How Songkick is doing a “Detour”

I’m a big fan of Songkick, a London-based company that enables users to track live shows of their favourite artists. Songkick was founded in 2007 by three friends who felt that finding out when your favourite artist was coming to town could be made a lot easier. Songkick enables users to track their favourite artists and will automatically send an alert once an artist or a band announces a show in your area (see Fig. 1 for a screenshot of my personal artist tracker on Songkick).

Co-founder Ian Hogarth recently referred to Songkick  as “the second most visited ticket site after Ticketmaster” in a recent “Tech Weekly” podcast by the Guardian. Songkick have received backing from well-known venture capitalists like Index Ventures and, recently, Sequoia Capital. Apart from capturing already scheduled concerts, Songkick has now also started crowd funding concerts. This recent initiative is called “Detour” (see Fig. 2 below) and is based on the idea of fans paying upfront for a gig by an artist or band that they really want to see.

  1. Will fans use Detour to get Nicki Minaj to come and perform? – Can you imagine how many fans one would have to gather and how much money one would have to pledge to get Nicki Minaj to come and play in, let’s say, Huddersfield!? That’s not what Detour is for, it helps to bring those artists who otherwise might not come. Songkick’s Detour kicked off with a campaign to get Tycho, a small electro band from San Francisco, to come to Europe. Tycho had never played in Europe before and this is how the Detour initiative came about.
  2. Fans make it happen – To gage interest in bringing Tycho to these shores, the guys at Songkick started emailing those Songkick users who track Tycho’s live shows through Songkick. Over 100 of these users pledged money for a ticket. Since that number still didn’t make it viable for Tycho to come over, the Songkick users started contacting their friends to get them to pledge too. Soon enough a sufficient number of people had pledged money to buy a ticket, which made it feasible for Tycho to come over and do a show in London.
  3. Can make Songkick make a lot of money out of Detour? I’m not sure whether Songkick will be able to make a lot of money out of Detour (and I’m not sure whether that’s the goal), but it can nevertheless become a self-sustainable revenue stream where Songkick perhaps take a fee to recoup its operational cost and the transaction fee which normally would go to ticketing giants like Live Nation or Seatwave.
  4. Where does the (user) value come from? For Songkick, I can see the value of Detour being in (1) user engagement, finding another way of actively engaging with the Songkick user base and (2) a reduced dependency on other ticket sites, being more in control (and generate revenue) of organising events and creating a platform for ticket and merchandise sales. For users, Detour provides a great platform for getting to see artists that one probably wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.

Main learning point: crowd-funding initiatives like Kickstarter are rapidly growing and gaining momentum and now Songkick has launched its own version in Detour. An interesting extension of its services, tapping into Songkick’s solid user base whilst providing Songkick the opportunity to take over from ticket vendors. I guess the success of Detour will be largely determined by the scale of its user base and by Songkick generating sufficient interest for the artists ‘in the offering’.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of my artist tracker on songkick.com

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of Detour homepage

Related links for further learning:

http://www.songkick.com/blog/2012/09/28/500-true-fans-how-tychos-fans-crowdfunded-his-first-european-show/

http://www.songkick.com/blog/2012/10/23/andrew-bird-detouring-the-largest-crowdfunded-tour-ever/

http://www.songkick.com/blog/2012/10/10/hot-chip-detour-goes-viral/

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-10/23/songkick-detour-andrew-bird

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/10/songkick-detour-plans-biggest-fanfunded-music-tour-to-date-taking-andrew-bird-to-latin-american.html

Understanding more about Amazon Cloud Player and storing music in the cloud

Last week saw the UK launch of Amazon’s Cloud Player, a service enabling Amazon users to play their music stored in the cloud (through Amazon’s Cloud Drive) from any computer or Android device connected to the Internet. The service was launched in the US back in July, and now Amazon’s UK customers will be able to experience the same service. These are the main propositions that the Cloud Player is promising to offer:

  1. Your Music. Everywhere. – Seamless access to one’s music is rapidly becoming a ‘given’ when it comes to offering music services. Irrespective of the device one is using – smartphone, tablet, PC or ebook reader – users expect to be able to access music wherever, whenever. No surprise then that this is the main underlying promise of the Cloud Player: your music is available on a range of devices (e.g. Android, iPod, iPhone, Sonos, etc.) and the experience will be consistent across all of these devices and platforms.
  2. Import your music collection – Like iTunes Match and Google Play, Amazon’s Cloud Player will enable users to upload their own music collections, with Amazon matching the music on your PC to their 20m track catalogue. This means that music purchased from Amazon or iTunes or from ripped CDs will be matched against Amazon’s catalogue, upgraded (to a better audio quality where possible) and made available through the Cloud Player.
  3. Secure and easy to use – Amazon promises that for all the MP3 songs and albums users purchase or have purchased in the past will be automatically saved to Cloud Player, which means you’ll have a secure backup copy of the music you buy at Amazon. The ‘secure’ and ‘instant’ aspect are key to any service of this kind. I haven’t used the Cloud Player yet but this would be main challenges to any product or service which promises a great user experience. Is is easy to use? Does is ‘just work’?

