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World Music Features

Web Exclusive: Panos Panay Of Sonicbids

By Stella Katsipoutis with reporting by Tad Hendrickson
Published November 13, 2008

Onetime musician Panos Panay creates an online marketing movement to serve artists of all sizes from all over the world.

Gone are the days when singers and musicians were at the mercy of major record labels to deliver music to the outside world. Now, with the advancement of internet technology, independent performers from around the world can steer their careers in whatever direction and into any market they choose. Leading this revolution is Panos Panay, founder of Sonicbids, an online community that has helped overhaul the infrastructure of music promotion.     

 

He originally wanted to be the next George Benson when he moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College Of Music in 1991. Instead, Panay, who emigrated from Cyprus, discovered that his calling wasn’t to create music, but to promote it. After graduating with a degree in music business, Panay landed a job with Ted Kurland Associates working as a talent agent for the likes of Pat Metheny, Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea. Though it was easier to book artists with already-established names, Panay noticed that the expensive press kits he was sending out to promote lesser-known artists were generating minimal return. Meanwhile, torrents of incoming tapes and CDs from bands looking for gigs were falling to the wayside—performers who weren’t expected to make $3,000-4,000 a night weren’t regarded as financially viable by the agents.

 

Thinking there had to be a more economical way for these independent (or so-called baby bands) to get noticed, Panay quit his job and spent his life’s savings to launch Sonicbids, a music match-making site where independent bands could hook up with agents without using a middleman. With over 60,000 individual performance and licensing deals booked over the past 12 months, Sonicbids has produced immeasurable promotional profits for those who create music as well as those who endorse it: “I would be bullshitting you if I sat down here and pulled a number out of my head,” Panay says. “I feel that these are deals that wouldn’t have happened, or maybe a small fraction of them would have taken place—with a heck of a lot of headaches and at a much slower pace.”

 

Sonicbids is a web site that serves more than 160,000 bands and singers and over 14,000 festival programmers, licensors and music buyers worldwide. But, for Panay, his work isn’t just about landing gigs for bands. It’s also about breaking cultural barriers and exposing small-time musicians to wide international audiences whose musical awareness may once have been solely confined to the mainstream: