From the June 2014 issue of Entrepreneur

Music

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."

More Music Brilliance

Songkick: Never miss your favorite band again. This app syncs with your music library to let you know when the boys (and girls) are back in town and provides links to purchase tickets.


Interlude made a huge splash in 2013 with Bob Dylan's mind-blowing, scene-shifting video for "Like a Rolling Stone," which used the company's proprietary Treehouse web app to let users navigate through the existing clip to create their own unique experience or build interactive videos of their own.


The palm-size Bass Egg sends vibrations into everyday objects to turn them into robust speakers; the bigger the object, the bigger the sound.


A little bigger than a flash drive, the Leap Motion Controller enables users to interact with a computer with just their fingers and hands, translating the gestures into 3-D input. Use it for gameplay, creating art and music or navigating a desktop.


AfterShokz headphones use mini-vibrations to conduct sound from the cheekbones to the inner ear, leaving the ear itself uncovered and allowing users to listen to tunes without tuning out the rest of the world.


Roadie Tuner attaches to the pegs and automatically tunes your guitar, syncing with a smartphone app to dial in the sound. It even tracks elasticity and tells you when it's time to replace those strings.


JamFeed: This Facebook-integrated app provides breaking news on your favorite artists, bands and festivals, from new music and local shows to interviews and music videos.


Integrated with Pandora, Beep connects to devices via Wi-Fi to play synchronized music on all speakers, receivers and docks throughout your house.


Started in the U.K. and now available in other locations including New York, Twickets allows for fan-to-fan ticket sales, at face value or less, through Twitter or mobile app.


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