As Spotify continues its march to becoming a $1 billion-revenue company, the music streaming service is launching a battery of new products to increase the amount of time that people spend on the site: There is an iPad app that could launch as soon as tomorrow; and there is the ability to play Spotify tracks on third-party websites, launched last week. Another development in Spotify’s stickiness has been the rise of third-party, web and mobile apps, which have been planting themselves on its platform and growing in use.
One of the more popular has been Soundrop: a jukebox-style app coming out of Oslo, Norway that lets users create playlists or listen to “rooms” of music created by others, adding their selections to the mix — similar to Turntable.fm, except that it works in more countries (everywhere that Spotify does; currently 13 markets compared to Turntable’s U.S.-only limit).
It’s not only users who are finding Soundrop popular: Inge Andre Sandvik, the co-founder and CEO, says the company is weeks away now from closing its first round of funding from “leading VCs.”
Soundrop’s growth is what first caught my eye: In January after being live for 20 days, Soundrop reported 2.4 million tracks played. By February, that number rose to 15 million. And now Soundrop tells me that in March the number more than doubled, to 34.2 million tracks played. Inge Andre Sandvik, the co-founder and CEO of Soundrop, points out that March alone saw more tracks played than Turntable had in a period of three months.
The company is hoping to better those numbers yet again with the launch of a new version of its app, out this week. New features include the ability to search for a specific room; find rooms where your Facebook friends are; create your own private rooms; a new layout; and the ability to edit and bookmark rooms once created.
Much like Instagram’s early bet to develop only for iOS until it got things really right, Soundrop has put its money on Spotify rather than extend to work with other music services.
For now, Soundrop’s service offers a way of getting around one of the big opportunities/challenges with Spotify: You can play whatever you want, but as Sandvik puts it, “That is also part of the criticism of Spotify: it’s just too difficult [for most users] to get started.”
And even among those already using the service — those who Sandvik calls “heavy music listeners” — there are already tendencies to be less adventurous. There is apparently enough music already on Spotify to listen continuously for the next 100 years and still not hear the same track twice. But a recent study at the University of Oslo found that even with a wide catalog, most people stick to a very narrow selection of music on services like Spotify.
In addition to Sandvik, other founders include Ali Sabil, CTO; Johann Prieur, running product management; and Ole André Vadla Ravnås who is responsible for client development. Their backgrounds span the range of Norway’s tech scene: they are ex-Opera (the mobile browser that could), ex-Tandberg (now Cisco), and the CEO, Inge Andre Sandvik, sold his last company (Mobile CTI, a mobile search and apps company) to the country’s biggest carrier, Telenor.
These four have been funding the company up to now but Sandvik says Soundrop currently has offers on the table from “leading VCs” and is likely to close its first round “within weeks.”
Soundrop also has other plans on the horizon that point to some interesting ways of combining music, social and a user’s physical location.
Soon, users will be be able to find “music rooms” based on their physical location. Why? The plan, says Sandvik, is twofold: to let users listen to music from other locations, and to extend the market of legally played music to public places.
“We have reason to believe that the license model for streaming music players will change and that it will be legal to use a streaming music player in bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. Soundrop is a perfect tool for all of these businesses to engage their guests and customers with. You can imagine checking in with your phone to your favorite cafe and be able to either vote on the music that is upcoming or add your favorite tracks.”
And just as other companies like Foursquare want to offer data management to retailers, so plans Soundrop: “We will offer professional customers a CRM tool that they can use to understand who their customers are and a tool for them to communicate with them.” He says this is the same tool that Soundrop offers labels and artists so they can understand more about who their fans are and how they can build stronger relationships with them.
The other area where Soundrop hopes to create revenue, especially as it continues to add users, is in the area of contextual music ads. “More recommendations of tracks than ads,” explains Sandvik, with the ads relevant to the type of music in each playlist room.