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These Wisconsin Badgers have created a social media platform for musicheads. It’s free, because Spotify doesn’t pay well anyway.

Max Fergus should be in New York right now. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in June and already had a lucrative offer to become an analyst with Rothschild’s investment banking division.

Instead, he’s still in Madison, brimming with ambition to change the music industry.

The 23-year-old non-musician, along with a team of a dozen Millennials (most of them UW-Madison students or recent graduates), have spent the last year building and marketing LÜM, a brand new music streaming service/social media platform that’s looking to make an impression against the tight-fisted control of outmoded record company executives.

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“The music industry is run by old minds that don’t want to see it change,” says Fergus, who is LÜM’s youthful CEO. “The music industry needs to change.”

The idea for the app was birthed late at night in a “dorm-room-style think tank” composed of students who “didn’t want to follow the plan set out for them,” according to Fergus.

One of Fergus’ most cited (but least favorite) statistics is that 99 percent of music streams come from the top 10 percent most popular songs — “the most corporate tracks” as Fergus calls them. Evidence? Every song on Drake’s Scorpion, which dropped on June 29, reached Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

LÜM

Short for: Live Undiscovered Music

Pronounced: Loom

Launch: Aug. 17 on the App Store

Max Fergus

LÜM (short for Live Undiscovered Music, pronounced “loom”) is looking to circumvent that level of domination. Fergus doesn’t think that kind of control can last much longer, not anymore. “This is music discovery for the next generation of fans,” he says.

The app is 100-percent free, for creators and consumers alike. It kind of has to be, since all of the content is going to be uploaded by users — about 1,000 people already downloaded the app when it was in Beta testing. Anyone can add music to the platform, which launched on the Apple App Store Aug. 17 and will be coming to Android and the web soon after.

Through the app, fans and musicians can interact directly by sharing music, news and future plans. Thus, music-lovers can take part in the careers of artists, helping generate hype. On the waves of that buzz, musicians can go make money on tour and further expand their reach, and maybe get noticed by bigger labels.

And that’s totally OK with Fergus’ anti-music corporation stance.

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“Artists can go on LÜM and use the app as a catalyst,” he says. “We want to give artists the tools to build their fan base … It’s a platform that puts the community of support first.”

These Millennials already have plenty of momentum. Over the winter they surpassed fundraising expectations, were featured on the cover of Madison’s In Business magazine in May, made a pitch to venture capitalists at the Pressure Chamber in Madison on Aug. 16 and had a free launch party the next day at Monona Terrace.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Fergus says. Then, correcting himself: “It’s going to be a wild ride.”

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