The soundtrack of our lives
Given the music industry's plummeting fortunes over the past decade, it was a "terrible idea" to start a company in the sector, Shehzad Daredia admits. Yet that didn't stop him and business partner Stefan Gomez.
The Kayak and BillShrink.com veterans saw the value in bringing those websites' one-stop aggregation approach to the music-streaming space. So they conceived bop.fm, which allows listeners utilizing competing on-demand streaming services, such as Beats Music, Spotify, Rdio and Deezer, to share music through its agnostic platform.
Like so many entrepreneurs, Daredia and Gomez had a need, so they created a solution. "We wanted to share songs with each other," Daredia says. "Just because we used different services, we couldn't send links to each other, and we thought, This is dumb." They were also frustrated that not all services offer the same tracks.
With $100,000 in funding from Y Combinator, plus an undisclosed amount raised from private investors, Daredia and Gomez launched their San Francisco-based company last December. Users go to bop.fm and select a song to play (for now the site is web-based only; Daredia hopes to add mobile apps by year's end). Bop.fm detects the user's streaming service and streams the song from that service. If a user picks a song not available through his or her streaming service, bop.fm will play it through free streaming platforms such as YouTube or SoundCloud.
To share a song, the user sends the tune's bop.fm URL. If the song isn't on the friend's streaming service, then bop.fm's search engines find another version through YouTube or SoundCloud. Bop.fm also provides links to iTunes, Amazon and Google Play to purchase the track.
While bop.fm collects a small finder's fee for any download sold through its site, Daredia expects the real monetization will come from data. Since its private beta launch in July, bop.fm has streamed more than 35 million song plays and is growing at a rate of more than 100,000 plays per day. Daredia declined to provide usership numbers but points out that the song plays represent "35 million data points ... We know not only what's popular and what's trending in the aggregate, but we also know what people like down at the individual level." Most bop.fm users connect through Facebook--a Twitter option is in the works--"so we know other things. We can tell that fans that like the band Capital Cities also like Coca-Cola and Xbox, for example. That could really be interesting for promotional efforts."
Daredia doesn't rule out the possibility of ads on bop.fm but says that "right now, monetization isn't the focus. The focus is on getting as many people aware of it as possible." To that end, bop.fm serves as the embeddable music player for websites like Rap Genius and Artistdirect. It is in negotiations with a number of other entertainment sites, social networks and wireless carriers to provide music integration; in most cases, that's in exchange for branding and distribution.
Artists are already aligning with bop.fm. In March the band Linkin Park used the site's URL to stream a new song to Facebook and Twitter followers, ensuring that all fans could hear the tune easily instead of having to select a specific streaming service. Country-music artist Keith Urban, rock group O.A.R. and singer-songwriter Christina Perri have done the same.
"Five years from now, we want to be the place where everyone goes to listen to their music," Daredia says. "It doesn't matter where that music comes from; we want to be that default destination."
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