Earbits Brings Its Indie Music Discovery Service To Android

Earbits, a free music service where independent musicians and labels can pay to promote their work to fans, is launching its first mobile product today — an Android app.

It’s been more than two years since the Y Combinator-backed startup first launched. That seems like a long time for a music service to go without a mobile app.

However, CEO Joey Flores told me that Earbits isn’t just a regular music app — again, one of the main selling goals is to help musicians promote themselves, and for fans to promote those musicians. So the default mode for other music apps, where you just turn on the app and then let the music play without interacting, isn’t really what Earbits is going for.

“We really need you to engage with the artist for this to be a success for us,” Flores said.

So while building a mobile app at some point was a “no brainer,” Earbits had to do it in the right way, and in the meantime the team has been focusing its attention on the web version. In fact, the new Android app was created through a partnership with SproutBox, a firm that invests man-hours and support in a startup, rather than money, in exchange for equity.

I don’t own an Android phone, so I wasn’t able to try out the app myself. Flores said it supports most of the website’s functionality and adds some cool new features. For one thing, it can analyze the music on your phone, recommend Earbits channels that you might enjoy, and then mix your music in with the channel. There’s also a Boom Button allowing users to easily join the mailing list of a musician whose work they discover in the app, and to recommend that musician to a Facebook friend.

Flores said the company wants to build an iOS app as well, and he’s open to doing that through its work with SproutBox — but it sounds like there haven’t been any definite decisions made.

Earbits is also sharing some details about the progress of Groovies, the social currency that it launched in February. Users receive Groovies in exchange for “artist-friendly” actions, and the currency can be used to pay for on-demand music play. Since launching Groovies at the end of February, the company says user activity has increased significantly — Facebook fan acquisition increased 101 percent, email list signups went up by 261 percent, song recommendations on Twitter rose by 85.8 percent, overall Facebook sharing increased 29 percent, and the percentage of users who share songs on Facebook and twitter rose by 20.6 percent and 36.5 percent, respectively.

Earbits also says that since the Groovies launch, musicians and labels that have paid to have their songs played more frequently are seeing an average of eight new Facebook fans and 16 mailing list sign-ups for every 1,000 tracks streamed.

When I asked about general usage numbers, Flores said that most of the company’s effort in the past couple of years has gone more into building out the site and acquiring content, so that there’s a reason for the users who do find Earbits to continue using it. The catalog now includes more than 100,000 songs from 9,300 artists and 550 record labels.

“The site’s definitely been growing, but we’ve mostly been focused on laying a foundation before we start firing away on user acquisition,” he said.