Web startup links professionals, novices

Blazetrak launches in September, with musicians on board

NEW YORK -- With everyone in the media and entertainment industry exploring ways to make money online, a startup is looking to help entertainment professionals digitize and monetize the talent discovery and mentoring process, while giving hopefuls a shot at stardom.

Blazetrak.com plans to launch Sept. 15 to connect aspiring talent with registered professionals of their choice who will provide feedback on submitted materials, such as audio or video files, for a fee the pros set themselves.

Blazetrak has already signed up about two dozen pros, mainly from the music industry, while it also eyes the film, TV, sports and fashion worlds, and expects to announce partners in these fields around launch time.

Among big names already on board are Outkast's Big Boi, R&B/hip-hop producer Rich Harrison, country music king Paul Worley, country star John Rich and Swedish producer Kalle Engstrom, who has worked with the likes of Celine Dion and Lindsay Lohan.

Pros can register with Blazetrak and then create one or more requests. They also get to specify in what form they want submissions, how they will rate them and what fee they charge for each submission. For example, a music insider could create one standing request for video submissions from female R&B singers within a certain age range and charge $200 for each feedback video he provides, plus a separate temporary search for male or female dancers for a new music video that charges $50 per submission.

Meanwhile, hopefuls can -- after a quick sign-up -- search for pros looking for the kind of talent they bring to the table and submit whatever is needed, from photos or documents to audio and video, directly to them. Blazetrak charges their credit card and retains a 35% cut, with the rest going to the celebrity.

Blazetrak guarantees audio or video feedback from the pro within 30 days and says its integrated recording system that requires no extra software allows the creation of a feedback message within minutes. If a pro wants to work with a new talent, they can reach out to them directly or via the Blazetrak team. They can also search their archive of received submissions later based on ratings, keywords and the like.

Blazetrak is also looking at potentially running Web portions of TV talent competitions a la "American Idol" in the future.

"The professional on Blazetrak is one who is looking for talent or simply wants to connect with a fan. They also want to be compensated for their time," Blazetrak co-founder Corey Stanford explains the premise, calling the business model a win-win situation.

Will aspiring hopefuls really pay what could be several hundreds of dollars for feedback from a star they adore?

Stanford points out that some hopefuls fly across the world to meet with "non-decision-makers" or spend thousands to attend workshops.

The birth of the Blazetrak idea in 2007 may also provide a clue. Back then, Stanford was partnered with a record label that was looking for a way to streamline the demo submission process. They started charging a fee for a guaranteed review -- only to get even more demos than before.

For celebs, Blazetrak positions itself as a chance to get paid for a streamlined A&R or mentoring process without the need to stockpile CDs, DVDs or stacks of paper. "They are bombarded on a daily basis via MySpace, Facebook and especially in person with pitches from people that want them to see their stuff," co-founder Nate Casey said.

Word-of-mouth is a key part of the Web site's promotion strategy. The founders say professional partners will push hopefuls to Blazetrak. Plus, any pro who brings on another client gets 2% of that person's Blazetrak revenue.

The original Blazetrak co-founders are Casey, Stanford and Harrison brother Ron. They were later joined by fourth partner McKinley Joyner, who provided seed funding.