When Richard Zona created a music blog as an assignment for his elective blogging class, he didn’t expect for it to turn into a corporation that now spans across the country, garnering more than 100,000 views in as little as five months.
Zona, who is a 21-year-old student at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco, launched Techibeats.com, a music site for the growing electronic fan base, last September. Within a few weeks, a team of six vice presidents emerged for Techibeats, including SF State students Beau Noonan and Grady Brannan, as well as University of San Francisco student Gregory Sills.
“With electronic music coming up right now, it’s kind of like the hot thing,” said Noonan, a 21-year-old broadcast and electronic communication arts major at SF State. “You have all these artists remixing Afrojack and things like that, so we wanted to really hit the college demographic as hard as possible.”
Within a few months, Zona used his network of friends to expand the site to six other states–Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Oregon, Colorado and Arizona. Each state has two district managers who are in charge of their own group of writers, all of whom are college students.
“It first started with just me, Beau and Gabe,” said Zona. “Now we’re at 32 members across the country. We really had no idea it would get to this point. Now that we do, we’re just going 110 percent.”
Techibeats churns out daily stories about all things electronic music, as well as interviews with established electronic artists from Gregori Klosman and Fatboy Slim to up-and-comers like Pierce Fulton and Stereotronique. But getting these big names to agree to talk is a huge feat, Brannan said.
“It’s basically a big cat and mouse game between us and publicists,” said Brannan, a 21-year-old business marketing major at SF State. “And publicists are not the easiest people to work with, so it’s always a constant struggle, and we always bounce ideas off each other.”
Last Thursday, Noonan conducted an in-person interview with Moby, who has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and is arguably one of the biggest names in the electronic music industry. Noonan said this was probably his biggest accomplishment since being a part of Techibeats.
“When you get out of class, you make that phone call that you need. You call that production person. You call that booking agent. You call that press agent to confirm something. You go back into class, send out emails,” said Noonan. “That’s constantly happening throughout the day.”
Next month, they’ll be flying out to Puerto Vallarta to cover Electro Beach, a six-week electronic music event sponsored by College Travel Experts, as its official partners. Two Techibeats representatives from the University of Arizona are also planning a monthly DJ competition.
“The coolest part is probably being able to interact with the artists themselves,” said Gabe Stansbury, a representative of the University of Arizona’s Techibeats branch.
But managing a music site in six other states that is consistently expanding does take its toll. It’s still a struggle finding a balance between business and a social life, Zona said.
“It’s addictive. I’m honestly addicted to this job,” said Zona. “I actually just lost my girlfriend just because I worked on it too much. I work on it 12 hours a day. I don’t stop. I wake up to calls from other countries at different times of the night.”
Even with a managerial staff of 32 people across the country, the Techibeats team keeps in contact daily and considers themselves a huge family despite having not met a majority of the nationwide representatives in person, said Brannan.
“I have friends now at different colleges across the United States. It’s just kind of something cool we built out of our friendship,” said Brannan.
With over 3,500 likes on their Facebook page and over 1,000 followers on their Twitter account, Techibeats has established quite a large, loyal following of readers.
“My favorite part about the site has to be how local it is. I love that they focus on San Francisco and my hometown, Los Angeles,” said Ashlee Jones, a senior sociology major at SF State. “Plus, the added interviews they score with popular producers and DJs are an added bonus.”
Once Techibeats creates a larger following, Zona said they’ll start to manage DJs, which will hopefully lead to the creation of their very own record label. For Zona, music, particularly electronic music, has always been a huge part in his life.
“When I was in middle school, I would burn CDs and sell them to kids. It’s always been such a huge passion,” said Zona. “Now, I’m just taking it to a whole other level. I feel like I’m doing the same thing in middle school, but way bigger.”