What's the best way to find and discovery new music? Los Angeles-based Earbits (www.earbits.com) has developed a service geared around new music discovery and streaming, making it easy for passionate music fans to find new bands, tracks, and albums they like. We caught up with co-founder and CEO Joey Flores to learn more about the service, plus hear more about the new on-demand service and the challenges it is trying to help musicians and labels deal with in the age of Internet streaming.
What is Earbits?
Joey Flores: Effectively, what we're trying to do at Earbits is build a marketing platform for record labels and bands,. We're doing that by building a very engaging, streaming music service, with lots of direct-to-fan tools built on top of it. Instead of focusing on a new ad unit for sponsors, we add the ability for our users to join a band's mailing list. So, when you like a band on Earbits, you're not liking their profile on Earbits, you're actually liking their official fan page, so they can communicate with you, and you can discovery their material effectively. Everything we do, in terms of tools, are an effort to make the streaming service one that brings fans and bands closer together, and provides more value to artists and labels. The value for acquisition of a fan is much higher than the fraction of a cent those artists and labels would be earning in royalties from ads and commercials.
What kinds of bands and labels is this aimed at?
Joey Flores: We think this is a solution that even the largest bands and labels would want to use, especially as we achieve larger audience growth. Right now, we're primarily with independent and unsigned artists, and have about 490 record labels we're working with.
What's the story behind the company?
Joey Flores: We started the company three years ago. When we started, we didn't have any music to speak of, or an audience. It was a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. So, it took us some time to build out our catalog. Now, we recently reached the 100,000 song threshold recently, which was a big milestone. In terms of financing, we went through the Y-Combinator accelerator. Since then, we've raised money from Charles River Ventures, Matt Mullegwag, the founder of WordPress, Geoff Ralston, the former founder of Lala, and others, working with the best angels and Y-Combinator.
Can you talk about what the new product is about?
Joey Flores: It's a big win for both consumers and bands. Our site has historically been more of a radio experience. You had 300 channels to pick from, somewhat similar to Pandora. However, sometimes you might run across a band, and weren't sure if you wanted t join their mailing list, and first wanted to hear a couple of the band's songs. But, since it was radio style, on-demand was something we didn't allow. The new release gives the platform more on-demand features. In addition to the 300 channels, we now allow you to save your favorites and listen to them on-demand. You can play a track, or listen to the entire album on demand. The unique thing we are rolling out is a currency called Groovies. You earn those when you help the band, by sharing a track on Facebook or Twitter, or joining a miling list or liking their official fan page. In the future, you'll be able to check in at a live concert, and also earn Groovies. You earn credits any time you do something which creates value for an artist. Those credits are what give you access to the on-demand features.
What are the problems bands and labels are facing in this day and age, and how are you helping?
Joey Flores: The major problems, are that the streaming services that are popping up are, to some effect, replacing album purchases. You can now go on Spotify and listen to any track or album, which is great for consumers. The reality is, most people I know who have a subscription have stopped buying recorded music. But, you when you look at the value which is created for artists and labels compared to purchases, there's no comparison. It takes an incredible amount of listening before you can make up what a band makes on an album purchase. Monetization of streaming is a big challenge for the industry. Artists are not getting a fair amount of value for streaming. At the same time, they're spending lots of marketing, which is not working either, buying clicks on social websites, or Google Adwords, or what have you. It's really hard to target people based on their musical tastes. And, even if you did, it's hard to convey what your message sounds like through text and pictures. What's unique with Earbits, is we've built something that a consumer wants to use to discover new music. The best advertisement you have for your band is really the music.
Who are the consumers who use your site, and why?
Joey Flores: The people who are the most passionate an excited about Earbits, are people who want to discover new music. That turns out to be a pretty big population. Most people want to discovery new stuff, they just don't want to do any work. Site like Pitchfork are great for people who want to read about what's hot, and click from article to article, and click on a track to listen to it. That's great for people who are serious enthusiasts. But, there's a whole group of people who want discovery, but don't want to read about it on blogs. They'd like to turn on the alternative rock channel and hear something new. They're tired of hearing the same thing, over and over, on every service. In terms of creating a service to scale, there's also mainstreams and more independents interested in the platform. There are labels and bands who, years ago, wouldn't have worked with us, but as we've grown, we've been able to secure their music. Every time we do that, it's more interesting to a slightly more mainstream audience, and we get audience growth, which becomes more interesting to bands. We'll be ratcheting up the food chain in terms of how mainstream we become over time.