musical.ly

Musical.ly investor bets on internet radio with $17M deal for Korea’s Spoon Radio

Posted by | Altruist, Apps, Asia, bubble motion, bytedance, djs, Facebook, Fundings & Exits, goodwater capital, instagram, Internet Radio, Japan, korea, Media, Mobile, musical.ly, Singapore, Software, Southeast Asia, Twitter, vietnam | No Comments

One of the early backers of Musical.ly, the short video app that was acquired for $1 billion, is making a major bet that internet radio is one of the next big trends in media.

Goodwater Capital, one of a number of backers that won big when ByteDance acquired Musical.ly last year, has joined forces with Korean duo Softbank Ventures and KB Investment to invest $17 million into Korea’s Spoon Radio. The deal is a Series B for parent company Mykoon, which operates Spoon Radio and previously developed an unsuccessful smartphone battery sharing service.

That’s much like Musical.ly, which famously pivoted to a karaoke app after failing to build an education service.

“We decided to create a service, now known as Spoon Radio, that was inspired by what gave us hope when [previous venture] ‘Plugger’ failed to take off. We wanted to create a service that allowed people to truly connect and share their thoughts with others on everyday, real-life issues like the ups and downs of personal relationships, money, and work.

“Unlike Facebook and Instagram where people pretend to have perfect lives, we wanted to create an accessible space for people to find and interact with influencers that they could relate with on a real and personal level through an audio and pseudo-anonymous format,” Mykoon CEO Neil Choi told TechCrunch via email.

Choi started the company in 2013 with fellow co-founders Choi Hyuk jun and Hee-jae Lee, and today Spoon Radio operates much like an internet radio station.

Users can tune in to talk show or music DJs, and leave comments and make requests in real-time. The service also allows users to broadcast themselves and, like live-streaming, broadcasters — or DJs, as they are called — can monetize by receiving stickers and other virtual gifts from their audience.

Spoon Radio claims 2.5 million downloads and “tens of millions” of audio broadcasts uploaded each day. Most of that userbase is in Korea, but the company said it is seeing growth in markets like Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. In response to that growth — which Choi said is over 1,000 percent year-on-year — this funding will be used to invest in expanding the service in Southeast Asia, the rest of Asia and beyond.

Audio social media isn’t a new concept.

Singapore’s Bubble Motion raised close to $40 million from investors but it was sold in an underwhelming and undisclosed deal in 2014. Reportedly that was after the firm had failed to find a buyer and been ready to liquidate its assets. Altruist, the India-based mobile services company that bought Bubble Motion has done little to the service. Most changes have been bug fixes and the iOS app, for example, has not been updated for nearly a year.

Things have changed in the last four years, with smartphone growth surging across Asia and worldwide. That could mean different fortunes but there are also differences between the two in terms of strategy.

Bubbly was run like a social network — a ‘Twitter for voice’ — whereas Spoon Radio is focused on a consumption-based model that, as the name suggests, mirrors traditional radio.

“This is mobile consumer internet at its best,” Eric Kim, one of Goodwater Capital’s two founding partners, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Spoon Radio is taking an offline experience that exists in classic radio and making it even better.”

Kim admitted that when he first used the service he didn’t see the appeal — he claimed the same was true for Musical.ly — but he said he changed his tune after talking to listeners and using Spoon Radio. He said it reminded him of being a kid growing up in the U.S. and listening to radio shows avidly.

“It’s a really interesting phenomenon taking off in Asia because of smartphone growth and people being keen for content, but not always able to get video content. It was a net new behavior that we’d never seen before… Musical.ly was in the same bracket as net new content for the new generation, we’ve been paying attention to this category broadly,” Kim — whose firm’s other Korean investments include chat app giant Kakao and fintech startup Toss — explained.

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Musical.ly’s shutdown of Live.ly was contractually obligated

Posted by | Apps, bytedance, live.ly, Media, Mobile, musical.ly, Social, TC | No Comments

Musical.ly has begun redirecting users of its Live.ly app, which it decided to kill off last month, to a competing app called LiveMe. Existing Live.ly users are being pointed to LiveMe through an in-app message, it says. While it’s a fairly common industry practice for companies to direct users to similar apps or services when a product of theirs is being sunsetted, in this case, Musical.ly’s decision to close down Live.ly and send users to LiveMe was actually a contractually obligated part of Musical.ly’s nearly $1 billion acquisition by Chinese technology company Bytedance last year.

A clause in Bytedance’s agreement to acquire Musical.ly stated that, if the deal went through, Musical.ly would have to close Live.ly within six months, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

The agreement also said that Live.ly would have to point users to LiveMe for at least 30 days following its closure, we learned, when verifying the information.

The issue at hand was a competing investment – right around the time of the Musical.ly acquisition, Bytedance had also put $50 million into the live-streaming app LiveMe. Apparently, it didn’t want to operate two rival properties.

Clearly, this request was not a deal-breaker for Musical.ly – in fact, it’s integrating Live.ly’s feature set into its own app. That means it will still be something of a competitor to LiveMe, though now no longer a direct one. Musical.ly’s main app, after all, is not known today for its live streaming, but rather for lip syncing videos that are recorded and edited using the app’s included visual effects and editing tools.

In addition, Live.ly had not been able to attract the viewership numbers that Musical.ly had. The company said, when confirming Live.ly’s closure last month, the majority of live stream views were taking place in Musical.ly itself, not in its spinoff.

