AOL Tries To Seed SXSW With Coverage Of 2,000 Bands

AOL is trying its most ambitious super-content project yet with freelance content site offering 2,000 $50 assignments on SXSW bands for its music site New Seed programming director Saul Hansell sees it as the “perfect chance” to showcase reporting and journalism along with what Seed can do for sites within AOL (NYSE: AOL). The basics: Spinner and Seed are recruiting U.S. “reporters” to interview all 2,000 bands for a Q&A and bio in advance of the March Festival.

That doesn’t mean they’re looking for professional writers or even music experts, although they may get some of each. What Hansell and the Spinner editors hope to do is have the site’s community writing for each other. The pitch stresses an interest in music: “If you are passionate about music, attend shows and talk to bands (or just want to), this is an excellent opportunity to get your byline in front of millions of fellow music fans around the world.” Those selected will be sent the name of a band with instructions to research them, interview them and write up a 1,000-word Q&A based on a template format. Some questions will be provided. The writers also will produce a bio of each band. Those who make the cut and are already going to SXSW may get more assignments from Seed and Spinner for show reports and photos.

Hansell says it’s the first time anyone has tried to cover every band this way at SXSW, which AOL is sponsoring, (SXSW may link to the articles). Equally important for AOL’s own content purposes, the bios will be used to populate its own pages instead of the copy from outside provider All Music Guides. It’s also a major logistical challenge since Seed isn’t set up for to manage assignments on this scale. “We are redoing the technology behind Seed around this kind of use case. It’s not what this is built for.” The project will rely on AOL’s Bangalore operations for copy editing.

When Hansell and I were talking about the project today, it was hard at first for me to get past the $50 fee. When I was a full-time freelancer, this is the kind of pay I would accept only for a way to a major event I might otherwise miss — and even then only if it didn’t cost me in lost income. It’s hard enough to make a living that way without gigs that will take several days and pay less than 2 cents a word. But I’m not the target for this assignment.

Hansell explains that $50 for both is an intermediate amount. It’s more than you might get paid by other sites) but less than music writers might expect. (He reminded me that Weblogs Inc. started at $3 a post.) “But the web is telling us there isn