Free 'American Idol'-style talent site seeks fame-seekers

TalentWatch.netCan't make the next "American Idol" audition? Being discovered might have just gotten cheaper and easier.

A San Diego entrepreneur has launched a Web site for aspiring music artists to post their personal story and performances on video, then be judged on likeability and talent by the site's visitors.

Registration and ongoing use of are free. Individuals and bands in all genres welcomed.

"From an artistic standpoint, hopefuls have everything to gain by getting on here," Gary Alan, the president and founder, told WalletPop this week. "There's no fees. They're getting the complete presentation they don't get on other sites. And they're getting the feedback."

Alan hopes the site, which went live Jan. 22, will eventually attract advertisers to generate revenue.

About 160 artists have signed up so far, he said, with 40 following through on the requirements to be featured: a succinct personal story and at least one ready-to-air music video. A WalletPop peek at the site revealed a range of ability, with a few aspirants drawing as many as 1,000 hits.

Alan noticed in studying "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent" that the offstage sagas of the contestants generated as much, if not more, interest than what they were performing. His online venture has been no different, he said, pulling more visitors to the members' what's-behind-the-music clips.

As on the TV talent shows, there is no shortage of hard-luck stories. One singer recounts being homeless. Another recalls her anger when her mother had breast cancer.

Alan screens all of the entries, rejecting only jokey or incomplete numbers, he said. He sometimes suggests that registrants improve their personal video but does not demand it.

While social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace allow for the posting of music, Alan said the venues are too random, providing no focal point to find emerging talent. is the first centralized online platform to combine visual performance and background with a grading scale, he said. Viewers rate "talent factor" from "poor to superstar" and "entertainment factor" from "needs work" to "phenomenal." They also are encouraged to comment.

Alan said he was inspired by the girlfriend of an acquaintance who had the chops but not the wherewithal to market herself. Irritated by the snideness of "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, he told WalletPop that he wanted to build a democratic grassroots movement where fans can help build careers.

That said, Alan hopes the site will also lure agents and record labels. "My vision is that the talent will get better and better when people realize this is a great way to present themselves."

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