That said, Live.ly had a fair number of users. Though nowhere near as big as Musical.ly’s 200+ million registered users or 60 million actives, its live stream app had 26 million installs, around 70 percent in the U.S., according to Sensor Tower’s data.

But LiveMe is bigger – it has more than 60 million users and has paid out over $30 million to its broadcasters through its direct virtual gifting program, the company claims.

LiveMe is also not the only app operated by the company. Other LiveMe portfolio apps include the social short video app Cheez, and mobile gaming and esports live streaming app Fluxr. To date, it has raised a total of $110 million.

Live.ly isn’t only redirecting users to LiveMe, however. In its own announcement about the news today, it shows a screenshot that’s pointing Live.ly users to Twitter’s Periscope, for instance. The message also notes that the Live.ly domain name is for sale, and provides an email for sales inquiries.

Musical.ly hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment.

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Musical.ly kills its standalone live-streaming app Live.ly

Posted by | Apps, live streaming, live video, live.ly, Mobile, musical.ly, Social, Video | No Comments

Musical.ly is merging the functionality from its two-year old live-streaming platform Live.ly into its main app, and has disabled Live.ly’s standalone app as part of the transition process. The Live.ly app will eventually be pulled from the App Store and Google Play, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Instead of being able to go live, Live.ly users are presented with a message about the changes, informing them that live streaming has now moved over to Musical.ly.

This change is also confirmed via Live.ly’s App Store update text, which says:

Live.ly is becoming part of musical.ly!
– You can go live on musical.ly right now! Plenty of live content there!

Live.ly first launched in May 2016, offering Musical.ly users a live-streaming platform, where the streams were directly viewable on Musical.ly, as well as within the Live.ly mobile app.

As the video creator streamed, they’d see a count of how many people were watching, and would see hearts float up across the screen when viewers “liked” their content — an experience that’s very similar to Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live. Viewers could also chat with the streamer, and engage in real-time conversations.

Unfortunately for Live.ly users, there was little warning about the shut down, and it seems that, for some, live streaming on Musical.ly is not working as expected.

One regular Live.ly user posted to YouTube about the shutdown, complaining that after she made the switch to Musical.ly for her live stream as instructed, but no people were online watching and no likes and comments were showing up, either. This appears to be some sort of glitch, as viewers, likes, comments and other Live.ly core features are displaying for others who have been transitioned to the Musical.ly-based live-streaming experience.

Not everyone will be able to go live directly on Musical.ly today, as the addition of live-streaming support is a phased rollout.

However, the company says it remains committed to investing in live-streaming functionality, despite the Live.ly shutdown. We’re told that the majority of live-stream viewership was already taking place on Musical.ly’s main app, so it made sense for the company to consolidate the live video alongside the other short, lip sync videos Musical.ly is known for.

The closure of Live.ly is one of the first major changes to the Musical.ly product following its acquisition by Chinese media company Bytedance for up to $1 billion in November 2017.

Under its new ownership, Musical.ly launched a $50 million fund to help build out its creator community, but has also faced criticism for having poor content moderation capabilities — something that’s especially concerning given that a large part of its viewership audience is children.

It is also now facing a new threat: this month, Facebook began testing a Musical.ly competitor called Lip Sync Live.

The increased competition may have played a role in having Musical.ly consolidate its resources in order to focus on its flagship app, not its spinoff.

The main Musical.ly app has a reported 200 million registered users, 60 million of whom are active on a monthly basis.

Live.ly has been downloaded 26 million times to date, 87 percent on iOS. The U.S. accounts for about 70 percent of installs, according to data from Sensor Tower.

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Musical.ly launches $50 million ‘creator fund’ to build out its community

Posted by | Apps, Mobile, musical.ly, Social | No Comments

 In November, the popular lip-syncing app Musical.ly announced its acquisition by Chinese social media giant Toutiao, owned by Bytedance, in a deal sources said was valued at $800 million to $1 billion. Today, the acquisition has completed, with Musical.ly officially joining Bytedance, the companies said. In addition, Musical.ly announced the launch of a $50 million “Creator Fund”… Read More

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Musical.ly’s redesign adds video recommendations, new user profiles

Posted by | Apps, Mobile, musical.ly, Social, social network, TC | No Comments

 Musical.ly, an app best known for its lip-syncing music videos, but which has more recently begun to air shows from Viacom, NBCU and Hearst, is today rolling out an overhaul of its mobile app that will put an increased emphasis on personalization and recommendations. Most notably, the update includes a new “similar musical.lys” feature that uses computer vision to figure out what… Read More

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Someone knows something about this Marco Polo app that we don’t

Posted by | Apps, marco polo, Mobile, musical.ly, TC | No Comments

marco polo There’s a whisper in the venture community we’re hearing that is growing increasingly louder, and it’s about this video walkie-talkie app called Marco Polo. Investors are suddenly very interested in this app that — so we hear — might be growing in popularity among the youths. We’ve seen this story play out before, most recently with musical.ly. The app… Read More

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Live.ly shoots to the top of the App Store

Posted by | app-store, Apps, charts, live streaming, live.ly, Mobile, musical.ly, TC, Video | No Comments

live.ly-ios Live.ly, the newly released live streaming app from musical.ly, has now secured the top slot in the Apple App Store. That puts live.ly above Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Google Maps and Instagram.
Live.ly finished rolling out last Thursday and the app has already received over 500,000 downloads, the company tells TechCrunch. The app lets people broadcast what they are doing in real… Read More

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