Soundcloud - Flickr For Musicians
Yesterday, on the VC panel at LeWeb, Ouriel asked all of us "how should an entrepreneur pitch you?"
I replied, "they should send me a link to their web service and if I like it, I’ll follow up and meet with them"
That has happened so many times and I am convinced its the best way to get my attention.
Back when I launched fredwilson.fm, I got an email from an entrepreneur asking me to put a soundcloud drop box on it so emerging artists could send me music to consider for my personal internet radio station. I thought "good idea" and put it up. You can see the soundcloud drop box if you visit fredwilson.fm.
Since I put up the soundcloud drop box, I’ve gotten 14 submissions. A few of them are very good and I plan on posting at least one or two of them to tumblr/fredwilson.fm before year end.
This experience opened my eyes to what soundcloud represents. It’s a new way to get music out there. Bands and artists are using it (roughly 40,000 so far I’ve heard) to share music among themselves in rough form while they work on the final product, and then they use it to submit their music to various record labels, music bloggers, and other promotional outlets.
The company is based in Berlin and from what I can tell much of the user base is european to date. But music is a global experience and there is no reason why soundcloud can’t take off in the US and other parts of the world.
Just to be clear, soundcloud is not for sharing licensed music. Of course, it can be used for that, but the company is working on tools like audio fingerprinting so they can police the service and make sure it’s used by real musicians to share their work, not by fans looking to share music with friends.
After using soundcloud for a couple months, I finally got the opportunity to meet the founders yesterday at Le Web. We only had about 20 minutes, but we got right into the opportunity and they didn’t have to spend most of the meeting explaining what soundcloud is. Because I’m already a user and a fan. That’s the way to do it.
Of course, just because I like the service and enjoyed meeting the founders, it doesn’t mean our firm wil invest. But we certainly are going to pay attention to what they are doing. By blogging about them, I’ll get more feedback. I’d love it if all of you who are into music would check it out and let me know what you think.
As Eric Archambeau of Wellington Partners said on the panel yesterday, "the first step is I’ve got to like it, but I can’t make an investment just because I like it. I’ve got to make sure that the market at large is going to like it too" [that’s a paraphrase not a quote].
So please check out soundcloud and let me know what you think.
I like the service, at least from a consumer perspective. Thing is, you have the traffic to drive a lot of recs to you. Even then, 14 isn’t a lot. Any way to plug into my friends and see what songs people are dropping to them? If they make that happen, that could potentially be huge…Also, not sure if you’ve made a post like this before, but would it be possible to understand how you do due diligence better? More so, from the “will the market at large” like it, especially when there are few customers of a product.-jlb
Its an art, not a science. But part of it is taking the time to sit with it and watch how the market is reacting. The post I wrote on boxee on the usv blog is informative. It took a year to get me comfortable that the market was going to be there for boxee.Not all entrepreneurs can or will (or should) be so patient. But that’s how I like to go about these things
Hey Fred, great meeting up yesterday. US is our fastest growing country at the moment but Europe (in total) is still, of course, bigger (dominated by UK & Germany).
Alexander – the community here at avc is known for leaving good and thoughtful comments. So please make sure to check back late today or tomorrow. I am sure you’ll get some good feedback on soundcloud
Do not apologize for constructive feedback. Its a gift. And thank you for it
OK, I checked it out. First of all, I think the video is kind of unnecessary and too long. Upload, Download… you could illustrate it by putting a big fat upload / download button on the front-page and people would get the idea.Second, what Fred wrote and what the site tells me are two different things. I was expecting to see independent artists. Instead, I see a video and it’s not clear where I get to see the artists. I would like a radio or something to preview tracks.Third, the upload / download thing is not really a problem for me personally, so I may not be the target audience for that. I don’t get whether the service is aimed at artists, pirates, or Facebook-junkies.Sorry to be so negative, that’s not really me. I do rate things positively when they are.
