In an attempt to watch their development, I’ve been keeping tabs on a small Columbus OH startup called Cannon.fm. I first talked with them several weeks ago before their product launch, and have been interviewing them occasionally, to see how they are adapting, changing, improving, revising their business model and product.
That product — a streaming radio iOS app called Cannon.fm that is specifically for local musicians — launched over the weekend. How is it working out? It’s not perfect, I can’t lie, but I am still loving it.
First, let me get the bugs mentioned and out of the way. One issue I have noticed is that, sporadically, two songs will play at the same time and you have to kill the app and restart to get it back to normal. I mostly noticed this bug when I was using their nifty “skip/replay” buttons (a differentiator that most free streaming services don’t offer). I would say it happened less than 5% of the time though, but needed to be mentioned (they have a fix already submitted to the iTunes store so shouldn’t be an issue going forward). Also, I noticed some occasional network connection issues.
I forgive these growing pains in a bootstrapped startup, because I have been going through a most pleasant trip of nostalgia and discovery over the last week or so (using a demo version of the app). I have listened to some bands that I haven’t heard in years and discovered a few new ones…in short, I think I have experienced exactly what Cannon.fm is hoping to deliver.
Let me say, Columbus Ohio is a great rock and roll town. The bars of High Street — fueled by the creative energies of the huge student body of The Ohio State University — have been a fertile crescent of musical goodness for decades.
I can think of 4 or 5 rock bands that got their start here, signed big-time record deals and almost…almost hit the big time. Certainly the music was good enough. Maybe the timing was wrong. Big time or small time, those great players and fabulous bands remain local heros and important parts of the fabric of Columbus (I see Colin Gawel of Watershed a few times a week; he’s back on tour as we speak).
But here’s the thing, every college town (even if it is tiny or has 1.8 million people in it, like Columbus) has this story…the fabled “rock and roll city that almost was.” That is why this app has so much potential and is a platform to spread the goodness of a scene beyond the confines of its geography. It can also help keep alive the aggregate memory of certain “scenes” in a city’s musical development.
There are a lot of bands I streamed for a week or so that don’t exist anymore, but that occupy a considerable portion of the memory and experiences of my younger days. Indeed, not every band from a city can succeed at the non-local level but just because they go no further doesn’t mean all their songs suck. They can still be a great rock and roll band even if they don’t sign big contracts and that’s why I think Cannon.fm is as much an archive as a discovery tool. There is additional value in that for a lot of cities.