Sharing the music I love is broken. Discovering new music from people whose taste I care about is broken.
Previously, music discovery meant hearing something new on the radio, or a friend playing a new CD/tape/record for you (and letting you borrow it if you were lucky). Or maybe a friend made a mixtape or burned a CD of new music for you. The physical and cost burden of media meant that sharing and discovering music required effort, and therefore resulted in greater emotional reward.
Digital media has removed the burdens of accessing music, but in the digital world we’ve lost the curation and curation conversations with friends and people whose taste we care about. Sharing music today means throwing a Youtube link onto Facebook, Tweeting out a Soundcloud track, poking into some shared Spotify playlists, or sending an MP3 file around. Discovering music means scanning social media, jumping between music services, remembering word-of-mouth recommendations, and screening out that one Facebook friend who insists on posting country music videos.
My workflow for sharing the music I love and discovering new music is broken. I’m building Stereotypes—a new social music platform—to make it easier and emotionally rewarding to share and discover music you love.
Addicted to music
I have been a music fanatic for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are driving around Indiana with my mom in 1981 (when I was 4), listening to Queen on the radio, or washing the car with my dad—Led Zeppelin and The Police booming out of the radio. When I was 6, I would put on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” record, tape down one walkie-talkie’s “talk” button, and then take the other walkie-talkie with me down to the lake—so I could go fishing but take my soundtrack with me. I taped the Top 40 countdown every week off the radio on my boombox, and curated and copied my favorite songs back-and-forth endlessly between mixtapes.
I listen to music from the moment I wake up until my head hits the pillow. I’m addicted to concerts, music festivals, and dancing out and about. And, yes, I realize that I’m a 35yo adolescent. Music taps into our pleasure centers, it connects us to the moment, to each other, to our pasts and sometimes to nothing at all but a great anthem that we share with those around us.
One of the most significant moments of my life was arriving in Brandenburg, Germany in 1993 as an exchange student, and not being able to communicate with my host family. We drove home in silence, until Depeche Mode—and if you know me, you know how much I love Depeche Mode—came on the radio: “Master & Servant” of all songs! There was singing, there was tapping of the steering wheel, there was breaking of the ice.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve had radio shows, DJed, produced electronic music and spent entirely too much money on music hardware. I’ve produced hundreds of mixes which have been downloaded by thousands of crazy fans around the globe, and pressed onto thousands of CDs for friends. I love music. A lot. I love connecting with my friends over music. I love connecting with people I don’t know—or just met—over music.
The thing is, we all love music. Music connects us. And although we’re living in an amazing age where music is instantly searchable and previewable and downloadable, I’m disappointed with how we connect with each other through music in 2012.
Turns out my good friend Jason Keck was experiencing the same dismay. Jason and I worked together at Scient (starting on the same day in 1999). We’ve kept in touch over the years, taking turns living in London, sharing many wonderful loving friends, traipsing around the playa at Burning Man, and causing disco damage in Ibiza.
“Team Taz” at Scient in 1999
Jason and I started talking. And thinking. And researching. And discussing. And plotting. And scheming. And laughing.
We developed an idea for this new social music platform called “Stereotypes”. Jason left Shazam, and I left Etsy to pursue this full time. We’re building a business, raising investment, and building a team to help us build what we believe will be a fundamental change to the way we share music, taste and recommendations.
Stereotypes allows you to connect with your friends, and people with similar taste, through music. We’ve developed a unique new way to describe and compare your music taste, allowing you to understand how your taste is similar—and different—to your friends’, while also making it easy to discover new tastemakers. I don’t care about all my Facebook and Twitter friends’ music taste, and also don’t want to be Facebook Friends with Lady Gaga or follow Timbaland on Twitter. Stereotypes is a way to connect to just those people whose music taste you care about.
And whereas Facebook is starting to surface listening activity, and Spotify allows you to share playlists, we’re making it seamless and easy to share music recommendations across all the platforms. We’re building a standalone website, a Facebook App, a Spotify App, an iPhone App, and Android App that works across all of the social networks, all of the major music services to make it easy for you to have conversations around music. Stereotypes makes it easy to rate, to recommend, to share, to discover.
We’re working with some other smart friends, as well as Dr. Jason Renftrow from Cambridge University, who has spent the last few years researching music taste and has developed unique Myers-Briggs style music personality identifiers, which we’re using to help you find friends and other users with similar taste.
I’m blown away by the reception we’ve gotten so far, from the handful of partners and investors we’ve spoken with. There is so much to do, both on the business side, and the technology side. I’m impressed and humbled by my co-founder Jason, and so excited for the future.
Over my professional career, I’ve oscillated between (1) my love of technology and (2) my love of consumer media (music, art, stories). It’s wonderful to find that my passion and my destiny is at the intersection of the two.
A rocket ship is taking off, and I’m loving every moment. To my friends, family, colleagues, advisors—your support over the years has helped me to get to this point. Thank you.