How Soundrop Turns Music Discovery into a Social Experience Among Fans and Artists

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Imagine yourself discovering a hip new band on Spotify while you chat live with other fans — or even with the band itself. Thanks to Oslo-based music start-up Soundrop, you can do just that. The two-year-old music service provides a social platform through which you can listen to music, share your opinions about it, and occasionally hang out with the artists who create the songs that you’re hearing.

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The service is available on Spotify, as a standalone Web player, and, starting November 25, via French streaming company Deezer. Soundrop is among the latest generation of technology firms changing the way people discover music. To better understand Soundrop and its influence on the music listening experience, I talked with its head of partnerships Cortney Harding. In her exclusive interview, she shares some advice for artists, too: work harder to connect with your fans and share engaging content or die.

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Harding knows whereof she speaks. Music and technology define her professional life. Throughout her career, she has been editor of Billboard, writer for YPulse, and founder of her own consulting firm that connects startups with the music industry. In many ways, she and Soundrop represent the kind of influencers who are re-defining the music industry by applying content, technology, and brand savvy.

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Cortney Harding

I recently used Soundrop to interact with artists AM & Shawn Lee as they played their new album La Musique Numerique, which was akin to having a listening party with other fans and the artists. And yeah, the experience was pretty cool. Fans took turns asking AM & Shawn Lee about their music via an online Q&A moderated by Harding, and we learned interesting little details such as the fact that Lee learned how to play the Mattel Synsonics drum machine for La Musique Numerique.

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Nearly 200 artists, including Imagine Dragons and Robin Thicke, have hung out with fans in Soundrop listening rooms. The company relies heavily on its Facebook page to announce new appearances, befitting its social nature. And if Soundrop has its way, hanging out with fans will be the norm, not the exception.

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As Harding says in the following interview, “Artists . . . need to be engaged on a social level in an authentic way. Because fans have so much more choice, an artist that doesn’t work to connect with them will quickly be forgotten.”

How would you describe Soundrop to the uninitiated?

Soundrop is a way to discover, share, and socialize around music. Users can either create rooms where they upload music and chat, or join existing rooms to discover music and hang out with other people who love the same music. We have rooms for almost every genre and even rooms based on times of the day or certain themes (waking up, working out, relaxing, etc).

Additionally, we bring artists in to chat with fans. Every week more artists come into Soundrop. More than 200 already have. It’s a great experience for the fans and the artist can use their reach to drive streaming revenue.

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How One Tweet from Jimmy Page Turned “Ramblize” into a Media Sensation

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How did an obscure song that was languishing on YouTube for two years suddenly capture the interest of music journalists? Two words: Jimmy Page.

Here’s the scoop: on November 15, the guitar god shared via Twitter a cryptic message about legendary rapper Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., with a link to Page’s website, jimmypage.com. Visitors to Page’s website encountered a new song streaming: “Ramblize,” which is a mash-up of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” and Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” The song, which combines bits of Page’s acoustic guitar, Notorious B.I.G.’s rap, and some snatches of Robert Plant’s vocals, created an instant sensation, with publications such as Rolling Stone, Ultimate Classic Rock, and XXL writing fairly gushy articles about its emergence on Jimmypage.com. Rolling Stone asked, “Who knew Jimmy Page was a hip-hop head?

But who actually made the mash-up and when is unclear. A version dated May 2011 appears on YouTube and was uploaded by YouTube user @theLionsRampant. In the comments field, one user Continue reading

Mariah Carey Turns a Facebook Mistake into an Opportunity

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Earlier this week, I blogged about how one musical star of the analog age, Mariah Carey, embraced digital by releasing a new song on Facebook November 11. The song, “The Art of Letting Go,” was shared with Carey’s 14 million Facebook fans, and Carey hosted a listening party in which she responded to fans’ questions online. Within one hour, the party generated more than Facebook 23,000 likes, 8,600 shares, and 13,000 comments. Just one problem: Carey released the wrong version of “The Art of Letting Go” on Facebook. But her response to the screw-up shows that she understands the value of transparency in the digital era.

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As Carey explained on her Facebook wall November 14, initially she did not realize a sound engineer on her team had uploaded an un-mastered, unfinished version of “The Art of Letting Go” because she was so focused on answering fans’ questions during the listening party. Learning about the mistake devastated her. As she wrote, “It is 3:30am (11.14), and I’m sitting on my bathroom floor, very Continue reading

Could the Dark Vision of “Chinatown” Have Survived Today?

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“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Those words famously ended Chinatown, Roman Polanski’s 1974 homage to film noir, which stands today as a dark masterpiece. The scene in which Detective J.J. Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson) watches helplessly as the evil Noah Cross (played by John Huston) literally gets away with murder and incest is a disturbing and powerful reminder that the bad guys sometimes win.

