MusicGrid.me recently relaunched just in time for Record Store Day. It's basically a site where people can rate and review albums, as opposed to singles, and see what other people think about those albums. But there's a bigger vision at play that co-founder Kyle Stapleton shared with me towards which he and co-founder Cliff Seal are slowly making their way.
Many web sites and services, not just in music tech, launch in a fairly simple form. Typically when I talk to founders of such sites their vision might be a bit larger but they seem mostly focused on why a feature as website is really all people need or want.
In discussing MusicGrid.me with Kyle Stapleton, I had one of those rare discussions where a much bigger idea was sketched out.
The Origins of MusicGrid.me
MusicGrid.me was designed and coded by Cliff Seal with Stapleton as the business co-founder. Both are apparently intense music lovers, the kind that Stapleton describes as still caring about full albums, about overall concepts and nuances from art to lyrics, about the experience of going to local record stores, speaking with clerks and buying music, about going to live shows at local venues and about talking endlessly with their friends about music and related experiences.
Stapleton's origin tale focused on an intense discussion with Seal in which they wanted to get a friend's take on things but that friend had moved to Sweden to work for Spotify. This led to more talk and somehow the idea of a place where in-depth discussion of music like they enjoyed offline could be created online.
Cliff Seal presented a somewhat different but related origin tale to Brenna Ehrlich for Mashable way back in the summer of 2011 when an earlier version of MusicGrid.me first emerged. But that version is also focused on getting the recommendations of friends and sharing musical perspectives with people you know and respect.
MusicGrid.me, even in its new version, remains similar to a prior version described by Andy Cush a year ago. The site is organized around albums and people rate and review them. Twitter and Facebook are used for logins and initial connections. Album pages have additional info with options to preview and buy the albums.
Some of the details have changed, such as preview options, but what Stapleton explained was truly different was the coding base. He says it's much cleaner and that they now have a stronger base from which they can scale the site.
The Larger Vision of MusicGrid.me
It's the scaling part that gets interesting. Stapleton said that in the process of talking to people about their experiences finding, discussing and purchasing music, their interest and commitment to indie record stores led them to Eric Levin of Atlanta's Criminal Records, one of the founders of Record Store Day.
They began discussing the problems facing indie record stores and, as I was surprised to find out, one of the big problems is the lack of affordable automated inventory services. In fact, Stapleton described his recent visit to Asheville where clerks at local record stores weren't scanning codes but writing down album sales by hand.
A related issue is the lack of data on what their target market is interested in and might be interested in buying though that's an issue that would clearly include both on and offline sources of data. Indie record stores apparently still rely almost totally on highly educated buyers to anticipate customer needs. On the indie store level, both are clearly needed.
Discussions of these issues led to a partnership between MusicGrid.me and Criminal Records that has two main features:
One is to build an online community of music lovers, the type that constantly obsess over music and that frequent indie stores. In addition to being a great thing in and of itself, such a community would be able to provide insights into what customers want to find at indie stores.
The second is to develop an affordable inventory system that would give stores a better grasp on what they have and allow them to more efficiently provide what customers need.
By partnering with Criminal Records they will have a limited test case to see what works and what doesn't. If that goes well, then they'll consider sharing it on a broader scale.
Such a vision is much larger than what they've created to date. I asked about how record stores might be integrated into the site and he said such integration might be more likely in relationship to a mobile app though he declined further discusson of the details beyond the obvious.
So we'll have to wait and see what that will entail but, for now, simply building a lively community of people who wish to share their perspectives on albums is a pretty big task on its own.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) is relaunching Flux Research and maintaining Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.