Chatsong Roy is the creator and administrator of a successful music website called Chatsong, a multi-faceted platform for artists and musicians to post their music and information about themselves, and communicate with other artists. Roy, who is 32 and lives in The Netherlands, also writes feature reviews about many of the artists. Through his efforts, he has promoted numerous artists and gained them media exposure, including airplay on digital radio stations and connecting them with people in the industry who can help them further promote their music. I’m delighted to talk with Roy about his project and amazing success in building Chatsong into a major music website.
Hello Roy. Thank you for taking the time to discuss yourself with me – lol
Thank you for featuring me.
When we first followed each other on Twitter a year ago, we were both relative unknowns in the Twitterverse. At the time, you had done some modeling and your Twitter account was focused on that, as well as psoriasis which you’ve suffered from for some time. Tell me a bit about your modeling background.
As a teenager, I studied to be a male nurse, graduated and got a job in an elderly home. Taking care of people was in my blood and I worked until 2014 as a nurse. When I was around 20, I was walking down the street one day when I was spotted by someone who asked me if I wanted to be a model. They found me charismatic, but I was shy and did not think I could be a male model. But I said yes and made an appointment for having pictures taken for a portfolio, and they liked my expressions and my attitude so I became a male photo model.
When I was 22 I discovered some spots under my eyes which looked very bad and itched, as well as elsewhere on my body, so I went to a doctor and he sent me to a skin specialist. It took awhile before they finally determined it was psoriasis. When my body was full of those spots I was very ashamed and stopped modeling. At that point, I focused on dealing with the disease and my nursing career until I stopped in 2014. After that, I went back to volunteering with elderly people again, and continued to see the skin specialist for ultraviolet light treatments. Some of them helped and some did not, but it finally occurred to me – why not make from my disease my work? So I emailed several modeling agencies and skin care magazines and they liked my spirit and motivation. I became a model at three agencies and ended up as a model in three magazines devoted to psoriasis, and a commercial. I was not ashamed anymore and wanted to inspire and help others who suffer from psoriasis. But 3 months after the light treatments I got arthralgia and they wanted to do a scan and injected some radioactive fluid. After that the pain got worse, I got two eye inflammations and several other physical issues, so the volunteer work stopped as well because of all the hospital visits and treatments.
What inspired you to create Chatsong in the first place? In other words, why did you decide to switch your focus from modeling to music, and how did you come to call it ‘Chatsong’?
After the sight issues and inflammation were gone for a while I had nothing to do at home. Since music was my passion, and I listened every day to music on the phone and television, I got an idea in my head: I wanted to help artists worldwide because there are a lot of talent shows but none was online here in the Netherlands. But, I never used social media before, not even knowing how to tweet. First I made an account called ‘Roy Model’ for my career as a model, and got a lot of followers from model sites and scouts from agencies. I then wanted to realize my music idea like I did with working as a psoriasis model.
So first I tweeted a famous DJ in the Netherlands from a radio station, and he said “email me your idea and suggestion.” I did that, and told him that maybe we could start an online show using YouTube videos from the bedroom to studio or television. I did not get an answer back, and 7 day later he announced he was going to do the first online audition for talented musicians. I was shocked and angry that he stole my idea while saying that he could not could set it up in only a week. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what else I could do, so I needed to think of another project.
I knew there are many artists worldwide who make music but don’t get attention because no one knows they exist. Because it is the truth if people from other countries don’t know the artists accounts and channels they are not going to listen and search for them. In my experience, I only listened to music from famous artists or artists close to those I knew of, and not to artists from China, Japan or other countries. So I thought, what if I create a platform with chat rooms where artists could place their links and videos and other accounts? I made a website for the first time with no experience, and called it Music Lovers, which included chat rooms. I learned how to tweet and made the advertisement for that site, and suddenly artists from a lot of countries started posting their music and videos on it.
The idea worked but the site quickly got overloaded because the server could not handle the volume. So I removed that site, and found a provider with more server space called Jouwweb. In the meantime, I shared videos and links from the artists who posted at the old site to Twitter. I am always very personable to artists, and I asked one who was very supportive of me, known as The Honest Man, ‘how shall I name the project?’ He suggested either “Hear Them First” or “Chatsong.” I preferred Chatsong, and began designing the site with four chat rooms – two with video options and two with guest options where artists could just place links.
The old site had already built up a fan base with artists who came back regularly, so when the new site was launched they immediately posted in the chat rooms. When I reached 1000 followers I was very happy. But because of no experience, every day I had to learn internet engineering. I always searched for something to make it better, and have used several systems. But Chatsong was born and attracted a lot of artists and radio stations, one of which was Radio Wigwam that played only known music. I told them I could send an idea by email and maybe we could work together. They said yes, so I suggested we start a show for unsigned artists. They were the only online radio station who followed me back then, and I did not know at the time that there were more stations who did what they do. But they liked my idea and started the bandwagon which gave airplay for a lot of artists on Chatsong, and I was very proud of that. They even mentioned me a couple times when playing the artists. And then suddenly no more, but I was happy for the artists and made no big deal of it, though deep down I was hurt.