I haven’t yet tried the Cloud Player, but reading user and expert reviews gives an interesting insight into this new service. The main thing that struck me is that users are restricted from buying songs through the Cloud Player app on Apple devices (think iPhone, iPad and Mac). This means that one can use the Cloud Player for listening and streaming on an Apple device but not for buying music. I know I’m biased (since I work for 7digital, a competitor of iTunes and Amazon Music) but this defeats the purpose of using a service that promises to work ‘everywhere’.

Main learning point: I guess the main caveat to this blog post is that, as I say, I work for a (smaller) competitor of Amazon in 7digital. At 7digital, we always try to concentrate on a consistent user experience that ‘just works’ irrespective of the device or operating system one uses. Services like Amazon Cloud Player are good solutions for anyone who wishes to ‘consolidate’ his/her music collection. I guess the main downside of using the likes of Amazon and iTunes is that they are pretty ‘vertical’ which means that their products only work totally seamlessly and as intended on their own devices and operating systems, which has bearing on the overall user experience.

Related links for further learning:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/amazon/9550721/Amazon-announces-cloud-player-in-the-UK.html

http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/amazon-cloud-player-heads-to-the-uk-1098144

http://lifehacker.com/5930593/amazon-cloud-player-adds-scan-and-match-to-save-you-time-when-uploading-your-music?tag=streaming-music

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2012/09/19/amazons-cloud-player-arriving-in-the-uk-is-a-vital-step-for-kindles-success/

http://allthingsd.com/20120903/demystifying-amazons-cloud-player/

http://cloud-music-player-review.toptenreviews.com/amazon-cloud-player-review.html

http://download.cnet.com/8301-2007_4-20048416-12.html

http://lockergnome.net/questions/129952/will-you-use-amazon-cloud-player

WillCall – Pushing event info to you

Impressed as I was by the success of online ticket seller Eventbrite, a recent announcement by WillCall then triggered my interest. WillCall is a San Francisco based-startup which started off by sending users in the San Francisco area a push notification about discounted tickets or VIP packages a few hours before a concert was due to start.

“A pretty easy way to see more shows” is WillCall’s main strap line and that is exactly what their Android and iOS apps seem to be providing for. As WillCall founder Donnie Dinch explains on the WillCall blog, the main problem they are trying to solve is “how to connect willing and excited people, using a mobile phone, to the greatest local shows, concerts and social events in town.”

I can imagine that people reading this might be thinking that they have seen this all before or that WillCall is not going to upset the likes of Live Nation in a million years. However, these are the main things that differentiate WillCall in my view:

  1. Event discovery – I believe that any form of discovery, be it content or events, is a hard one to get right one. WillCall is trying to crack this by handpicking shows that they think are likely to be popular and cut deals with the hosting venues. 48 hours prior to an event, a WillCall user will receive a message with a number of events to pick from, including info on friends attending and any special deals (e.g. discounts or the ability to jump the queue).
  2. Push notifications  – WillCall’s messages are push based which means that users will get automated notifications well in time for an event. The only risk with such push notifications is that subscribers can eventually get fed up, treating these alerts as spam.
  3. Tailoring notifications –  I don’t think WillCall currently enables its users to set preferences for the types of notifications they wish to receive, and I’m not sure if their competitors Thrillcall or Sosh do either. I guess the extent to which a service like WillCall can customise the push notifications one receives (e.g. by genre, area or venue) will play an important role in its long-term success.

Main learning point: the problem that WillCall is trying to solve is clear: helping artists/venues/promotors with those shows that don’t get sold out. As a user, the main added value comes from attractive last-minute deals and from discovering new events. In addition, the ‘social’ element of being able to see who of your friends are going to a gig should not be underestimated. Definitely a service with a lot of potential; don’t be surprised if the likes of Live Nation or Ticketmaster jump into this niche very soon!  

