Musixmatch Wants to Be the 'IMDb of Music Lyrics,' Launches Lyric Video Messaging App

Giuseppe Costantino
Massimo Ciociola

These days, you're almost as likely to get a music message as you are to get an iMessage with increasingly popular apps like Boomio and Rithm, which allows users to send friends and followers texts in the form of, or alongside, a song. Musixmatch, a Bologna, Italy-based lyrics site -- the largest in the world, in fact -- is attempting to change at least some of that with Clip, a personalized lyric video service that launched on Friday.

Though CEO (in his case that stands for "Chief Emotions Officer," by the way) Massimo Ciociola thought of the idea for Musixmatch in 2000, when he was running mobile platform and wireless application services provider Wireless Solutions Spa, it didn't really come into fruition until 2010 after he had been noticing the disconnect between increasingly mobile music listening and the search for accompanying lyrics.

"We saw that the music was starting to grow on mobile in 2010, and we were seeing how big the demand of this lyrics site content was," Ciociola, who goes by Max, tells Billboard. "We were asking anyone we know, 'Do you really search for lyrics? Why you do that?' Lyrics are one of the top five Google terms searches. People were searching more for lyrics than for sex, which is unfortunate -- more than soccer, more than football, more than any other thing."

The experience, Ciociola noticed, was "crap." It was clunky listening to a song on one service such as Spotify or YouTube and then leaving that app to Google song lyrics in a different browser window; even then, he adds, it was possible to get a different result every time because there was no singular, properly licensed database of song lyrics (this was before Genius, formerly RapGenius, had been sued by the NMPA for failing to license their own lyrics databse, not to mention raised $15 million from Andreessen Horowitz). 

"At that time, they weren't getting anything from lyrics sites. All websites, excluding a few of them, were illegal," says Ciociola, who struck deals with all the entities including Sony, Universal, Warner/Chappell, BMG, Kobal, and the Harry Fox Agency; he also counts David Israelite as a supporter of these deals and Musixmatch in general. "We literally had to structure a licensing deal because they didn't have any for these kinds of things before. These kinds of deals in the publishing industry are a mess, because one single lyric could be co-owned by all of them." 

Musixmatch, which has raised $10 million in two rounds of funding since it was founded in 2010, counts over 10 million monthly users that use its website (which launched last month) and mobile app to listen to its 9.3 million-strong library of songs with synced lyrics in 39 languages. Somewhere between Shazam and Genius, Musixmatch offers users the option of entering the song they want to find the lyrics to, listening to a song that's already in the application's database, or letting Musixmatch scan whatever they're listening to on a streaming service or in their own library. If they don't have the track, "the platform continuously learns," explains Ciociola. "If we scan your library and you don't match anything -- maybe you have a niche library -- we ask the community." 

That's the other thing: Musixmatch has a crowd-sourced component, so other users can add lyrics or corrections. This sense of community building permeates the basis of Clip, which allows users to take 20-second videos of themselves and set it to song on the iTunes charts or in their music library with lyrics, effectively creating their own lyrics video, as you can see from the above preview. They can then share it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Right now it's only available on iOS, but the arrival of an Android Clip app is imminent (Musixmatch was voted one Google's top Android apps of 2014). 

"Lyrics provide feelings, memories and help users to catch their life’s moments," said Ciociola in a statement about Clip. "We're now empowering creators to make awesome video clips with their music and their favorite lyrics with Clip app."