Business Matters: TastemakerX Raises $1.8 Million to Deliver New Social Music App
Business Matters: TastemakerX Raises $1.8 Million to Deliver New Social Music App

TastemakerX Called "Fantasy Sports For Music Lovers"
Does the world need more music discovery tools? Judging from the ongoing flow of money into the social music space, music discovery is still a major problem in need of great solutions. The latest example is $1.8 million in funding landed by a social music app developer called TastemakerX.

TastemakerX's long list of investors includes Baseline Ventures (Instagram, StumbleUpon), AOL Ventures (bit.ly), True Ventures (Bandcamp, Schematic Labs), Tekton Ventures and Guggenheim Partners (who along with Pluribus Capital Management created Prometheus Global Media, the parent company of Billboard). The company's list of advisors includes head of music at William Morris Endeavor, Marc Geiger ( #21 on Billboard's Power 100 list), Topspin Media CEO Ian Rogers and entrepreneur and journalist John Battelle.

TastemakerX was co-founded by Marc Ruxin and Sandro Pugliese. CEO Ruxin is a former EVP, Chief Innovation Officer at McCann Worldgroup who is on the advisory board or board of directors of Ning and Tapulous, among other companies. CTO and CPO Pugliese was most recently the co-founder of luxury digital media server company Sooloos.

So what's TastemakerX all about? Ruxin called TastemakerX "fantasy sports for music lovers" in the press release. The beta version on the Tastemaker X app will be available March 1, according to the TastemakerX website. Little is known about the app but the website gives a few clues. "Build a portfolio of your favorite artists to express your musical tastes," it reads. "Establish a personal influence score. Trade artists, and add photos, locations and comments and publish it all to your social graph. Pick the right bands at the right time and attract new followers to become a top music Tastemaker."

In some ways it seems similar to the re-launched Herd.fm iPhone app. Herd.fm aims to create a music discovery experience for mobile devices while tracking users' influence on other users. People share and discover on PCs all the time, but the mobile experience requires unique solutions for discovery, Herd.fm CEO David Nam previously told Billboard. "Currently on a mobile phone it's isolated and it's broken." Splash.fm, a new web-based social music service, also tracks users' influence on the listening of others. ( Press release)

CDs Still Valuable, But New Products Needed
People still buy CDs. It's true. And they do it for good reasons. Analyst Mark Mulligan (formerly with Forrester Research) asked via Twitter for reasons why people buy CDs then posted the results, along with other stats, in an insightful blog post. He found that 77% of his "tech savvy" Twitter followers still buy CDs because they value ownership (28%), like to support their favorite artists (25%) and like the physical object's artwork (23%). Sound quality (15%) and the CD's role as a backup to digital files (12%) were also top reasons given for buying CDs.

But people won't always buy CDs in current numbers, of course. So Mulligan calls for a new breed of digital product to offset the CD's long and slow slide - to keep the pie from shrinking, so to speak. "The CD remains one of the music industry's most valuable assets, second only to those consumers who are still its loyal buyers," writes Mulligan. "Now those consumers need a new generation of music products that meet their needs in a way that downloads and streams clearly do not."

There's another way to pie can grow or stabilize. What about creating a new generation of music buyers? New digital products are one thing, but much of digital music's potential comes from the opportunity to turn inactive music buyers into active music buyers. This wouldn't necessarily be a group comprised of young consumers. As a recent Los Angeles Times' profile of Cricket's Muve Music explains, "Cricket's customers come from a slice of society largely ignored by companies peddling cutting-edge technology and digital media. More than half of the service's subscribers are African American or Latino and earn less than $50,000 a year. Fewer than 35% own laptops. Cellphones are the center of their digital lives." ( Mark Mulligan's Music Industry Blog)

North American Consumer Confidence Rises, But Still Lags Behind Rest of World
US consumer confidence rose in North America in the fourth quarter of 2011 while falling in most other areas of the world, according to Nielsen. The percentage of North American consumers who believe they are in a recession dropped to 86% from 88% in the third quarter. That figure rose in all other major regions. China was the other major market to experience a rebound in consumer confidence. In all, consumer confidence fell in 35 out of 56 markets.

Another way to look at the numbers is a bad situation got slightly worse. Even though the percentage of North Americans who perceive a recession fell two percentage points to 86%, that's still much higher than Europe (74%), Middle East/Africa (74%), Asia Pacific (53%) and Latin America (47%). The West has the least consumer confidence and consumers are remaining cautious. Dr. Venkatesh Bala, Chief Economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen, notes "there is still a reluctance to spend, especially in the West" and rising tensions in the Middle East could erode consumer confidence by negatively impacting gasoline prices. ( NielsenWire)