It wasn't that long ago that many of us were lamenting the lack of online music services in New Zealand. What a difference just a few short years can make.
Nowadays there may be a near infinite amount of music available online, but one newly launched music service called Upbeat has developed a really unique and surprisingly addictive approach.
Finding something new to listen to that doesn't sound like the manufactured plastic bilge cranked out by an endless number of Tupperware boy bands can be a real challenge. The real shame of it is that there are a huge number of really talented musicians who've been largely ignored by the studios. This could soon change thanks to Upbeat.
Built from the ground up to help users discover new music. There's a heap of different music on the site, and a quick explore reveals a vast number of genre variants.
The sheer depth of Upbeat has to be seen to be believed - this is largely due to the fact that Upbeat users can submit and share songs. For bands looking for exposure, Upbeat has the potential to connect them with whole new audiences across the globe who'd otherwise be blissfully unaware of their existence.
Wanting to find out more, I caught with Upbeat's COO Clark Dinnison to find out what makes the service tick.
Pat Pilcher: So how would you describe Upbeat to the average person?
Clark Dinnison: Upbeat is like Reddit for music. Users can submit songs they like and other people have the chance to vote on them, creating the internet's music charts.
PP: So How does it work?
CD: Anyone is able to sign up for free and submit songs they like. The rest of the community will listen, comment, and vote, inadvertently building the music charts (also, users gain karma points every time their song submission is upvoted). The charts are categorized by genre and sorted by rank, so the best songs float to the top, while the not-so-good songs fall to the bottom. Users can also save their favourite songs, share them on social media sites, and build a queue of songs to play next.
PP: What inspired it?
CD: We felt that the Top 40 charts that are common these days didn't accurately reflect what the internet was really listening to. We also wanted to give smaller and independent bands a chance since much of the Top 40/Billboard charts are swayed by money and the major record labels. Upbeat aims to solve this problem by providing a transparent music chart curated by the internet's listeners.
PP: Did you come from a music background?
CD: All three of us have a passion for music and have played instruments in some capacity (two of us were in bands), so we definitely resonate with many of the artists on Upbeat and the industry as a whole which we think has a lot of room for improvement.
PP: How has the reaction been from the music industry?
CD: The reaction has been amazing from both artists and music fans (and bloggers). Within a couple days of launching we hit 1,000 users and were consistently seeing hundreds of people on the site at the same time. We were able to get a lot of early feedback and make some good improvements which will help us scale.
Tons of artists have reached out and thanked us for building a platform like this as well as casual listeners who think it's a fun way to discover new music. We're definitely onto something so we're excited to see where it goes.
PP: Are there any plans to sell any of the music on the site?
CD: Users can buy songs via Amazon right now, but we're looking into other options - obvious ones being iTunes and direct from the artist which we hope to support soon. We're all about giving as much back to the artist so we're constantly getting feedback from bands on how we can improve this.
PP: The Upbeat site has a very clean crisp almost minimalist look, how tricky was that to achieve?
CD: It was actually one of the hardest parts of building Upbeat. The motto 'less is more' was really our motivation for designing the app and we think we've found a good balance of simplicity and functionality. We've packed a lot of features into one page and made it responsive to any screen size, so there's been a ton of time put into figuring out what stayed and what had to go.
PP: How many artists have songs on the site so far?
CD: We have over 2,000 unique artists represented on Upbeat so far and it's growing by the hundreds each day. People are coming to Upbeat to discover new bands and we're seeing lots of interesting things happen related to artist promotion and fans spreading the word about new songs/albums all over the web.
PP: How many genres are you covering at the moment?
CD: Right now, we have 5 top-level genres (Pop, Electronic, Urban, Rock, Metal), but each one of those have multiple sub-genres to accommodate more specific preferences. We're receiving great feedback on what people want as far as genres and will be adding some new genres very soon.
PP: So what's next for Upbeat?
CD: We're really excited about working on mobile apps for iOS and Android. Adding more sources to submit songs from is one of our priorities, as well as partnering with some awesome companies to help make Upbeat become the standard in music charts.
Upbeat can be found at upbeatapp.com