Splash.FM: A Music Discovery Social Network That Scores How Hip You Are

Oh, you liked that band since before they were cool? Now you can prove it with Splash.FM. Launching in private beta today, the music social network lets you share songs and raise your Splash score when you help others discover them. Splash.FM lets you follow other tastemakers and listen through lists of the most popular songs across the site or your network.

Splash.FM’s biggest weakness is also a differentiator — it has no streaming licenses so major label songs only play as 30-second samples, but tunes by independent artists can be played in full and downloaded for free.

If you want to join the private beta, the first 500 readers to enter the code “TECHCRUNCH” in the bottom right of Splash.FM will gain exclusive access.

Splash.FMs share box lets users select from an expansive library of pre-loaded songs and samples, or upload anything they can’t find similar, to Turntable.fm. If a song appears on iTunes it plays as a sample, otherwise it can be played or downloaded unless the artist complains. This naturally skews the site towards undiscovered indie bands, remixes, covers and other content more likely to appear on Hype Machine blogs than the radio.

If Klout is your influence score across the web, Splash.FM wants to define the influence of your music taste. Users can “Splash” or favorite songs they discover on the site. Each song displays a Splash Lineage, or the order of who discovered it first. As a user’s shared songs are splashed by others, their Splash Score increases creating an addictive gamified experience.

Splash.FM was founded by two students, Alex Gatof from University of Michigan and Jason Fiedler of UPenn, using a friends and family seed round. Built on HTML5, the site is accessible from mobile. The startup plans to monetize through a combination of iTunes store affiliate links, sponsored placement for artists, and analytics services for the music industry.

The big question is whether users are willing to discover music on Splash.FM if they have to listen to elsewhere, such as on subscription streaming services, YouTube, or iTunes. It’s certainly annoying when you start grooving to something shared by a friend and it suddenly cuts off 30 seconds in. A year ago people were used to hearing samples, but in the age of Spotify, serious music fans who Splash.FM is targeting demand more. Many of its use cases are now handled by on-demand streaming services, or one-upped by Facebook’s new Listen With simultaneous playback feature.

I think Splash.FM would work better as a Spotify app allowing major label tracks to stream in full. However, This would exclude user generated uploads as well as the newest tracks from the blogosphere, and reduce revenue options. Rdio’s API are another option. As it stands, Splash.FM is a fun companion app for discovering music and taking pride in your own taste. Unfortunately, its appeal is limited to hardcore independent music seekers who won’t miss streams of mainstream acts or mind keeping another tab open.