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Published May 20 2012

MSUM grad creates website to connect listeners with indie bands

MOORHEAD - Like many college graduates his age, Michael Schreifels is entering an uncertain job market.

But instead of sending out hundreds of job applications to employers, Schreifels is launching a career of his own. After graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead in three years, Schreifels, of St. Cloud, has created and launched a website called Albumcorner, something he calls a discovery service for independent (“indie”) music.

The idea came about after Schreifels, a film studies major, got involved in the Fargo music scene by making music videos for local bands.

Through the process of talking and working with area musicians, he realized that indie bands face a lot of challenges in getting their name off the ground.

“I came to understand the things that independent musicians have to go through to build a fan base. I face that same thing as an independent filmmaker,” Schreifels says.

So, with an entrepreneurial spirit and a background in website development (he made his first when he was in fourth grade, he says), Schreifels came up with the idea for Albumcorner.

Starting every Wednesday, the website features a different indie artist and their music for a week. Visitors are able to listen to the artist’s album for free and buy it at a discounted price.

All musicians on the site are of the same folk rock and indie rock genre, and so far they’ve come from all over.

In the four weeks since the site launched, it has highlighted groups from places like Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, and Schreifels has agreements to soon feature bands from Los Angeles, Seattle and even Sweden.

The idea of Albumcorner is unique for indie music fans, Schreifels says, because it provides just one musical suggestion per week. Services such as iTunes, on the other hand, recommend hundreds of bands or albums, which can often be overwhelming.

“How do people distill that down?” he asks. “Albumcorner provides that process and provides that curation.”

But more than that, the website also provides a social media outlet for the bands themselves.

Michael Weiler, a friend of Schreifels’ and member of the Fargo band Shape Then Shift, says from the perspective of a musician trying to build a fan base, something like Albumcorner can be extremely helpful.

“I think, for bands and for musicians that are trying to hit all these different social media outlets, it can be a little overwhelming,” he says.

And listeners, Weiler adds, “are so inundated with all this information all the time that it makes it really hard for (bands) to stand out.”

Chris Hennen, a concert promoter who books musical acts for The Aquarium in downtown Fargo, agrees that distinguishing their sound among so many other bands is a problem that indie groups often face.

“The hardest part is just standing out when there’s so much out there, and it’s so readily available to anyone that wants it,” Hennen says.

And unfortunately for young indie bands trying to make it in the world, there’s no single thing they can do to gain a following, Hennen says.

Except, that is, for getting their sound out there and hoping for the best.

“I’ve found that a lot of it is luck, and also knowing a lot of the right people and being in the right place at the right time,” he says.

That, Schreifels hopes, is Albumcorner’s potential – to connect listeners in one market with a band halfway across the country.

And even though the site is just in its infancy, the response he’s gotten from musicians has so far been very positive.

“They’re saying that they love what we’re doing for independent musicians,” he says. “All of them find value in what we’re trying to do.”

Schreifels plans to spend the next year working on the site, hopefully in a place like Portland, Ore., which has a music scene that’s just a little bit larger than the one he’s come to know in Fargo.

But, that doesn’t mean he’ll forget the musicians he’s worked with here during the last few years.

In fact, he hopes to actually feature some Fargo groups on Albumcorner at some point to try and bring some attention to the talent here.

“The Fargo scene is almost surprising,” he says. “There are a lot of musicians out there doing a lot of really cool stuff.”

Through Albumcorner, he hopes those musicians could have a chance to build a name for themselves that they might not otherwise have.

“We have all this great talent in Fargo, now let’s bring it to the rest of the world,” he says. “Now we can have people in L.A., Seattle, San Francisco say, ‘Check out what’s going on in Fargo, this is really cool stuff.’ ”

ONLINE: www.albumcorner.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535