music streaming

Talking the future of media with Northzone’s Pär-Jörgen Pärson

Posted by | augmented reality, blockchain, content, Distributed Ledger, Entertainment, events, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, live tv, live tv streaming, Media, music streaming, Northzone, Personnel, PJ Parson, slush, Startups, streaming, Talent, TC, television, tv, tv streaming, Venture Capital, Video, video streaming, Virtual reality | No Comments

We live in the subscription streaming era of media. Across film, TV, music, and audiobooks, subscription streaming platforms now shape the market. Gaming and podcasting could be next. Where are the startup opportunities in this shift, and in the next shift that will occur?

I sat down with Pär-Jörgen “PJ” Pärson, a partner at European venture firm Northzone, to discuss this at SLUSH this past winter. Pärson – a Swede who now runs Northzone’s office in NYC – led the top early-stage investor in Spotify and led the $35 million Series C in $45/month sports streaming service fuboTV (which has roughly 250,000 subscribers).

In the transcript below, we dive into the core investment thesis that has guided him for 20 years, how he went from running a fish distribution to running a VC firm, his best practices for effective board meetings and VC-entrepreneur relationships, and his assessment of the big social platforms, AR/VR, voice interfaces, blockchain, and the frontier of media. It has been edited for length and clarity.

From Fish to VC

Eric Peckham:

Northzone isn’t your first VC firm — Back in 1998, you created Cell Ventures, which was more of a holding company or studio model. What was your playbook then?

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Social music app Playlist lets you listen to music with others in real time

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Music, music streaming, playlist, Social, Startups, streaming | No Comments

A new app called Playlist aims to make music a more social experience than what’s offered today by the major music platforms like Apple Music, Pandora or Spotify, for example. In Playlist, you can find others who share your musical tastes and join group chats where you listen to playlists together in real time. You can collaborate on playlists, too.

The app, backed by investment from Stanford’s StartX fund, was founded by Karen Katz and Steve Petersen, both Stanford engineers and serial entrepreneurs. Katz previously co-founded AdSpace Networks and another social music platform, Jam Music. She also was a founding executive team member at Photobucket, and founded a company called Project Playlist, which was like a Google search for music back in the Myspace era.

Peterson, meanwhile, has 35 patents and more than a decade of experience in digital music. In the early 2000s he created the software architecture and ran the team at PortalPlayer Inc., which powered the iPod’s music player and was later sold to Nvidia for $357 million. Afterwards, he was CTO at Concert Technology, a technology incubator and intellectual property company with a focus on mobile, social and digital music services.

“The world has gone social, but music has been largely left behind. That’s a real gap,” explains Katz, as to why the founders wanted to build Playlist in the first place.

“Ever since we started listening to music from our mobile phones, it’s become an isolated experience. And music is the number one thing we do on our phones,” she says.

The idea they came up with was to unite music and messaging by synchronizing streams, so people could listen to songs together at the same time and chat while they do so.

During last year’s beta testing period, Playlist (which was listed under a different name on the App Store), saw a huge number of engagements as a result of its real-time nature.

“Out of the gate, we saw 10 times the engagement of Pandora. People have, on average, 60 interactions per hour — like chats, likes, follows, joins, adds and creates,” Katz says. 

Under the hood, the app uses a lot of technology beyond just its synchronized streaming. It also leverages machine learning for its social recommendations, as well as collaborative playlists, large-scale group chat, and behavior-based music programming, and has “Music Match” algorithms to help you find people who listen to the same sort of things you do.

The social aspects of the app involves a following/follower model, and presents playlists from the people you follow in your home feed, much like a music-focused version of Instagram. A separate Discover section lets you find more people to follow or join in other popular listening and chat sessions.

At launch, the app has a catalog of more than 45 million songs and has a music license for the U.S. It plans to monetize through advertising.

The core idea here — real-time music listening and chat — is interesting. It’s like a Turntable.fm for the Instagram age. But the app sometimes overcomplicates things, it seems. For example, importing a playlist from another music app involves switching over to that app, finding the playlist and copying its sharing URL, then switching back to Playlist to paste it in a pop-up box. It then offers a way for you to add your own custom photo to the playlist, which feels a little unnecessary as the default is album art.

