New mobile platform could make Madison into music-streaming mecca

Set to launch in August, LÜM aims to combine music streaming with social media to allow up-and-coming artists to more easily and profitably reach music fans.

Madison is home to a number of top-notch venues for taking in live music from local, undiscovered bands to well-established national acts, from the Majestic and High Noon Saloon, to the Sylvee opening this fall and The Frequency, which is closing its doors at the end of June after a 10-year run.

Now, the city could soon be home to the next big thing in music streaming.

Live Undiscovered Music, or LÜM, is the brainchild of a number of current and former UW–Madison students, foremost among them Max Fergus, co-founder and CEO of the soon-to-launch music-streaming platform.

Fergus grew up near Madison and was raised by two UW alums that encouraged his spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. He started his first business when he was just 7 years old and was traveling the U.S. and selling tumbled-rock jewelry at art fairs.

During his time at UW–Madison, Fergus studied finance, investment, and banking, while focusing on health care. He worked in Shanghai and in San Francisco, at life science and health care venture capital and investment banking firms, respectively. Last fall, he accepted a job upon graduation at Rothschild and Co. to help start the company’s investment banking division in North America. However, his passion for entrepreneurship never wavered.

“To maximize my time left at the UW, I, along with a talented group of UW students and alumni, started a think tank focusing on rapidly growing industries with antiquated business models,” Fergus explains. “After months of research and work, we started LÜM. With the support of my family and friends, I recently decided to forgo my offer at Rothschild, and pursue my dream of changing the world with that same entrepreneurial spirit I’ve had since I was young.”

Fergus notes the LÜM team’s interest in music is not the primary reason they decided to focus their startup on the music streaming industry.

The startup’s original think tank focused on rapidly expanding industries with business models that needed to change or were not being optimized, Fergus says, and they were actually surprised to see that music streaming was that industry. “That said, I was surrounded by a group of passionate music lovers and fans. The combination of our market analyses, along with our team’s devotion to helping a community that we cared about, ultimately was the reason that LÜM was formed.”

LÜM was founded on the basis that the financial problems in the digital and live music industry were directly correlated to the frustration of the majority of its consumers. That is a recipe for needed disruption, says Fergus.

LÜM is a music discovery and streaming platform that is entirely constructed on a social network. “Our application focuses on up-and-coming artists around the world and provides the ability for users to discover, share, and circulate their music, explains Fergus. “By constructing LÜM on a social network, users will be able to interact with their friends in largely the same way they do with networks like Instagram, but they can use music as a catalyst for engagement on the platform.

“We feel that music is a social experience and connecting friends around the world with the music they love, and will love to discover, allows us to create a continuous daily debate about the direction of music and culture,” Fergus continues. “This will also help us decrease the disparity in exposure between corporate music and new music, and link local areas into the undiscovered music that is all around them. By rethinking the interaction between social media and streaming, we hope that LÜM will eventually become a live entertainment ‘talent pool’ for up-and-coming musicians around the world.”

LÜM integrates social networking and streaming in a way that does not exist on current streaming platforms such as Spotify or Soundcloud. The key with LÜM is its mobile platform, notes Fergus.

Current alternatives focus on subscription and advertisement-based models. They also focus on AI predictive technology that primarily shows corporate and mainstream music. LÜM flips this entirely on its head.

“We take out digital monetization and replace it with human beings, because it turns out that’s the way the next generation of listeners wants to discover music — with and through their friends,” Fergus says.

The LÜM platform also highlights emerging artists that get drowned out by the oversaturation of corporate content on conventional streaming sites. “Our goal is to use streaming as a means to an end in order to get these emerging artists into live events where they will actually be able to make a living from their passion for music,” says Fergus.



To accomplish all this, the LÜM team is working with a professional team of developers to build a mobile application that exceeds other streaming platforms, keeping LÜM free for fans and also free for artists to upload their music.

According to Fergus, the LÜM team views getting into the high school and college demographics as its most important area for marketing. “The interconnectivity, social media savvy, and interest in live music make them our ideal target demographic. To achieve this, LÜM has begun forming street teams of brand ambassadors both with high school and college students to share the application and vision with their friends and their communities.

“As our exposure grows, artists and fans have expressed interest in becoming more involved with our platform,” Fergus continues. “We already have a large number of brand ambassadors who are passionate about sharing LÜM with their fan base, as they see the large upside in working with us. As a result of our research, and simply by talking with the general public, we know many people are growing tired of the way music discovery is currently taking place. People want a way to interact with their friends and the artists that they love.”

Fast start

LÜM has an aggressive timetable for its official launch. Incorporated in February, the streaming service will make its debut on iOS on Aug. 17. To celebrate the launch, LÜM will host a party at the Monona Terrace in connection with the 2018 Forward Technology Festival, Wisconsin’s largest technology and entrepreneurship festival.

The company has already raised an undisclosed amount of startup capital and will continue to raise funds in the coming months. LÜM has a number of revenue-generating objectives, notes Fergus, some of which will be implemented immediately on the LÜM platform, while others will get integrated over time.

“Right now our main concern is the growth and happiness of our user base,” Fergus says. “From there, we will start utilizing data and analytics, advanced advertising, and a few other revenue objectives that we are still working on. The key for us is to formulate our revenue objectives based on increasing user-to-user engagement and helping artists earn an income from their music.”

The LÜM team has surrounded itself with music industry experts in an effort to get off the ground on the right foot. While LÜM is comprised of a team of students studying finance, business, engineering, computer science, graphic design, and other areas of study that help make the company an exciting early stage startup, Fergus says, they’ve also worked hard to surround the company with talent that supports their vision.

“Our advisors have worked for, or are on the board of, a number of high-profile powerhouses such as Clear Channel Communications, Live Nation, and SiriusXM,” says Fergus. “We also have advisors and legal counsel who are significant influencers in the Madison community.

“The entire LÜM team grew up in the Madison area and the majority of us are attending or graduating from UW–Madison,” Fergus adds. “Madison is home to some of the greatest entrepreneurial spirit and resources in the country. In addition to this, Madison is consistently ranked as one of the best live entertainment campuses in the country with a thriving nightlife revolving around live music. Attempting to change the way people think about the relationship between streaming and social networking, and its connection to live entertainment, makes locating LÜM in an area like Madison absolutely vital and an obvious choice.”

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