I've frequently said on this blog that emergent behavior in a service is a sign to me that the service is scaling into something important and valuable. It is a feature that we look for a lot in our investments. I don't love it when entrepreneurs build services that are too tightly constructed around a single use case. I do love it when entrepreneurs build services that the users can take and do interesting things with.
Here's a short (3min) video where Alex Ljung, founder and CEO of our portfolio company SoundCloud, talks about how that happened in SoundCloud.
Our portfolio company SoundCloud turned five years old yesterday. To celebrate they posted this 6 minute clip where 5 soundclouders tell their stories. What I like so much about this is that each of the 5 soundclouders have very different talents, very different use cases, and very different stories. Happy Birthday SoundCloud
Every morning I post a song to the Internet. I have been doing this for at least six years. For as long as I've been on Tumblr.
You all know how obsessed I am about posting every day. It's probably a mortality thing for me. Wake up, be glad to be alive, post something on the Internet. Like a dog marking his spot.
Posting music is a bit different than posting text. Because you can listen to it. It comes alive. It makes you smile, dance, tap, and at times, cry. I cried a fair bit last week as Lou Reed songs filled up my feed for a couple days. We sat shiva with his music.
Friday is particularly special because a group of us have played a game called cover friday for something like five years now. The group is loose. Anyone can join by simply posting a cover song on friday morning. But participating requires committment. Because you have to post a cover song to your Tumblr every friday morning. This is what my Tumblr looked like this morning.
Posting music used to mean finding a mp3 and uploading it. I never do that anymore. I post three ways. I find songs on soundcloud and embed them, I find music posts on Tumblr and reblog them, and I find mp3s on the web and post the links. Search and reblog is all it takes. I think pretty much every song in the world is somewhere online. At least that's been my experience for a long time now.
You can also do this with YouTube. Pretty much every song is on YouTube as well. But I don't like the video. I find it distracting. I just want the music. So I don't post YouTube music and don't watch much of it either.
Posting and streaming music has changed music discovery for me. I like to post so others can discover. And I like to follow people who post music so I can discover from them. I've made a bunch of great friends this way. Some of whom I've never met in person. But they light up my feed with music. Which is one of the best things a friend can do for a friend.
I've written a fair bit about the fact that I think we will use our mobile devices (phones, tablets, watches, glasses, etc) to control the more expensive devices in our lives (TVs, car dashboards, refridgerators, etc). I think this mode of user interaction will win out over software solutions built for and running on the more expensive and therefore longer lasting devices we own.
Until now, Apple's Airplay and Bluetooth were the only good solutions for this kind of interaction. I use both in my home and office and I use them every day. But, as I have written here before, both have issues. Airplay is proprietary and not available on all devices (Sonos being a prime example). And Bluetooth is old and doesn't scale well into high bandwidth applications.
I've tried DLNA which Google and others have supported and its wonky right now. It's possible that DLNA will evolve and emerge as another good alternative.
But yesterday Google announced Chromecast which is an interesting take on this approach. Chromecast is a HDMI dongle that you put into the HDMI port of your TV and then connect to your home wifi network.
I've just purchased four of them from the Google Play store. I will put them on all the TVs I've got in my homes and see how they work. We use Nexus 7s to control the TVs in our homes and so those Nexus 7s will now be able to do a lot more than switch inputs. They will be able to be the input.
It's too soon for me to know how big of a deal Chromecast will be. I need to get my hands on it, use it, and then I will have a better feel for it.
My friend Cliff Chenfeld recently appeared on the Media Reporter TV show. Cliff has been in the entertainment business for over 25 years and he talks about the changes he has seen in the music industry, film, sports, and other entertainment sectors. It's about 30 minutes long and worth a watch/listen.
Back in the early days of the ATM machine, you could only transact on ATMs operated by your bank. If you were a Chase customer, you needed to find a Chase ATM to take cash out. That, of course, was a pain and the banks recognized it and formed roaming networks. The one I recall best was NYCE, which was formed by NatWest, Chase, Manny Hanny, Chemical, Barclays, Marine Midland, and Bank Of New York.