Another odd choice is that it’s difficult to figure out how to leave a group chat once you’ve joined. You can mute the playlist that’s streaming or you can minimize the player, but the option to “leave” is tucked away under another menu, making it harder to find.

The player interface also offers a heart, a plus (+), a share button, a mute button and a skip button all on the bottom row. It’s… well… it’s a lot.

But Katz says that the design choices they’ve made here are based on extensive user testing and feedback. Plus, the app’s younger users — often high schoolers, and not much older than 21 — are the ones demanding all the buttons and options.

It’s hard to argue with the results. The beta app acquired more than 500,000 users during last year’s test period, and those users are being switched over to the now publicly available Playlist app, which has some 80K installs as of last week, according to Sensor Tower data.

The company also plans to leverage the assets it acquired from the old Project Playlist, which includes some 30 million emails, 21 million Facebook IDs and 14 million Twitter IDs. A “Throwback Thursday” marketing campaign will reach out to those users to offer them a way to listen to their old playlists.

The startup has raised $5 million in funding (convertible notes) from Stanford StartX Fund, Garage Technology Ventures, Miramar Ventures, IT-Farm, Dixon Doll (DCM founder), Stanford Farmers & Angels, Zapis Capital and Amino Capital.

The Palo Alto-based company is a team of six full-time.

Playlist is a free download for iOS. An Android version is in the works.

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Going public pits Spotify’s suggestions against everyone

Posted by | apple music, Apps, Entertainment, Fundings & Exits, Media, Mobile, music streaming, Opinion, Spotify, Spotify IPO, Startups, TC | No Comments

 The secret to Spotify’s public market debut is actually an acquisition it made in 2014. The Echo Nest was powering music recommendations for Beats Music, Rdio, Vevo and iHeartRadio before Spotify pulled it out from under them by buying it for a reported $100 million — 90 percent in Spotify equity. That deal paid off big time. Read More

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You can now play your music across multiple Echo devices

Posted by | Amazon, echo, Gadgets, Music, music streaming, smart speakers | No Comments

 Amazon this morning announced a new feature for its Echo devices called “multi-room music,” which allows owners with more than one Echo to control where their music is played, or even sync it across a group of Echo devices using voice commands. For example, you’ll be able to tell Alexa to play your music in the living room, play music upstairs or downstairs, or even just… Read More

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Apple picked up talent, tech from defunct music startup Omnifone in August

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Entertainment, Europe, Media, Mobile, Music, music streaming, omnifone, TC | No Comments

6584949945_c0a7f7d8d5_b As the race continues to pick up more subscribers for streaming music services, TechCrunch has learned that one of the most prominent players in the field quietly picked up some talent and tech to advance its position. Apple hired at least 16 employees and purchased select technology from Omnifone, an early player in streaming music services that filed for bankruptcy this summer. The… Read More

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Spotify > YouTube as audio streaming surpasses music videos

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Music Sales, music streaming, music videos, Spotify, Startups, TC, YouTube | No Comments

spotify-over-youtube Audio didn’t quite kill the video star, but it’s making a comeback. Americans are now on-demand streaming more songs as audio than they’re consuming through music videos. The shift highlights the importance of music in the battle for mobile profits, plus it could help artists get paid more.
Analytics provider BuzzAngle Music tells TechCrunch that since the start of 2016… Read More

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Apple returns fire on Spotify, calling out ‘rumors and half-truths’ over App Store rejection

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Gadgets, iap, in app purchases, Mobile, music streaming, Spotify, streaming, subscription, TC | No Comments

spotify The dispute between Apple and Spotify over subscription revenues continues today with a letter from the former accusing the latter of using “rumors and half-truths” to advance “unfair and unreasonable” demands. Read More

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Facebook Messenger adds music, starting with Spotify song sharing

Posted by | Apps, Entertainment, Facebook, facebook messenger, Media, Mobile, music streaming, Social, Spotify, TC | No Comments

messenger-spotify First came the Transportation hub with Uber, and now Facebook Messenger is launching “its very first music integration” with Spotify. Inside the Messenger “More” section in chat threads, all iOS and Android users will now find a Spotify option. Tap it and they’ll be shuttled into Spotify’s app where they can “Search for something to share.” Once… Read More

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