My old Twitter account, @ModelPsoriasis I use only rarely, when I try to work at my career as a male model for psoriasis publications. There are some projects coming, but working with Chatsong and dealing with all the artists, reviews and stuff is hard work and sometimes a lot of stress. It’s doing multiple things at the same time – ha ha you should know that.
You’ve featured hundreds of artists on Chatsong. What made you decide to write reviews about their music, instead of just featuring them and using their own bio descriptions in the write-ups?
The system I was using showed only 50 comments or 10 comments and then disappeared, and I thought ‘how can I not lose those artists and their links?’ So, I began to write reviews. The artists who got reviews were extremely thankful and touched by my write-ups. I write what I feel and think, and if their music made me cry or feel something else I wrote it. And with offering the reviews, I also collected artists and their names for my goal of helping artists to be found and heard worldwide. As you already know, I always tried to improve the website, or searched for a system to make it better for the artists.
I found Discus, which made it possible to post videos and SoundCloud songs and was shareable. But some artists found Discus too difficult to use, so I searched for other systems to allow comments and display links and videos. I put back the chat room and got some posts but not what I expected. I needed to find a forum to use that would allow artists to post and reply and like, and would also allow their names to be shown so they would be easier to find among millions of others artists. Or something similar with sharing and video option. I did not want to be only a music platform, but a website where they all can come together and chat about music projects, and also give unknown artists the chance to heard and searched in other countries. I’ve also posted many advertisements on Instagram and Twitter with images about Chatsong, and I know people like the platform.
Are you surprised at the incredible number of followers you now have on Twitter (over 9,000), as well as the huge response by artists to Chatsong?
I am indeed very surprised at the number of followers and the artists who’ve followed me and posted on Chatsong. And because of my reviews, word of Chatsong spread. Artists shared or talked about my website to other artists, which made Chatsong go viral. Every day I get 60 to 80 new Twitter followers, including related music account followers like record labels and radio stations who admire my work. Because of my personal approach, they like the person behind it and noticed I worked very hard. I’ve partnered with CONTROLRadioUK, StudioGMusicLab, and Pink Dolphin Music, and now more and more companies want to be pictured on my site. I never expected this, because I was not sure if the idea was going to hit worldwide. And that gave me more motivation to keep going and improve the website.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your Chatsong project?
The most rewarding thing has been connecting with radio stations that played artists featured on Chatsong, and record labels and studios who read the reviews and forums. They have provided some artists for me to review, and sometimes even themselves posted on the site. Some even wanted this year to roster artists for a contract and, in the meantime, other artists got signed or offered a record deal, and I was so happy and proud. Also, it’s rewarding to know that your website is going from the Netherlands to the Philippines with your logo and the musicians on it. What I also find beautiful are the friendships and relations I’ve built with artists and bloggers like you, as well as related accounts in music. The highlight for me was when the CEO of a big label followed me on my personal account, as well as a recruiter who’d worked with Taylor Swift.
Any frustrating or negative aspects?
Frustrations I have daily – I am also just a normal person haha. Mostly it has to do with technical problems or issues with the website, or when artists say they will post something but don’t follow through.
You seem to be receptive to most music genres. Do you have any particular favorites?
I love all music genres from classical to hard trance. My favorite is dance and house music and pop, but with all the artists who follow me, I offer any genre a spotlight. There is a good one among them in any genre, as well as artists who need some advice or just are not good.
Recently, you’ve begun making your own techno and house remixes and posting them on SoundCloud. What inspired you to do that? Do you have any previous experience making music – either playing instruments or singing?
I never made music before, though I did sing in a choir. I always wanted to my entire life, but had no self-confidence. After the recent death of my grandpa, and me not being able to easily express my feelings, I thought ‘why not try to put that in my favorite music genre?’ I searched music software and apps, and begin mixing and I liked it. I made the tracks public, not knowing how my audience would respond, but they loved the sounds and mixes.
Do you have any thoughts about today’s music or trends in the music industry?
There are so many musicians and genres nowadays, with music reaching more fans than ever. Real music is coming back, with singer/songwriter musicians writing good lyrics and playing their own instruments, especially acoustic with a guitar that is popular among younger audiences. I think people my age and older are more fans of dance and pop music, as well as rock and heavy metal.
Are you doing this mostly for fun, or do you want to make a living from it? And where do you want Chatsong to go from here? Any plans for additional features or significant changes to the site, and how long do you want to continue doing this?
I am doing this for fun, but my goal is to develop an app that would be even better and easier for artists and fans to use. I never would ask for money, but when I need to develop the app I would invest in it and hopefully grow further. I will keep going so long as I can do it. If I can’t handle it anymore on my own, I’ll either sell the idea or collaborate with others, maybe even hire employees.