I think Soundcloud is great, too, but I do think that elephant you see over there in the corner, and which you mentioned Fred, isn’t going away any time soon. This great tool may not be expressly for sharing licensed music, but a lot of things have to happen for Soundcloud to make money in a niche market like indy bands promoting their music. The huddled masses of music consumers will surely come calling…Did I hear Audio Fingerprinting? Good luck with that. If that’s really Soundcloud’s path to the general market, then this is a bunch of very smart people with a great new tool buying into the old paradigm for monetizing the distribution of music. Music fans will still find ways to support musicians, but they simply are not into people messing with their music files. Of course, I haven’t seen Soundcloud’s business plan, so I may be missing something…
the value i get from the community you have created is tremendous.keane’s new album – listenMark
oryx_orange I think you have missed the point about the fingerprinting. I don’t believe that’s for tracks they distribute and want to monetize, I believe that’s more to spot licensed music entering their system.I think Soundcloud is great, I absolutely love the user experience. I can see some people’s concerns/feedback that it’s quite a niche proposition (i.e. for music professionals to share unfinished music or to promote finished promos). However one smart thing I’ve seen them doing a lot of is encouraging use of their API to get people to build cool, fun and easy ways to access and consume the music being put out by the SC community. That become more of a consumer proposition… a D2C channel for the musicians using the service.
Nikhil – Yes, I do understand that the fingerprinting is used to spot licensed music – I have a music software company myself and we’ve run up against similar issues. My point was that, if it does indeed prove difficult to make money within the niche, they will likely want to find a more general market. “Audio fingerprinting to police the service” is a worthwhile goal within the context of the niche, but my view is that they’ll eventually be up against the demand to use their service for other purposes, in which case “fingerprinting” will have to be more like “filtering”, into another, bigger, revenue stream.
Soundcloud is wonderful. I’m constantly impressed by what they do — dead simple, but unbelievably elegant for such a young product. And have you seen their new player? (http://blog.soundcloud.com/… I think they may be wasting their time on the fingerprinting, though — most of that, I imagine, will be tied to ISRC code, which many artists don’t know how to create on their own and might not want to just for demos. Also, I’m wary of their policing the content getting sent through their system — I think it’s good to have those capabilities should the RIAA come pounding down the door (which they shouldn’t, because it would kill an amazing service designed for labels), but the service is designed perfectly to set the content free! Besides, they already have the barrier in place of requiring a paid account to be move any major amount of content. Just my $.02, but I’d be working to build the best possible product for the target audience and THEN, once you actually see how people use it, worry about restricting and policing, if necessary.
Couldn’t agree more. They have a lot of great things going for them right now. The interface and visual design are extremely well done, and at least from what i’ve seen in my experiences with the service, the backend is just as solid. And that player interface is just amazing…Ty, excellent point on the fingerprinting. There is no point in addressing that internally at this point. The costs dont add up. You could have an intern army / introduce more community policing for a fraction of the cost of building your own in-house fingerprinting system.Moving past that, Audible Magic offers a free service for accessing their fingerprinting system. Its slightly slower than their full paid service and the amount of information returned in the response is much less complete, but its still extremely effective for weeding things out. With the free service you can make something like 300 requests per day for fingerprinting, which should be more than enough to handle the current traffic.Keep up the great work guys.
While I have not fully tried the product, from a first look I felt a bit uncomfortable seeing a design that looks like an iTune copycat.I would prefer to see a more original approach in the design, and usage of their signature colors like they have on http://soundcloud.com/latest
Jay – I believe the player you’re referring to is The Sound Cloud player, a hack they build during just a couple of weekend coding sessions using their API. The actual players on the site are the ones you’re seeing on http://soundcloud.com/latest
Regarding the title “Flickr for Musicians”, is Flickr itself the “Flickr for Photographers”? To me, it’s more like “Photography for Everyone”.Soundcloud looks very slick, but it’s more targeted to professionals (“Smugmug for Musicians”?), and while we’ve seen a lot of consumer-generated photography and video being posted online, I’m not sure I believe we’ll see the same for music. Bands will send music; labels, festivals, radio stations, and a handful of popular music blogs will receive it, and there will be some widget distribution, but I’m not sure where it goes from there.I’m not saying that’s not a perfectly reasonable business in itself, just questioning the analogy.
