Guest post by Zach Rota of sidewinder.fm
Products often start with a good idea, but a hypothesis is only the first stage of development.
In the music startup world, there needs to be an equilibrium between the fanatical visionary trying to enter a market niche, and the market itself, which is composed primarily of casual listeners that may not share the same vision as the founder.
Identifying that niche can be rather difficult, because one often needs be a fanatic to do so.
The founders of LouderLogic grew annoyed with how the iPhone transitions between songs. So they created an app that smoothes the shift and helps to present the nuances of certain tracks. Now more listeners are starting to understand that it enhances their listening experience and appreciate a more polished sound.
Founders must also start small and accept that it will take time.
As Eric Ries explains in his book The Lean Startup, testing the market is an essential first step in the product development process. Beginning with a “minimum viable product” — the simplest offering needed to gauge user interest — is a reliable and popular method.
This approach is often used to create music. On SoundCloud, an audio-sharing platform, many artists upload their works in progress and receive feedback from their audience — and then, they return to the studio to rework their songs. They build their product, gauge the response, learn what works, and adjust accordingly.
The creators of exfm started by aggregating songs into an online music library, simply as a Google Chrome browser extension. But over time, it developed features to allow users to explore and discover new music.
Firmly attaching yourself to an initial vision can hinder development, whereas user feedback tends to slowly reveal a path.
Songza began as YouTube streaming and custom radio, but their users eventually led them to create Music Concierge, a popular feature that offers playlists mood and activity at any particular moment.
Moreover, in his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that it takes time for users to settle into a routine, wherein a certain action merits a certain reward. With each repetition, less brainpower is required to perform the action for the reward, until it takes almost none at all.
For example, Pandora’s solution for personalizing the listening experience — up and down buttons — have become standard. Users have integrated them into their lives and made them part of their listening routine. This is why adoption among mainstream users takes time.
If you consider the age of the iPhone, the entire music app sector is relatively new. Understandably, there are a number of problems that have yet to solve, which leaves room for startups develop new solutions. But one thing is clear: Trying to create a million dollar, all-encompassing product for the mainstream market often results in catastrophe. Just look at the dramatic implosion of Beyond Oblivion in 2011.