Music Startup Spawnsong Wants To Be Kickstarter For Single Tracks

Holy incremental music startup, Batman! Spawnsong is a (very) new music platform startup with a strategy to elbow into the crowded digital music space by focusing on a very thin wedge: individual songs.

Slicing things even more niche, Spawnsong’s target is tracks that aren’t even finished yet. The basic idea is to be a platform where musicians upload clips of songs in progress so future buyers/fans can get a taste of forthcoming tracks and decide if they like what they’re hearing or not.

They then have the option to comment on the track, or pre-order it if they’re convinced enough to put cash down up front. Full payment is taken on delivery of the finished track.

Pre-orders cost $1.23, with payment info taken at the point of pre-order, and the payment itself taken on delivery. Spawnsong’s business model is based on taking a cut of the pre-orders. It says it’s still figuring out what proportion that will be, based on negotiating “more appropriate terms” with payment provider Stripe.

For hipsters hunting the coolest new tunes in town, Spawnsong’s premise takes things a hairline closer to music’s bleeding edge. Call it a pre-jam discovery platform.

Whether that concept turns out to be genius or junk remains to be seen. It does seem likely that there will be a fair lot of junk to sift through to track down any future gems — but at least your hunt won’t require multiple minutes of time per song, with snippets on Spawnsong limited to a max of 42 seconds.

Spawnsong is the brainchild of startup newbie Justin Kim, a 25-year-old UCLA economics graduate, who came up with the concept last December. The idea was inspired by Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories teaser TV ad, which included a 15-second preview clip of Get Lucky. It’s also, he says, the way he likes to consume music.

“I can usually tell whether or not I’m going to love a song within the first 23 seconds,” he tells TechCrunch. “The way to properly promote a song in this modern era is to give the audience just a taste, not the whole song in a lesser bit rate.”

“Our competitive advantage lies in the compact nature of our hosted content,” he adds. “This allows users to approach the issue of music discovery in an expedited manner. I think it’s how people will consume music in the future. Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark, et al. for older songs; Spawnsong for the fresh stuff.”

Kim convinced his family to kick in a $30,000 seed. That’s been used to hire freelancers — sourced via Hacker News — to build the platform, which went live on March 1.

Competitors to Spawnsong are the likes of SoundCloud and Bandcamp, according to Kim. And of course the biggie: iTunes. But none of those existing established platforms is focusing on driving pre-orders for songs that haven’t actually been finished yet. Hence the opportunity he reckons he’s spotted.

Of course there are existing crowdfunding platforms providing a way for people to get a taster of what’s coming and spend on things that don’t exist yet. And both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have whole sections catering to music makers.

But the big crowdfunding platforms are generally aimed at helping musicians fund longer works, like albums and EPs, rather than individual songs. (And indeed they don’t specialise in only music, covering all manner of projects.)

Spawnsong is altogether narrower and more specialist. The aim, says Kim, is to become a new music discovery platform where people build up a playlist of freshly released tracks.

“SoundCloud’s vision is big and wide. They’re focused on capturing sounds of all kinds, not just music. Spawnsong‘s focus is much more specific,” he says, when asked why other existing music platforms might not just crowd him out by adding a feature allowing musicians to showcase song clips and sell forthcoming track pre-orders.

“I think having a specific platform that is dedicated to just finding and listening to new jams is the ideal method. Spawnsong is my experiment to test this hypothesis,” he adds.

Kim has built it; now he needs to convince the musicians and hipsters to come. The site has only a handful of contributors right now, and will clearly need some serious marketing muscle to drive enough content to get the music punters crowding in.

Kim says he intends to apply to Y Combinator in the next batch — and is “actively seeking” to raise a $2 million seed, likely to pay for all the marketing Spawnsong is going to need. There is undoubtedly an awful lot of ifs and buts attached to this fledgling startup. But not all entrepreneurs start out with a contact book bulging with VCs’ numbers.

And, given the nascent nature of the content he’s targeting, it’s rather fitting that the platform is, as Kim puts it, “a work-in-progress.”

“I can’t wait to see what it looks like 11 months from now,” he adds.

It remains to be seen whether he’ll like the view.