Not sure how this product can solve the bigger problems that Music Industry Professionals truly have. The biggest problem, if you need a song that you are going to attach to an exposure opportunity, is not how do I get 1,000 or 10,000 songs PUSHED to me, the biggest problem is how do I sort through 200,000 songs in 2 minutes or 2,000,000 songs in 20 minutes. To solve that problem you need filters (quality, lyric composition, sonic attributes, emotional attributes, tag attributes, social and market traction scores, sounds-alike qualities, etc.) all attached to a dead simple user interface that enables the professional to PULL what they need. Submission is not the big problem. Sorting is where the hurt lies.
Bruce – you’re right that sorting is the big problem, but it’s not a problem that’s going to be solved overnight, or likely with a single solution. People discover, digest, and listen to music in a multitude of ways. There’s still much to be understood psychologically and sociologically about how we ingest music before we can build killer tools to solve those problems. Infrastructure, however, is a big problem. Yes, some people have stacks upon stacks of unlistened-to demo discs sitting on their desks, and even more people these days have their inboxes clogged by mp3s or, at best, links to ad-supported download services (RapidShare, Mediafire, etc), which add effort (and pop-up headaches) to the retrieval process and decrease the likelihood that the receiver of the music will listen. Soundcloud solves that infrastructure problem with a clean interface that is a pleasure to use, has social/commenting features, and best of all keeps your inbox clean. Bloggers and label A&R are rejoicing. It’s not THE big problem to solve, but it’s certainly making a lot of peoples’ lives much easier. And that right there is the basis for a good business.
Ty – I like the Soundcloud proposition. However, game changing for me is to eliminate the inbox and the need for artists to submit. Submitting songs is somewhat random and the process is disconnected from the goal of getting the right song for the situation. I would rather say here’s a million songs or ten million songs pick the exact one you want when you want it – versus having random songs plopped on me for whatever reason. You guys are solving a problem, but I believe submission and even the need to engage in random, pre- popularity promotion will be disrupted by technology/propositions that enable music industry professionals and even consumers to slice, dice, filter and interact with vast quantities of songs rapidly. The killer tools do exist in the lab; I am positive about that. However, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to leverage these tools, so don’t let me discourage you from continuing, or from an investor from considering Soundcloud. After all, you need songs if you want to offer the tools, and I am usually years early with everything I do . Cheers…
Bruce – I’m actually not a Soundcloud employee, just a daily user. I like to think I’m working on a bigger problem here at Topspin, and slowly but surely chipping away at the Google-sized (or bigger?) problem of recommendations and filtering. It’s entirely possible that the answer might not lie in algorithms, but in empowering artists and fans to work together to find the appropriate audiences for their music.
Bruce, I think Ty is with Topspin, not soundcloud. Anyway..Soundcloud gives artists an infrastructure on which to engage with anyone that is interested, potential fans, labels, whoever.Yes, being able to filter through the noise will be difficult and that problem isn’t being solved by them.The core problem is that for artists publishing tracks online I have two solutions;- Create a profile on myspace with my tracks- Put mp3’s of my tracks on a web site / blog siteThat’s it. One is very social networking focused. The other is not very interactive.The great thing about soundcloud is that they have a better more interactive experience and more importantly they have found an angle that delivers revenue [it would seem].I agree with both of you. It’s a start on much needed infrastructure and this will put them in a great position to provide tools to filter through the music.Science projects in the labs don’t deliver revenue. When the science projects are ready, soundcloud will be a great position to offer a base of millions of tracks for the algorithms to churn through.Some other great services out there that work in a similar fashion and add a gaming element to the experiencehttp://www.thesixtyone.com/http://blip.fm/http://www.thenextbigsound….– side noteSoundcloud, after I start playing a track, if I decide to navigate to another page on your site, please don’t kill the player, keep it running, I still want to listen while exploring. Check out thesixtyone.com who do this very well.
