By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
“There are unknown musicians everywhere and we want to give them a place that plays their music,” said Jeff Royds, founder and owner of NEGB1.com, an online radio station that mainly streams music by local, unsigned artists. “Other sites are good, but they also mix in famous rock stars and rappers, so local music gets lost in the shuffle. At NEGB1, you’re going to find local music no matter what.”
Since 2007, Royds, along with a handful of volunteer staff members, including his wife of two years, Cassandra, have been helping local acts all of genres by playing their music. Royds is happy to report that NEGB1, formerly known as Boston Garage Bands, as well as New England Garage Bands, continues to expand and now promotes music from unsigned bands across the globe.
Operated by EA Kroll Productions, NEGB1also helps promote music through their social networking site, which allows bands and musicians to create a free online profile they can use to interact with other bands, promoters, club owners, as well as list upcoming shows, send event invitations, post blogs, photos, plus upload music and videos. They are consistentlygrowing in memberships, said Royds, with more than 20,000 people visiting NEGB1 per day.
If acts choose, they can subscribe to a lifetime membership for $50 or $35 for a year.
Those who register for premium profiles, of course, receive more perks.
While premium members may upload as many songs as they please, plus keep 100 percent of the profit they earn from sales, non-premium members may upload 10 songs and are obligated to pay a 30 percent surcharge on all music sales.
Also, lifetime members save 6.25 percent each time they shop at the Music Go Round, a used music store in Natick, just for singing up.
That’s not all. Each month, NEGB1 makes a compilation CD of premium member music and submits it to the programming department of SiriusXM satellite radio, further promoting the music. Additionally, lifetime memberships carry over if a band breaks up and then reunites.
“We really push our premium members,” said Royds. “It’s kind of an incentive to help us pay our bills.”
To generate funds, NEGB1 holds an annual T-shirt drive. T-shirts are always available, however, the staff encourages sales this time of year and offers special deals to make people more aware of the website. T-shirts are $20 a piece with free shipping and can be purchased at NEGB1.com.
Though few and far between, the station also gains revenue via advertisements placed by local bands and musicians.
“If you put up too many ads, it becomes MySpace,” Royds said. “Facebook is doing the same thing. It takes away from the music and the bands.”
Moreover, NEGB1, which operates out of Massachusetts, hosts a live pod cast interview show, Behind the Scenes, every Wednesday at 7 p.m. During the show, Royds invites a local act to the studio and musicians play tracks from their albums and perform a few live songs.
“I’ve always been a big bonus-features type of guy and if I know more about the bands, I tend to like them more,” he said. Most recently, Royds got the opportunity to interview Artie Kornfeld, a co-organizer of the original Woodstock.
Additionally, Royds holds a local top 20 count down on the last Friday of each month. This allows listeners to suggest their favorite local songs.
“It gets people more involved and gets the musicians promoting their music a little bit more,” said Royds.
The task of downloading a special player or subscribing is not required, said Royds, as fans can listen from any CPU, smart phone, iPod Touch or iPad 24-hours a day, seven days a week at NEGB1.com.
Fans can also play the NEGB1 video game for free. It’s similar to Guitar Hero in the sense that notes flash across the screen and a player must hit the correct keys to complete a song and advance to the next level.
In the game, which was designed by Becker College students, players must successfully perform at four venues, including a garage, small club, big club and an arena, before quality to gig on the White House lawn.
“It’s pretty cool,” Royds said.
But, Royds has a real Battle of the Band contest in the works. The final round of a five round tournament is set for August 18 at The Raven in Worcester from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. For a $5 admission, fans will get to see seven bands compete for more than $4,000 worth of cash and prizes.
In addition to operating NEGB1, Royds, who was named one of Pulse Magazine’s Top 10 Most People to Watch for 2010, is the former vocalist and guitarist for the dissolved local rock band, Bullethead. The band performed their last show June 2 at Uncle Eddie’s in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.
Now, he fronts a Johnny Cash tribute band, A Boy Named Sue, along with a few members of Bullethead, with his wife singing the female parts.
Royds also is coping with a battle of his own, as he recently underwent surgery to remove thyroid cancer. Still, it’s not impacting his spirit.
“Life doesn’t have to slow down just because you’re sick,” he said.
Also, he’s both touched and humbled that his friends have reached out and created an online fundraiser for him, as he’ll be out of work for the next few weeks recovering without pay. He’s especially thankful to Ray Auger, the co-host for NEBG1’s local top 20 and frontman for Whiskey Bent, as well as Patrick Parkinson of the band Center Link.
“I was embarrassed at first because I never wanted to accept handouts but it shows me that they appreciate what I’m doing for the local music scene,” said Royds, a father of five who works full-time. “I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten over the past few weeks since I made it public. It’s an amazing thing and I’m moved beyond belief for all the support.”
To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/wzmso. If bands or musicians are interested in appearing on Behind the Scenes, e-mail Royds at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about NEGB1 visit NEGB1.com.