The same thing has happened with mobile wifi networks. If you are a T-Mobile Hotspot customer, you can often roam on a Boingo network or some other mobile wifi network.
Roaming is a great solution to the problem when multiple businesses offer a proprietary commodity service. The customer is forced to choose one provider but in effect the service is identical from vendor to vendor.
And that is the case in subscription music services. I have used Mog (now owned by Beats which is rebranding it as Daisy), Rhapsody, Spotify, and Rdio. They all offer essentially the same libraries. The listening experience is almost identical. They differentiate with slighly different user experiences. Some are more social. Some are faster. Some offer better curation. But in my opinion they are all proprietary commodity services and a roaming service that would allow a subscriber to Rdio to log into Spotify would be a good thing for a lot of reasons.
And the music industry really ought to want to see this happen because they are coming to realize that subscription music services can bring in significant revenues. This is an important future business model for them. But they should not make the mistake they made in the mp3 market where they essentially gave one company, Apple, the dominant position in the market. If the music industry came together, like the banks came together to create ATM roaming networks, to create a subscription music roaming network, they would create a dynamic where no one subscription music service could create the kind of network effects that would allow them to become the dominant subscription music service. And that is very much in the music industry's interest.
It is also in the consumer's interest. Just yesterday my friend Kirk found some new music because he follows me on Rdio. But I can't do the same thing with my friends who are on Spotify. Because all of these services are silos, by definition of their paid business model. If a roaming network existed, there would be more social music discovery, listening, and, I believe, uptake of the paid subscription model by consumers.
Of course, a roaming network could be started by an entrepreneur who thought this was a decent business to be in. It does not require a music industry consortium to come together to create this. But regardless of how it happens, I think it should happen. And I hope it does.
The folks at Turntable aren't calling it 2.0, but it sure feels like a massive upgrade to me so that's what I call it when I talk about the new UI and big rooms concept that Turntable quietly launched yesterday without much fanfare.
Full disclosure, USV is an investor in Turntable and I am on the board.
Turntable.fm, for those that don't know, is a live social music experience. Anyone can start a room in the service and a room features up to five users who jump up on stage and take turns DJing, and then the rest of the folks in the room listen, rate the songs, and chat. It is the most social music experience I have ever experienced online. I spend most mornings between 5am and 7am eastern hanging out in Turntable. Like most social online services, I have friends there who I have never met in person. I get better music discovery at Turntable from people I have never met than I get from anywhere else.
It makes sense if you think about it. Folks who are so passionate about music that they get up on stage and DJ live in front of everyone else will also likely have spent countless hours finding music that nobody else knows about yet. That's how music has always worked and how it will always work.
Turntable's achilles heel has always been that the rooms didn't scale. In version 1.0, when a room got to 200 people, it closed up to new entrants. So if you showed up looking to get into your favorite room you could often be out of luck. That is not and never was a good user experience.
Worse is that when a musician, artist, or celebrity showed up in one of the rooms, only 200 of their fans could get in to hear what they were up to. So the whole viral nature of an artist with hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans tweeting out that they are in a room in Turntable was mostly wasted in version 1.0.
All of that has been fixed in Turntable 2.0. The rooms scale up as more users show up. The UI changes in real time. A room starts out feeling like a tiny club and could end up feeling like an arena concert. Here's an example of a "big room" in action:
It's a real work of UI art and kudos go out to Billy and Byron for their work in building the new Turntable UI.
They've also made a bunch of smaller changes, cleaned some things up, moved some things around, speeded it up considerably, and made the service easier to join and get into quickly. I've been watching this new version emerge over the past few months and am so excited as a user to be able to experience it myself now.
If you want to see a big room in action, you can log into Turntable today at 3pm eastern to catch the electropop act Passion Pit playing some of their songs in Turntable. I expect that room will fill up nicely. I am going to try to get in and check it out myself in between running around SF between meetings. I hope to see you there.