. Three musicians featured on the site – punk rocker Kid Deposit Triumph, Latin diva Yolanda Ruiz, and hip hop artist, T-Max – were awarded a contract with Epic Records, the company which launched the musical careers of artists such as Good Charlotte, Jennifer Lopez, Matisyahu, and Sean Kingston. In short, the site offers the opportunity of a lifetime for unknown artists and an outlet for music lovers to hear and see what’s beyond the billboards.

The homepage previews a rotating group of featured artists and “most viewed videos” if you are looking for a good taste of the kind of talent which graces the Music Nation.

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