Bop.fm CEO on Creating a Universal Platform For Music Services
The Y Combinator-backed startup lets users share universal song links and playlists that work for everyone by automatically detecting the user's best available source. Today, Bop announced a $2 million round of funding from Charles River Ventures and launched verified artist pages.
“[Bop.fm] reminds me of how Twitter simplified the sharing of information and opinion,” notes Charles River Ventures’ George Zachary, an early Twitter investor, in the company’s press release.
Bop isn't sharing how many individual users have signed up yet, but the service has processed more than 50 million song plays since opening to the public in December 2013. According to Bop, founded by CEO Shehzad Daredia (formerly of Billshrink, Rho Ventures and Kayak) and CTO Stefan Gomez (formerly of Science and Billshrink), the funding will allow the team of six full-time employees to hire more engineers and expand business development efforts.
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In addition, select artists — including Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, Tiesto, Wiz Khalifa, Depeche Mode and Christina Perry — now have verified pages with playlists, tour dates (powered by Songkick) and song lyrics (powered by Lyricsfind). In an interview with Billboard, Daredia says the incentive for artists to use Bop is the ability to share one link on their social media accounts that will work for anyone, allowing their work to be accessed by the widest variety of listeners. For now, the verified artists are hand-picked, but Bop might open up the feature in the future.
In one example Daredia gives, if Snoop Dogg (a Bop.fm-verified artist) wants to add Dr. Dre’s “Nothin’ But a G Thang” to a Spotify or Beats playlist, he can’t; that song isn’t in either services’ catalogue. Because Bop’s “catalogue” of songs consists of anything on Rdio, Beats, Spotify, YouTube or SoundCloud (and Deezer for some international users) Snoop could create a playlist of songs from a variety of different of sources: “Nothin’ But a G Thang” (YouTube), the Four Tex remix of Sia’s “Chandelier” (SoundCloud) and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (Spotify) could all co-exist on one (weird) embeddable Bop.fm playlist.
What if that YouTube video gets taken down? Bop says it will automatically find and replace it with a new source.
“We do all the heavy lifting under the hood and just expose the nice clean song.” says Daredia. That heavy lifting includes the parsing, indexing, normalizing and deduplication of many data sets, as just one song can have a dozen different entities between album, single, explicit, clean, remix, international or U.S. versions.”
Users can also import, continuously sync and build off of existing playlists from other services to Bop. The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere Jones left some songs off his “best music of the year so far” playlist, simply because they weren't on Spotify. “There is no single source for the zeitgeist,” he cited.
Bop is positioning itself to be that single source. And the service could be a smart tool for digital publishers who want to share songs and playlists their whole audience can hear -- not just those that subscribe to one service -- with a far more attractive embed than a YouTube video. For example, audio playback on Rap Genius is powered by Bop.fm.
While Bop doesn't have album pages yet, Daredia says they are on the roadmap. “When we do albums, we don’t want to clutter the users view with multiple versions of the same album.” By applying the same deduplication technique Bop uses with songs to albums, Bop could potentially provide a clean, chronological list of albums as opposed to a confusing feed of reissues, clean versions, etc.
Currently, Bop supports Rdio, Beats, Spotify, Deezer, YouTube and SoundCloud, and displays iTunes, Amazon and Google buy links next to songs. Bop is in conversation with “the majority of the major music services” says Daredia. “We plan to integrate more major services when their APIs become ready for us. We are technically first in line for many of these APIs.”
Daredia also indicated that Bop is in talks with some major home audio companies. Bop does not source local files and is purely a web-only service, although mobile is in the road-map.
Bop also gives free analytic reports to artists who share Bop links. “We can not only tell them how many clicks [on a bop.fm link] but ultimately how many song plays that generates,” says Daredia -- including if someone listens to a song multiple times, adds it to a playlist or puts it on repeat.
Bop can also break down plays by country, browser, operating system, device and service (as well as the other services that user had access to and what other songs that user listened to). “We’ve had campaigns where people have come back and said, wow I didn’t realize that 10 percent of my audience uses Deezer, I should consider doing marketing campaigns with Deezer,” he says.
Bop uses Echo Nest data to recommend tracks to users and provide a radio-style listening mode. Because Bop doesn’t have to filter out songs not in its “catalogue” when making recommendations, it can leverage Echo Nest data in a more comprehensive way than most other services.
“The cool thing about our agreement with Echo Nest is that you will discover songs on Bop via Echo Nest data that you wouldn't discover other places because they just don’t have them,” says Daredia.
Will The Echo Nest and Bop continue their contract post-Spotify acquisition? “I can't comment on what the future holds, but I will say it is not a core, pressing issue for us that they were acquired by Spotify,” he says.
Bop is not the first service to tackle the issue of music interoperability. The open-source, cross-platform desktop app Tomahawk also offers a solution for music fragmentation. Founder Jason Herskowitz has frequently written about the subject -- often likening the current fragmentation of music services to the early days of texting.
“Tomahawk called attention to the product early on, it blazed the trail.” says Daredia. “We like tomahawk from a conceptual standpoint … I know J[ason], great guy, very smart. That said, we don’t use any of Tomahawk’s data or APIs, we built everything in house. Other people have said they like to think of Tomahawk as a science project where we are a product and a company.”
Other similar services and competitors include Songdrop, LetsLoop and disco.io.
While music executives and fanatics may care about the technology and the brand that delivers a song, ultimately most people will enjoy their favorite artists’ music regardless of the platform in the quickest and easiest way. Bop doesn't pay licensing fees, stream music from its servers, or host any of the content. So even if services enter the market, consolidate or shut down, Bop could potentially find the next available source -- and just let users keep listening.