The ending encapsulates the morality of the entire movie as well as the political cynicism of its time. And yet the notorious ending would have never happened had scriptwriter Robert Towne had his away. According to the recently published Moments That Made the Movies, by esteemed critic/historian David Thomson, Towne had lobbied for an upbeat ending, but Polanski “said no, it had to be as tough as life.” So Polanski wrote the ending himself, over-ruling Towne. But remembering and watching the movie makes me wonder: if Chinatown had been released in 2013, would the bleak ending have made the final cut? I doubt it — not today, when it costs an average of $100 million to produce and market a major movie and the pressure is too great for studios to hedge their bets.

A more likely scenario: test audiences would have vomited all over the dark ending, causing the studios to panic and strong-arm a more hopeful ending — and thus hurting the integrity of the movie, as happened notably with Fatal Attraction and 28 Days Later. The downbeat ending would have been relegated to being a bonus feature on the Blu-ray, naturally costing you extra to see.

Chinatown, ranked as one of the Top 100 movies of all time by the American Film Institute, is an example of the triumph of artistic vision against the odds. Apparently (and fortunately) there were no marketing people (and yeah, I’m a marketing person) with the chutzpah to challenge the notoriously strong-willed Polanski.

Having personal vision, however dark, is the difference between producing entertainment and making art.

For more on the debate over the ending of Chinatown, read Paul Iorio’s 1999 article “Sleuthing ‘Chinatown’” from the Los Angeles Times.

Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey: Attack of the Digital Divas

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Welcome to new music release day 2013, when the deployment of social and mobile technology by the artist is as important as the sharing of the music itself. The era of expecting the unveiling of a record album or song to carry the day ended a long time ago. On November 11, two artists, one a veteran of the analog age and the other a scorching hot digital native, illustrated the realities of sharing new music in the fractured music industry: making an impression is all about continuously serving your superfans with engaging, personal content.

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Lady Gaga has managed the release of her album ARTPOP like a lengthy political campaign. As detailed in an excellent article by Jackie Huba for Forbes, Lady Gaga actually unveiled the name of her new album way back in August 2012 while she was promoting her previous album, Born This Way. And she’s been quite resourceful about Continue reading

How Ticketmaster Has Fought Resale Marketplaces by Disrupting Itself

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If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s the lesson Ticketmaster learned from its own journey through digital disruption, according to Jared Smith, president of Ticketmaster North America. At the Forrester eBusiness Forum November 6, Smith discussed how Ticketmaster has responded to the threat of the ticket resale market by launching its own online marketplace — a gutsy move that has increased sales and improved customer service for the ticket retailer.

Smith said that Ticketmaster is in an unusual position: “we are blessed to be in a business where people stalk our product.” Bruno Mars fans want to know where Bruno Mars will appear and how much it costs to see him even if they don’t end up going to one of his concerts, and they actively use digital to follow his appearances. Ticketmaster customers are passionate. They are driven. They are also frustrated when they can’t get access to their product — and they’ll willingly go to your competitor if you can’t give them that access via an affordable ticket.

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As Smith noted, 90 percent of Ticketmaster’s business comes from online and mobile sales — and in the digital world, it’s far too easy for fans to go elsewhere if you don’t give them what they want, a reality that spurred Ticketmaster to change the way it does business. In the 2000s, ticket resellers like StubHub emerged to threaten Ticketmaster by taking advantage of the ease with which Continue reading

Forrester Research: How to Adopt an Innovator’s Mindset

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Few industries have experienced digital disruption as financial services have. In recent years, established banks have had their lunch served to them by smaller, more nimble start-ups such as Mint.com and Bankrate.com, which rely on digital to provide services such as money management. But the big brands can win by disrupting themselves, according to Forrester Research Vice President Catherine Graeber, who spoke November 5 at the 2013 Forrester Research eBusiness & Channel Forum, a marketing event whose theme is “Lead the Digital Business Revolution.”

“Gone are the days when all you had to worry about was the competitor down the street,” she said to attendees such as State Farm and USAA. “We have digital disruptors coming at us from other industries. To build the next generation of financial services, you must digitally disrupt yourselves.”

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Forrester Research Welcomes You to the Digital Revolution

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It feels like 1999 all over again at the 2013 Forrester Research eBusiness & Channel Strategy Forum, whose theme is “Lead the Digital Business Revolution.” About 750 attendees from big brands like Southwest Airlines are coming to grips with a wily consumer who uses digital to disrupt entire industries, just as consumers did when the Internet exploded more than 10 years ago. Only this time, consumers are creating their own digital journeys in far more sophisticated ways, across multiple devices, websites, and social spaces. According to Forrester Research, executives of big brands need to transform themselves into digital leaders to thrive amid a new digital revolution.

Forrester issued the challenge through two opening presentations on November 5, one by Vice President of Research Bill Doyle and the other by Vice President Martin Gill, who recently co-authored the report, “The Chief Digital Officer: Fad or Future?”

According to Doyle, “The digital revolution is at the doorstep. But senior leaders are not devoting serious money or resources to digital. They don’t appreciate the urgency.”

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