DATA AKANGBOU developed Birdsong+ to give music artists a chance to be discovered, regardless of these barriers. Music artists are able to accumulate votes and fans. Data Akangbou embarked on this challenge after recognizing the hardships that Canadian musicians face in funding, representation, and recognition.
Birdsong+ is a virtual scouting platform that allows aspiring artists from around the world to perform for viewers, with the app acting as their own personal talent agent. The app features a global monthly music competition that offers a cash prize.
AC: What can you tell us about your virtual scouting platform?
DATA AKANGBOU – Birdsong+ is a monthly music competition that aims to help the world’s music talent get discovered. We created a way for anyone anywhere to compete in a singing competition. It works like any mobile social network, users upload a video of their music performance and they get votes through likes. The video that accumulates both the most likes and gets a minimum of 25,000 likes wins a cash prize. If there is no winner in a particular month, the prize is added to the prize for the following month. For instance, if no one reaches the likes threshold for August, the $10,000 cash prize is added to September making the prize for September $20,000.
AC: Why did you decide to pursue this?
DATA AKANGBOU – It was my Master’s project at business school and was inspired by a Canadian singer that was discovered through social media and went on to international stardom. This singer uploaded a video of him performing on YouTube and he was able to get the attention of music executives in Atlanta and the rest is history. I thought that there needs to be a platform dedicated to getting musicians discovered. Dedicated to discovering the next international music star.
AC: What are your ambitions for Birdsong?
DATA AKANGBOU – I am building the world’s largest music company in Canada. Birdsong+ is more than an app, it is a talent discovery platform that creates opportunities for musicians to do what they do. We currently are building a supporting business called Birdsong Artist. This business aims to do for users with at least 10,000 fans (followers) on Birdsong+ what the music executives in Atlanta did for the Canadian singer I had mentioned earlier. This business operates as a talent agency for users with enough fans to build a career.
AC: Do you see Birdsong as a platform that complements TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat?
DATA AKANGBOU – We aim to be added to these groups of social media giants. We believe we can represent Canada in this category. We are a mobile social media platform that is focused on music and we also believe that influencers on our platform should be supported and that is why we have Birdsong Artists. We want to work with our influencers to help them grow as we grow.
AC: From those you’ve spoken to, how has COVID-19 been impacting artists?
DATA AKANGBOU – For those in Canada, it has made an already challenging situation worse. Another reason I built this app was because of the difficulty independent music artists in Canada have in earning a living. There are not many venues to perform their music live and it is difficult to generate revenue from ticket or merchandise sales. This has led to an exodus of top music talent to the United States. The artists I have spoken to are excited about the platform as well as the representation being offered by Birdsong Artists.
AC: As a front-end developer, did you consult with artists when designing the user interface?
DATA AKANGBOU – I did. This was the only way to get feedback during the initial phase of the project. I sent out prototypes while I was in business school and I also presented these prototypes at the TedX innovation lab during TedX at Queen’s University. My audience is a mix of artists, music lovers, and investors. So I had to gather feedback from all these people to be able to build a minimum viable product that solves a problem for musicians, entertains people that are not musicians, and shows the market potential of the app.
AC: What has the reaction been so far?
DATA AKANGBOU – It has been incredibly positive. Applications are developed using a series of development methodologies, one of the most popular is called Agile. We are using an agile methodology to build the application. This technique is used by popular apps like Instagram and Snapchat where the users constantly give feedback about how they experience the app and this feedback is used to improve the experience and develop new features. The reaction has been great but we are constantly asking for feedback to build the app our users would love.
AC: As we emerge from COVID-19, what role will Birdsong play in this new world?
DATA AKANGBOU – The vision for Birdsong is to be the standard in music discovery, to replace American Idol, The Voice and other music competition shows. To discover the next Canadian international music star and to be the next big social media platform like TikTok. We see a world where anyone anywhere can show their talent and be connected with an agent that can help them negotiate their first record deal. We are also a tool that tackles accessibility for many who might not have the physical or financial ability to chase their music dreams. Upload a video and get likes, it’s now that simple.
AC: What do you want the world to look like in 10 years?
DATA AKANGBOU – I think the world would be amazing in 10 years. This crisis is going to force societies everywhere to reevaluate their priorities and force people to think about work differently. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to ask how we hope to spend our time and for too many they are not living the lives they dreamt of as children. I believe that we are creating a tool that would make many people across the world reach their full potential. Not everyone would be the next Canadian international music star but many would live better, more satisfying lives.
AC: If you had the chance to put something on billboards worldwide next week, what would it be? Or what would it say?
DATA AKANGBOU – “The World is Listening.” This is our slogan, the world wants to hear the music of her people. Music is an incredibly important part of the fabric of the human experience. It is how we tell stories, it is how we make experiences more enjoyable, it is how we worship, fall in love, and enrich our lives. Imagine a world with more music. I can argue that its citizens would have a richer, fuller life.
AC: How important is social media to you right now?
DATA AKANGBOU – Social media is incredibly important for two reasons. 1. It is the most important tool in marketing a startup at the moment and 2. We are a social media platform. It is part of our strategy in this beginning stage to reach our users.
AC: Do you have a personal fear you’d like to conquer?
DATA AKANGBOU – I am an extreme introvert who used to be really shy. This makes it difficult to be in social environments. It can be overwhelming and scary. As the founder of a tech company, a big aspect of the job is to meet as many people as possible and talk about the business as much as possible. This is a great fear but I know that many great leaders deal with this like Oprah, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates.
AC: Aside from Birdsong, what are you excited about for the future?
DATA AKANGBOU – Honestly, all I ever do is Birdsong. It is all-consuming at this point because there is so much to do in these beginning stages. Once the team is built and I am able to get more time to myself, I think I would like to travel to every country on earth and hear what music is like in different cultures. I find the thought of experiencing new ways of life exciting.
INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES