Sometimes, but very rarely, you are lucky enough to have two profound passions intersect. It is even more rare to be given the chance to turn these intersecting passions into a business. This a brief history of how that happened.
For me, my first love was music. Even as a child, a perfect song was the antidote for whatever I needed. Although I never had the aptitude to play music, it became a something to pursue throughout my life as a fan, a collector and sharer.
The best thing about music is that there is always something new to hear, or something old to discover. It is easily the most fluid and prolific art on the planet. More songs are produced daily than all the books and films created in a month. There is so much music archived from the past, and being created in the present, that eventually everybody will be able to tap into that incredible interconnected world of songs and the fans who love them.
My second love, or at least my most recent but long tenured passion is technology. Today we have a global media network solid enough to distribute almost anything you can imagine to anyone on the globe with a phone or computer and an internet connection. That intersection of music and technology, has always represented a holy grail of sorts. The mere fact that today there exists a handful of companies that have built an infrastructure to have almost any song delivered directly to you wherever you are was simply unimaginable 20 years ago when I started my career in the music business.
Three years ago an old college friend and I started a business to help people to discover music and other likeminded music fans. “Music Tech” companies are typically few and far between given the difficulty and expense of building both the infrastructure and then successfully dealing with the requisite rights holders. So against our better judgment, in November of 2011, TastemakerX was officially born, thanks to a handful of risk taking investors, and more than a small leap of faith. We started by building a game, modeled after the stock market, to help tastemakers get credit for discovering bands before they broke out, and more passive music fans could merely follow the trend.
Although many music technology companies have tried and failed to create what has always seemed like that inevitable disruptive silver bullet business for music fans of all shapes and sizes, only a few of them were able to survive and thrive as the world of devices and connectivity continued to catch up.
For me there was always one company that seemed like a kind of kindred spirit in how they chose build out their product, putting people (users, fans, consumers) on equal footing with the music. Rdio always displayed artists with the context of the people that had to listened to them, whether they were friends or merely the most recent listener. You could navigate between people and the collections they built, as easily as browsing artists or songs. This was both reassuring but also intimidating for a small start-up staring at a truly beautiful product built by some of the best engineers and product visionaries on the planet.
So inspired, we built our product on top of Rdio. You could log into Rdio on TastemakerX, and just let the music play. The core users of Rdio were always genuine music nuts and technology early adopters who appreciated the beautiful design and ease of use. Although always only a small fraction of the size, our user base has/had a very similar composition. As such, it is with unbelievable pride and excitement that I can now officially say TastemakerX is now part of Rdio. The whole TastemakerX team will be joining this most excellent voyage in the Rdio offices, strangely just four blocks away.
I genuinely believe we are still in the very earliest innings of the global digital music game. With over two billion smartphones, and less than 25M digital music subscriptions, we are only just beginning. Combine that with the fact that most people still don’t understand that for less than the cost of one downloaded album on iTunes or Amazon, you can have an all you can eat 25M+ collection of music streamed to your desktop or phone, or downloaded locally to either device. Not long ago you would had to either be incredibly rich, or certifiably insane to have tried to amass collection like this. Today almost anybody can afford access to anything for less than the price of a fancy sandwich.
Unlike many of the other players in the space, Rdio exists, in one way, as fiercely independent. It serves only the master of distributing a great music experience. It is not in business to sell hardware, search queries, or physical products. It is my hope that over time, music discovery becomes easier, more fun and seamlessly social. Rdio really is a place for music lovers, we thrilled to begin this next voyage.
Marc, Sandro and the rest of the TastemakerX band.