Posts from Music

Feature Friday: Track Stations

Our portfolio company SoundCloud quietly launched something this past week that has quickly become my go to music discovery experience. It is called “track stations” and the concept is not new but they have applied it a bit differently. Like Pandora, you can enter a song you like and get a radio like listening experience.

The difference is that SoundCloud has something like 110 million tracks in it versus something like 2 million tracks in Pandora. That’s important because it means that there are way more tracks to start stations with but even more importantly, the track stations give you access to a long tail of content that you can’t really access any other way. Using algorithms and data science to take you from the head of the curve content to the long tail is an interesting idea across many content categories, but it is particularly interesting in music and podcasting.

I started a track station one morning this past week in my car and within 30 minutes, I had added five or six tracks to my favorites. And I didn’t know any of the artists who made any of the tracks I favorited.

It works like this. You open the SoundCloud app on iOS or Android and search for a track you know and like:

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Then you click on the track to start playing it:

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On the lower left are three dots. If you click them, you get:

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And if you click on “start a track station”, you get:

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If you go to your collections in the app, you will see all the track stations you listen to regularly:

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But here’s where it gets really interesting. You can use the same technique to find new podcasts to listen to. If you start a track station with a podcast you like, like this one:

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You can swipe through to find similar podcasts like these:

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So that’s it. If you have SoundCloud on your iPhone or Android, find a track you like and start a track station. It’s a great way to find new things to listen to.

Right now, track stations is only available on SoundCloud’s mobile apps. It will be coming to their web app and other apps soon.

Streaming The Beatles

We are enjoying the entire Beatles catalog streaming via Sonos in our vacation house this morning. That’s because the Beatles finally decided to put their music on the various streaming services and their catalog arrived today.

The Beatles did not put their music on iTunes until 2010. So it is not surprising that they took such a long time to join the streaming music world.

It is worth noting a few things.

First, you don’t need the Beatles to build a great streaming product. They are a nice to have but not a need to have. It seems that there are no “need to haves” in the world of streaming music as long as you have most of the artists. No one artist is that powerful, even the greatest artist of the pop music era.

Staying off iTunes until 2010 and streaming until 2015 may have made good business sense for the Beatles, but it was certainly not a fan friendly move. It took me all of one minute to load up their entire catalog into our Sonos queue and hit play. That is such a superior experience to loading CDs, one by one, into a CD player, or downloading each and every record from iTunes and then creating a playlist. I am not sure where the line should be drawn by an artist between maximizing profits and maximizing the fan experience. But I don’t think the Beatles drew that line correctly over the past fifteen years.

The Beatles’ music is timeless. Unlike most pop music, the Beatles’s music seems to appeal to generation after generation. We have several generations in our house this morning and everyone is totally enjoying the music.

So I’m so happy that the Beatles finally decided to join the streaming party and we are celebrating that move. But I sure wish they hadn’t taken so long.

Video Of The Week: Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House

Last night the Gotham Gal, our daughter Jessica, and I went to see Hamilton at The Public. This is a hip hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton. The writer and star of the show, Lin-Manuel Miranda, read Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, got obsessed with Hamilton, and started writing a hip hop record about him. That eventually led to the show.

But along the way, back in 2009, the White House invited Lin-Manuel to Poetry Night and he performed the opening number for the President, the First Lady, and their guests. This is the video of that night. It’s great and serves as the perfect trailer for the play, which you should try to see when it opens on Broadway this summer.

Feature Friday: Swiping Through Music

One of my favorite user experiences is the SoundCloud mobile music player.  I’ve been driving a lot this winter in LA and when I get into my car, I bluetooth my phone to it and put my phone next to my seat. I can go forward and back from song to song with the buttons on the steering wheel but I find myself swiping the phone instead because the experience is so delightful.

Here’s a video I took just now of the experience of swiping through music;

 It’s also super easy to move through the song by pressing and swiping:

 Thanks go out to The Isley Brothers and The Beastie Boys for the audio portion of this blog post. If you want to hear the whole thing, it’s my song of the day.

Video Of The Week: Making Music With Splice

I had this chat yesterday on Ethan about electronic music related companies in our portfolio:

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Which suggests to me that many people in the EDM space don’t know about Splice (a USV portfolio company).

So here’s a short (less than 2min) video that showcases two of the most important features of Splice (cloud backup and version management). Splice does a lot more than that, but those two features alone make it a must have for anyone creating electronic music.

Fun Friday: Year End Music List

Every year since I started this blog, I’ve shared my favorite music of the year with the AVC readers.

In the early years, I would post different album every day for ten days (or eleven) in the process of putting together a top ten list. I moved away from albums a few years ago because I just don’t listen that way very much anymore.

I’ve moved to SoundCloud playlists and today I’m publishing my Essential Tracks of 2014 playlist here at AVC. It’s also available On SoundCloud and everywhere that SoundCloud is available (your phone, your browser, your Sonos, etc, etc). Enjoy.