The digital revolution has brought changes to the music industry, for better or for worse. Most of the times we hear about the negative effects - from online piracy to diminishing physical sales and the closing of beloved record stores. However, in the midst of all the copyright battles and debates for online music access, the digital revolution has also put a positive spin on the industry, breathing life into new and innovative technologies - with SoundHound being one of its success stories in the area of music search and query.
Initially released in the late 2000s, the SoundHound app was one of the first of its kind, using a then-breakthrough technology in voice and sound recognition, which aided in identifying tracks and their original artists. Since its launch SoundHound has garnered a following of over 230 million users and counting, helping eager music fans to find the name of that one catchy song they heard on passing.
At the heels of the 16th SF MusicTech Summit, we had the chance to talk with Katie McMahon, the Vice-President and General Manager of SoundHound, Inc., on what it's like to run one of the top music search engines in the world, as she also gives some sage wisdom for start-ups in the music tech business today.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into the music tech business?
When the first Internet era was happening in Silicon Valley, I made a leap of faith to go work in Tokyo to get in to mobile tech, thinking it might just be ‘the next big thing.’ Those years provided unique experiences and perspectives that shape how I drive businesses to fulfill and exceed on ‘solving a consumer problem,’ and how to create consumer behaviors. I later spent several years based in London building Shazam, pre-smart phone era and then for the launch of the App Store era. For nearly four years, I have been part of the team at SoundHound and based in Silicon Valley, where we are busy building future technologies, productizing them, and ensuring users are delighted.
Talk to us about SoundHound.
Currently, SoundHound is most known for its music search, discovery and play mobile application (also named SoundHound), which has over 230 million users globally. SoundHound Inc, the company, will be one of the major companies of consequence in the mobile computing era. At the heart, we are a technology company made up of brilliant and committed thinkers and doers.
From a business standpoint, do you have statistics you can share with us regarding music search and discovery apps?
Statistic for the number of music search and discovery apps that can find a song stuck in your head through a sing/hum query: one.
SoundHound is the only app that can take a hummed rendition of a song and present the user with not just the title and artist, but also lyrics, a preview of the song, links to buy or stream it, beautiful artist images, music videos, and more. What is truly remarkable about this feature is: this rounds out the truth to the statement that SoundHound is every gateway to music. Within the app, every mode of search is offered: music recognition, sing/hum search, text search and voice search. And the search result pages are beautiful, intuitive, and full of rich content.
Another nugget to share: when we launched the “Add to Playlist” feature, which enables users to SoundHound a song and drop that track into their Spotify playlist seamlessly, there was such pent-up demand for this feature that, for the first 48 hours after the feature went live, there was a enormous spike in the ‘Add to Playlist’ activity, indicating that SoundHound users went back through their search histories, and added songs manually, ensuring those songs and moments were also kept and accessible in a playlist.
How do you see the mobile landscape changing in the next few years?
It will fade in to the background to be less obvious and obtrusive, while at the same time delivering greater seamless value.
Lastly, what is some advice you would offer to startups in the music industry?
Be sure to understand the three legs of the music tech industry stool: Users, The Labels, and The Business Models. Within that mix, at any given time, assume one leg is wobbly and plan accordingly… or better yet, figure out how to build a hovercraft.