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We Are Hunted Founder On Spotify App & Music Discovery [INTERVIEW]

We-are-hunted(UPDATED) Guest interview by Tyler Hayes of Nxt Big Thing with Stephen Phillips, founder and CTO of We Are Hunted.

NBT: In plain terms, can you describe what We Are Hunted does for those unfamiliar with the company?

We Are Hunted aims to be the best music discovery service in the world. We exist to help you find your next favorite artist. We do this by continuously scanning the internet, to find the best new artists in the world each day. We then make it easy for you browse these artists, listen to some of their latest tracks, save your favorites, and share them with friends.

Behind the scenes, Hunted is a technology company. We write search software that crawls the internet to identify people who are talking about new music. Our software captures what they are saying, and then attempts to understand what they are talking about.

Using this tech, we have created two core products. A music chart that ranks the most popular music online right now. And a recommendation engine that can produce a high quality playlist, based on a seed artist or genre. These products are available on our website at wearehunted.com, and on other services like our Spotify, WinAmp, and mobile apps.

Our community, music fans and industry insiders, tell us our products do a good job. They are effective at identifying cool new music as it becomes popular online. This is always nice to hear.

Probably the most visible consumer facing product is your Spotify app, can you talk about how that has been for the company? What kind of growth, numbers, or things you didn’t expect have you seen from the partnership?

Our web site still has many more users than our Spotify app. So I would say our site is still our most visible consumer product. That said, Spotify has been brilliant for us. It’s arrival was perfect timing for our move this year from Australia to NYC. It introduced our service to whole new audience.

Traffic wise the numbers have ranged between 600k to 1.2M users a month. This is based mainly on the amount of promotion Spotify itself gives the app. If Spotify promotes an app, you see a big surge in traffic. At launch, when there was only 12 apps, we got featured regularly, and we saw big traffic spikes. Over the last few months, as more and more apps arrive on the service, we have not been featured, and we now rely more on word of mouth. Still, traffic has been growing enough that it is totally worth it.

One metric that surprised me a lot is the “time in app” we see from our Spotify App. The average user spends nearly four hours per session using our app. That is an incredible number.

I guess when compared to the other Spotify apps, we are maybe in the top ten or so. Maybe a bit higher. It is hard to know as comparative stats are not available. Sounddrop and TuneWiki are clearly much bigger than us. Not sure how much more traffic they get. Maybe twice us, maybe much more.

The dev environment for Spotify apps is so much easier than Android or iOS. The audience is growing nicely as well. I would expect a lot of other music apps to join the service this year.

Our Spotify app, combined with our website, now gives us solid platform to really help emerging artists get exposure. We are working more and more closely with artists, and starting to have some real impact. It is still early days, but it is nice to get some reward for the last few years of effort.

What do you think of Songza? Do you consider the Amazon-backed company a competitor or threat?

Yes I have used Songza. I don’t consider them, or anyone else, a threat or competitor. Music discovery is not a zero sum game. People use a whole range of sites to discover new music. People’s needs and expectations of discovery services are as eclectic as their musical tastes. It is a huge, huge space, and no one service will ever satisfy it.

I do watch very closely what other services are doing. I use them all, to get a feel for what they offer. Looking for those little a-ha moments when you discover something cool and fun to use. Then I try to capture some of that feeling in the experiences we create. There is still so much left to build in music discovery, there is plenty of room for everyone to grow.

What music services are you using and do you like?

I have many favorite music services. Obviously I use We Are Hunted to find new artists. I use Hunted to sample a few tracks, then I head off to other services to buy the albums I like.

I love buying full albums, so I really enjoy eMusic.com. We have worked closely with their team for the past year or so, and we really respect what they do. They are great guys, and offer a fantastic service. I think it is the best place to buy albums online. For value and ease of use, nothing compares.

The hypem.com is still the gold standard in our space. They continue to dominate the market with millions of users. So many people still use it after all these years, the team and their community have to be acknowledged as the best around. They do an awesome job.

I adore thesixtyone.com. The site is absolutely beautiful. The user experiences these guys create are amazing. Their site and their iPad app Aweditorium are simply gorgeous. I think these guys introduced us all to a whole new way of thinking about what a music app should be. They showed me that we listen with our eyes, as much as our ears.

When I get time to read, I enjoy music reviews and news from sites like Pitchfork, NME, HypeBot, Evolver.fm, Digital Music News, Stereogum, Pretty Much Amazing. Gorilla Vs Bear, Pigeons and Planes and a few others.

I use YouTube a lot. The audio quality is not the best sometimes, but the catalog is huge. Nearly everything you could want is on there. It is so easy to find and share a track with friends. It’s the one guaranteed way I know, to share tracks with my parents and non-tech friends.

I use Spotify as my main player, mainly because the playback performance is unbelievable. Their p2p tech is so damn cool. I really like having a dedicated client, as opposed to a web player. I used iTunes for years, but now I use Spotify, because if I don’t own it, I can stream it. I find the spotify user experience to be simple enough. It lacks a few features, but the new apps have mostly solved that.

My favorite music company is The Echo Nest. Of all the people in the industry I have met, they are closest to us in the way they think and work. They are doing serious coding, working on the hard technical problems in our space. They deserve all the success they have had in recent years. They provide the plumbing now for so many cool music services. Most consumers would not appreciate the position of power they hold in digital music.

I love the work being done at the Next Big Sound. They innovate quickly, have great product, and the right skills to move a difficult market, along the road with them. We looked at their space when we started out and decided it was all too hard. They ignored all that, pushed ahead, and now they are killing it. I can see no one to challenge them over the next few years. They have too much runway and too much data. They will grow and grow to dominate music metrics.

I feel so lucky to be working in the music industry. To be surrounded by music all day. To always be thinking and talking about music with people I meet. Music is so seminal, so primal. It has the power to heal, and take us through time. It can help us focus, and help us forget. It can conjure memories, and ignite new dreams. Whatever state the industry is in, whatever the current problems we all have, music will live on. It is so cool to be thinking about it everyday, to be working within it, and have the opportunity to share it’s power.

What’s the next step or project for WAH? Are you still checking items off your initial want-to-do-list, or has that all been accomplished?

We are nowhere near done yet. We are busy right now working on version 3 of our service. Our last version was released in September 2011, and it did amazingly well for us. We knew, even when we were still in design, that people were going to love it. It just felt so right to us, the obvious next evolution of where Hunted should be.

This time is very different. We are heading in a totally new direction. There are some huge changes in the pipeline, that we hope will introduce us to a whole new audience. It is not what anyone would expect from us. And I think people are going to absolutely flip out when they see it.

Favorite album and/or band you’ve discovered this year?

I am currently listening to a few different artists including Tribes, Coeur De Pirate, Beirut, Nas, Yuck, and Mac Miller.

As a guitarist, I still love 80’s music like Jane’s Addiction, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du, and Superchunk. My favorite bassline of all time is in Been Caught Stealing (best video too) and fav guitar track is still Little Wing.

I think I have discovered more new artists using Hunted in the last 12 months, than in the rest of my life combined. It’s so much fun to build a product you use yourself every day.

 

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