Related links for further learning:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/18/willcall/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/02/want-to-buy-last-minute-tickets-to-local-events-at-a-discount-willcall-is-for-you/

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/02/thrillcall-is-like-groupon-for-live-music-now-it-just-needs-some-deals.html

http://gigaom.com/2012/02/02/last-minute-ticketing-app-willcall-opens-for-business/

http://livemusicblog.com/2012/02/02/willcall-last-minute-concert-deals-in-sf/

Why I really like This Is My Jam

I love This Is My Jam. Period. This service, which only came out of private beta a few months ago, is as simple as it is effective.  This Is My Jam (‘TIMJ’) lets users select one track at the time (your “jam”) which will expire after one week. As a result, you tend to get recent tracks and a good flavour of the kinds of music people are ‘feeling’ at any given time. These are the main things I like about This Is My Jam:

  1. It is curated – Are you also getting tired of “what my friends are listening to” features on Spotify or YouTube, and the unfiltered flood of music that provides for!? As TIMJ co-founder Matthew Oggle explains: “Music gets lost in the deluge, and even when it’s noticed, links out to Spotify or Youtube in a social feed can feel impersonal.” TIMJ tries to address this by forcing users to carefully select a single jam at the time and enables them to personalise their pick by adding their own text or imagery.
  2. It is simple – The TIMJ site looks simple and is simple to use. Selecting and previewing the jam of your choice is incredibly easy and so is customising it. If you wish to share your jam on Facebook or Twitter, again, that is very simple too. I don’t know where it sits on TIMJ’s product roadmap, but it will be interesting to see what their mobile app will look like when they launch it.
  3. Music discovery at its finest – Having been on TIMJ for a good 6 months now, I am impressed with the variety of music on there. There is definitely an element of people trying to ‘outcool’ each other which means that you get a truly eclectic mix of genres and artists, and get to discover music that you might not have come across otherwise.
Main learning point: like with all these services, the question remains how popular This Is My Jam will become, how quickly it will manage to grow its user base. What I do know is that TIMJ offers a great, easy-to-use service for anyone who is passionate about music or who wishes to discover new stuff!

Related links for further learning:

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/this-is-my-jam-pinterest-for-music.php

http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4144756-behind-the-screens–dis-meets-this-is-my-jam

http://pandodaily.com/2012/03/05/this-is-my-jam-share-the-one-song-youre-currently-obsessed-with/

Rdio vs. Spotify: when it comes to user experience, the first round is for Rdio

Last year I wrote about Rdio, about its affiliate programme and data partnerships respectively. At the time, Rdio was only available in the US and my interaction with its streaming service was therefore limited. I had heard, however, that its user experience design (‘UX’) was great.

I have now had a chance to try Rdio (it recently launched in the UK) and compare it with Spotify (of which I am a premium subscriber). If this was a boxing match, Rdio would win against Spotify in the 1st round. Spotify would have struggled to put a punch in whilst Rdio’s decisive knock out punch would have come in the form of its powerful UX.

This is how the two streaming services compare in my opinion:

  1. Design – I have a got a strong preference for clean, simple design and Rdio comes up trumps in this respect. Whether it is an artist (see screenshot 1), album or track (see screenshot 2), all pages have a very uncluttered layout. Even though I can understand Spotify’s rationale for collating as much artist or product info onto a single page, I feel that Rdio’s pages are more effective. Rdio’s UX design   feels like it has been thought through a lot better.
  2. Social – On Spotify, opportunities to understand what others think of a particular album or track are limited. When I have got my “This is what your friends are listening to in real-time” functionality enabled on Spotify, I tend to ignore it. I think the way in which Rdio have enabled user reviews is again simple but effective (and not a distraction from the main purpose, i.e. to listen to a track or an album – see screenshot 2).
  3. Labels – The main differentiator between between Spotify and Rdio is the ability to filter by labels. Increasingly, users are looking to engage with specific labels. Spotify is tapping into this trend with its label specific apps (I love the “Def Jam at Spotify” app) and services like Drip.fm and Distro.fm are geared towards this. Rdio gets this too: I can follow labels directly and get a good sense of all their releases. For instance, the 4AD Records (see screenshot 3) or Blue Note pages provide a neat overview of their top albums and recent activity.
  4. Nobody is perfect – At a first glance, Rdio’s music catalogue seems smaller than that of Spotify and I would love to see more labels involved with this service. Perhaps it is my perception but the “unavailable” tag seems to be appearing on albums a bit too often. From a UX point of view, there is nothing as frustrating as finding the album you were looking for to then see it marked as unavailable.
Main learning point: Spotify clearly has a ‘first mover’ advantage in the UK, both in terms of its user base and breath of music catalogue. With the right amount of marketing and word of mouth, however, Rdio could be catching up sooner than you think. Rdio’s design is great and opportunities for interaction and discovery have received the right amount of attention by Rdio’s designers. The main thing for Rdio to concentrate on is adding to its catalogue and creating a user base / ecosystem around its service.

Screenshot 1 – Artist page on Rdio

Screenshot 2 – Track page on Rdio

Screenshot 3 – 4 AD Records page on Rdio

Related links for further learning:

http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/05/03/rdio-launches-in-the-uk-spotifys-worst-nightmare/

http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/rdio-coming-to-the-uk-to-take-on-spotify-1073595

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/04/spotify-rival-rdio-launches-in-uk_n_1476668.html

http://musically.com/2012/06/08/with-teeth-rdio-spotify-and-the-perils-of-user-experience/