Berlin-based music startup Musicplayr, which offers a service that allows users to collect and listen to songs from YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo, DailyMotion and music blogs, is now exiting its private beta period, and opening up to all users worldwide, including those in the U.S. The company is also announcing a €500,000 seed investment led by Lars Langusch of Holzbrink Ventures. It's the first outside investment the formerly bootstrapped startup has taken in.
According to co-founder Stefan Vosskoetter, the company actually had a few different VCs interested in investing, but they chose to work with Holzbrink because they already knew the firm well. Vosskoetter and Musicplayr's other co-founder Thorsten Lüttger, had previously worked with them on an earlier startup they founded, Webnews.com, acquired in 2008.
As for the service itself, Musicplayr seems to be filling a niche by addressing the challenge of discovering music across an increasingly fragmented web. Unlike streaming services such as Spotify, MOG, Pandora, Slacker or Rdio, for example, Musicplayr isn't working with record labels or distributors – it's just sourcing music content that's already hosted elsewhere. That content may be from popular artists who have videos on YouTube, or it could come from some undiscovered local band who posts their tracks to SoundCloud.
Musicplayr, to be clear, doesn't actually host any of the songs on its service, it just embeds them. “We work exactly like a Tumblr or WordPress blog,” explains Vosskoetter of the technology involved. He says that he and Lüttger were inspired to create the service because it was something they wanted for themselves – it's the proverbial “scratching your own itch” startup story.
“Thorsten is really deep into electronic music, and I'm a bit more into indie music,” Vosskoetter says. “He was switching around websites all the time…this was his problem. My problem was that I had a Tumblr blog, and I put on [it] videos from YouTube and widgets from SoundCloud. I just wanted to play this music like I play it in iTunes – with a player where I hit ‘play' and all this music would play subsequently.”
Around a year ago, the two founders launched a prototype player which they had 100 friends begin testing, in order to determine interest. Almost immediately, 30 of those original testers became daily users. “The quality of the music was so good…right from the beginning,” says Vosskoetter, “after two weeks or so, it was the best discovery engine.” They then invested a little of their own money into startup, and launched into closed beta at the end of last year.
Now a team of nine, Vosskoetter says the investment will be mainly used towards hiring and continued product development. One of the upcoming features involves integration of music identification service Gracenote. Afterwards, users won't have to label themselves with tags as they do now (e.g. “indie,” “electronic”) in order to indicate their interests to attract new followers – Musicplayr will know what they like based on their music selections. Also in the works is a mobile application, arriving first on iOS, which will include a Shazam-like function to tag music you hear and then add the identified tracks to your Musicplayr playlists.
Vosskoetter says the eventual plan is to make Musicplayr a freemium service, and they're considering various options for that now. Nothing is set in stone, but they may follow the model where heavier users pay for advanced features. For now, however, Musicplayr remains free, and you can sign up here.