Exclusive: Mixcloud launches 'the YouTube of radio' on Monday

Listen up, music lovers. Mixcloud, the on-demand radio startup that’s re-thinking radio for the digital age, opens its doors to the public at noon on Monday. The site launched in private beta at SXSW earlier this year, and has had some positive reviews. Which is probably why it was shortlisted for a TechCrunch Europas award a few months back. After the jump, we’ve got 500 passes for TechCrunch readers to get a sneak preview of Mixcliud’s ‘cloudcasts’.

Online radio is very much a digital media orphan; languishing in a fragmented space while innovations in other aspects of streaming media have come thick and fast over the last few years. Mixcloud’s vision is to be the YouTube of radio with on-demand radio shows spanning music and talk and truing to make it make it more social, personalised and ‘democratic’.

Melodica 03 August 2009 by Chris Coco on Mixcloud

Anyone can upload to the site and the listeners decide who gets exposed. Of course, it has social tools built in, so users can share and discover radio through friends. There’s also a radio recommendation algorithm to help users find shows they love.

The startup was founded by Nikhil Shah and Nico Perez, who met when they studied at Cambridge University (maths and engineering, respectively, since you ask). Like many tech startups, the idea came from trying to scratch an itch.

The guys, both radio presenters and DJs, were frustrated by how hard it was discovering and promoting radio online. They realised more could be done to help connect this content to listeners. So they quit their jobs, got developers Mat Clayton and Sam Cooke on board, and built an invite-only beta which they marketed primarily through Twitter, signing up around 100 new users a day.

More than 1,000 content creators use the site now. The shows currently lean towards club music and DJs, given the founders’ background in organising clubnights and warehouse parties. However they are in discussions with big hitters in the broadcast world to expand the breadth of content.

The revenue model is part ad-funded, part freemium, part based on white-label partnerships that allow content creators a means to distribute and monetise their content on-demand to an online audience. Shah is keen to emphasise the fact that Mixcloud operates in the intersection between radio and online. It’s a good place to be; traditional radio advertising is a $31.5 billion market. But it is being cannibalised, with a lot of the spend moving to the nascent online audio ad market.

The founders have bootstrapped the company so far, helped along with a £100k grant from the Technology Strategy Board, on the back of which they’re leading a project with Queen Mary University’s Centre for Digital Music, working on innovative recommendation technology.

Perez and Shah say that while they’re proud of far they’ve got with relatively such little cash, they’re definitely looking to raise a funding round later this year, to take full advantage of the momentum they have in the industry.

We’ve got 500 exclusive passes for the pre-launch preview for TechCrunch readers – click quick! http://www.mixcloud.com/accounts/register/?code=techcrunch