NEW YORK - While music doesn't have a huge presence at this year's TechCrunch Disrupt conference -- there are only a handful of music startups in the exhibitor area and only one presented during the startup battlefield today -- it's clearly on the minds of many people here.
That one startup, Rexly, isn't even specific to music -- it's a social discovery site that acts a recommendation engine for books, films, and other media, as well as music (although its website still describes it as a "mashup of iTunes and Facebook"). Discovery isn't a new problem and plenty of startups have tried to solve it, but Rexly offers some innovative ideas. The site lets a user socialize around an iTunes purchase, and has different privacy levels that allows users to share purchases with everyone, only certain friends, or no one (in the case of those guilty-pleasure buys). Users can comment on their friends' purchases and create conversations around the track, as well as listening to clips.
The only music-specific panel, "Disrupting Music With Social," was short and sweet, and pretty much skirted the challenges of working with the music industry altogether. Instead, Soundcloud's Alexander Ljung and SoundTracking's Steve Jang both talked about how social media is moving music forward. Jang said that even if you don't use social music sites to discover music, "it gives you insight to your friend's feelings and moods, based on the music they are sharing and listening to." Ljung shared a story about Imogen Heap using Soundcloud to crowd source sounds from her fans, and then putting them all together in a new track.
"It's an amazing thing for a fan to be able to interact with an artist like that," he said. Ljung also shared that he woke up this morning to a 50 Cent track in his inbox -- the rapper had posted vocals and was looking for users to provide beats.
Finally, Ljung said that despite no shortage of naysayers, he believes the music industry is in "a better place than ever."