In the “le spirit” of new music, check out Marching Band’s disc Spark Large. I am getting into it.
Fred – I really like SoundCloud b/c (1) it’s beautifully designed and fun to use (see props from 37signals guys last summer: http://www.37signals.com/sv…, and (2) I’m a fan of electronic music, which seems to be the primary focus today.While the service can and may well provide value for all sorts of musicians, I think it’s particularly well suited for the large ‘prosumer’ market for artists and DJs in electronic music (big in US but even bigger in Europe and now arguably centered in Berlin).
I have been using Soundcloud about 2 months ago regarding electronic music, share, feedback, send, receive, etc… Here are some short comments.Soundcloud is a great solution for sending and receiving issues. The option that you can’t browse people is brilliant. I think it’s meant so the use it’s given is for work, or persons related towards the music they produce. (it helps privacy which is help full this days).One of the issues I find is the player, It would be great if there could be a option for the session or song to keep playing at the same time you navigate threw the site. After that I’m a big fan, I see it as a promotional specialized tool.Looking forward for more about http://www.thecloudplayer.com haven’t had time to play with it but some features look exiting.
What with all the recent talk about The Cloud Player I sometimes forget myself about one of the earliest applications that was built on top of the API – http://www.radioclouds.com – it’s a nice visual radio app that shows a users social graph while listening to tracks from his/her network. Nice to have on in the background or at the office.
I work for SoundCloud and am out there every day talking to artists, labels, studios, producers and A&R guys etc about the service and yes they have bigger problems but they quickly realise that SoundCloud is gonna become part of their daily toolkit for doing business in the music industry.As for the bigger picture stuff I think the killer touch here is the SoundCloud API and developer platform. I envisage more and more great applications being built around this. Just like I can import my photos from Flickr directly into a service like Animoto to create an animated music video, musicians will be able to pull their music into other services that add value. For example we’ve already seen one MP3 download store build a tool for their labels to automatically deliver music to them via SoundCloud. (http://blog.soundcloud.com/….Another subtle but very nice feature is that SoundCloud is allowing users to markup their tracks with Creative Commons licenses. So to take my previous analogy further I can really imagine going on to a service like Animoto and pulling in my photos from Flickr and importing a CC licensed track from SoundCloud that I have previously tagged as a favourite. To me these possibilities are extremely exciting and is what the new age of the Web is all about.
I have recently covered some alternative music discovery and recommendation platforms.TheNextBigSound’s crowdsourced discovery for unsigned musicians strikes me as very complementary to soundcloud’s sharing value proposition.
In the spirit of this post, I thought the group would be interested in the music rating site Amaze.fm, summarized on their home page:Artists upload their music to be listened to, rated, reviewed, and taggedFans choose the songs that make it to the radio by listening to and rating songs weeklyEach week the highest rated song from Amaze.fm gets played on nationally-syndicated radioHere is the link: http://www.amaze.fm/. This has been out there for a while but maybe it is new to some of you.
I like them so much too.Here a recent ITW ‘Music is Okay?!’: Interview with Eric Wahlforss from SoundCloud> http://www.checkdisout.com/… ( goto ”my” website link )
it is a great application for sharing music but what is the main differences for example with >Zshare or music industry applications like artistsdata or fairtilizer ? the only issue i have with soundcloud is that i cant find too much ggod music on it … its remind me jamendo kind of catalog … they need to have more established artists and labels
The Jamendo catalog has now more 100.000 tracks under Creative Commons License.Even if you are very severe, with 15% of the content to be good enough, it’s 15.000 tracks ! The issue is about browsing them. We constently work on that, we introduced radios for the lazy guys !http://www.jamendo.com/en/
Just signed up to Soundcloud, brilliant no hassle, painless way for indies to share music, already saving me a heap of time and doing nice things to my blood pressure 🙂