The Listener’s Experience: 4 Companies Currently Shaping The Future Of Music
With Social Media gaining extreme traction over the last couple years, there’s no question that people are more connected now than they ever were. Milestones like Facebook reaching 750 million users…Twitter acquiring 500 million…and Google recently entering beta with their newest social project, Google+, which shattered records by gaining 25 million users in only 24 days(through invites only, by the way); it’s no wonder companies from all types of industries, are rushing to integrate, and increase their social presence.
In this respect, the music industry is no exception. Due to the social media rush, many music start-ups are trying to catapult their user’s experience into the social realm…but there are only a handful that have actually brought forth a viable product that will turn the industry on its heels. Until now, digital music has been locked down, largely due to the fault of the “ahead-of-its-time” company, we all know as Napster. P2P(peer to peer) sharing of MP3s, also called piracy, and the dawning of digital media, damn near collapsed major record labels, and definitely brought about the demise of “mom & pop” record stores (RIP Tower Records).
But with every fire, there’s rebirth…and here at MuzikGem.com, we’ve composed a list of 4 innovative companies and startups that will undoubtedly change the way we all listen to “our” music.
Initial Release: Europe, October 2008; US release, July 14th, 2011
Valuation: $1 billion
Number of users: 1.4M; 175k premium paying subscribers
Major Milestone: Launching in the US, licensed and backed by all four major record labels (Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group), after years of delays and negotiations.
It seems as though ideas which take the world by storm, as well as involve the internet (i.e. FaceBook), the infamous Sean Parker, face and co-founder of Napster, has something to do with it. This 31yr old Godfather of digital music played a big part in bringing Spotify to the US (along with the venture capital firm, Founders Fund…of which he’s a managing partner) and sits on its Board of Directors.
What to look for: What’s going to set Spotify apart from its “competitors”(i.e. Pandora, Rhapsody, GrooveShark), is it’s in-depth user interface, which boasts a music catalog of a whopping 15 million songs…only Rhapsody comes close by sharing just over half of that, with a library of 8 million. Spotify’s ability to provide such a vast amount of tracks, and allow users to share with each other via, FaceBook, Twitter, instant and private messaging, and no doubt Google+ once they release their API, allows it to be on the same plane as the competition…but Spotify’s ability to allow users to listen to any song on-demand, or in a targeted radio format(Pandora-esque), as well as subscribe or create collaborative playlists with friends and strangers alike, puts this application way beyond any LEGAL program we’ve come across. With accessibility like this, no wonder piracy decreased by 45% in its native country of Sweden…and we definitely believe something similar will occur here in the states.
Initial Release: January 2011
Valuation: $37.5 million
Number of users: 300k
Major Milestone: Even with all the controversy surrounding this extremely creative company, as to whether or not what they’re doing is legal, Turntable.fm has been able to lock down funding from a few different VC firms, as well as the financial backing of pop culture icons, Kanye West and Lady Gaga.
What to look for: Remember the old days of AOL 3.0, entering different chat rooms, and talking with random people about any and everything related (or unrelated) to the chat room you were in?? Now imagine that same room, with a couple hundred little avatars (reminiscent of Ash Ketchum from Pokemon), all bobbing their heads to the tunes of 5 different “DJs” spinning your favorite genre-related music.
What makes Turntable.fm, the buzz-worthy startup it’s become, is the fact that it’s so interactive, you’d think you were playing a video game. All those who are in any of these rooms, are able to chat amongst each other via the messenger on the side of their screen, as well as vote on whether the song that’s currently playing is “Awesome” or “Lame”…enough “Lame” votes, and it’s on to the next one. Once the legal issues are fully satisfied, and determined, Turntable.fm will no doubt be one of the primary ways to discover new music through the underground, and crowd test tracks by popular DJs and artists.
Initial Release: June 28th 2011
Investment: est. $585 million
Number of users: 25M+
Major Milestone: From the day it launched in Beta(by invite only), Google+ amassed a total of 10 million users within 16 days…this feat took Twitter 780 days( approx. 2 years and 47 days) to accomplish, and FaceBook 852 days( approx. 2 years and 3 months).
What to look for: Circles: One of the reasons why Google+ gained such incredible popularity is due to its concept of Circles. Users are able to group people into different circles, and post their status updates accordingly. This level of control has sprouted a myriad of uses for music discovery, and exploration. Centralizing, and keeping track of bands and artists of interest, along with their updates, and photos, has become 10x easier than Facebook, or Twitter. And once the implementations of brand profiles are introduced, it’s going to be very interesting how Musicians interact with their fans, as compared to Facebook pages.
-Hangouts: This feature allows users to video chat for free with anyone(as long as the session is open to your circle), which would include artists like Mark Hoppus(Blink 182), or Daria Musk, who’s recently been holding 7+ hour spontaneous studio sessions for fans. Honestly, we didn’t exactly know who she was, but through hangouts, we were able to listen in while she performed in a typical over-crowded home studio, with her guitarist and engineer. These kind of intimate sessions aren’t really available anywhere on the web, besides sites like uStream, and LiveStream…but their user experience is nowhere as good as G+ Hangouts, due to the fact that their depth of interaction is limited.
-Sparks: Still a feature which needs a little more development, but the main purpose is to encourage sharing up-to-date news, and articles related to your interest of choice. This type of search is way more relevant than just going to google.com, because any topic you choose i.e “music news”, is listed starting with the most recent and relevant web page, which could be time stamped anywhere from a couple hours ago, to just a couple of minutes. We’ve definitely found it useful in finding breaking stories related to the music industry. Once Google shows a little more attention to this feature, it’ll be an extremely powerful search tool…which is more than expected from the search giants.
Initial release: Launch date, Sept. 15th 2011
Number of users: N/A
Major Milestone: Teaming up with Kanye West to present viewers with live coverage of his and Jay-Z’s “Watch The Throne” tour.
What to look for: Not much is being said about the new media startup, Voyr.com, but we do know Kanye West has a reasonable size hand in its development. The concept…bring viewers (for a monthly fee of course), live footage of their favorite celebrity throughout their daily activities and events. We’re not too sure about wanting to see the daily yoga classes, or the types of cereals that featured artists will be eating, but we’re definitely excited about the concerts that will be brought through this medium. We’ll just have to wait until next month to really understand what Voyr will be bringing to the table…and once we find out, best believe we’ll let you guys in on the details via Muzikgem.com.