Streaming Music is a tough business. Just ask MOG. Or Guvera. Or Grooveshark. Or Milk Music. Or Rhapsody. Or Beats Music. Or iHeart Radio, who are filing for bankruptcy. The streaming music space is littered with the corpses of the last-next-great thing. Why? Put simply, music is expensive, and as companies scale, profits get eaten by royalties. Meanwhile, tech behemoths like Apple, Google, and Amazon can run their streaming services unencumbered by a bottom line and at massive scale, all while monetizing across multi-product ecosystems.
Enter Audiomack. Over the past year, Audiomack’s Facebook user rank has been consistently rising, and just this month broke into the top 1000. This could the the sign of something big - the growth curve looks very similar to Blue Apron’s uptick just before it achieved kitchen dominance.
On the surface, Audiomack seems almost like a SoundCloud clone, and in one respect it is: Like SoundCloud, Audiomack helps emerging artists upload music and find an audience. But unlike SoundCloud, which allows almost any artist to upload any audio, from podcasts to Top 40, Audiomack is very specific: Audiomack focuses on Hip-Hop and select genres.
That focus appears to be working for Audiomack, too.
“Audiomack does not have any confusion on that,” David Ponte, Audiomack co-founder, told Thinknum Media. “We do not intend on being a full service streaming service. We want to focus on new artists, younger artists and emerging artists. We pick a genre and focus on that genre to grow it.”
Audiomack started with Hip-Hop, and while it’s opened up to Electronic, Dancehall and Reggae and, most recently, Latin music, it’s remained close to their bread-and-butter.
“Hip-hop is the most popular music genre in the US right now,” says Ponte. “And hip hop artists tend to have a propensity to put out a lot of music. A platform such as Audiomack can become popular because people can get an app on their phone and start recording and uploading high-quality music. There are very few barriers to entry.”
So is focusing on a specific genre, as opposed to catering to everyone, the secret sauce to surviving in such a notoriously difficult space?
“As SoundCloud grew, they decided they wanted to be the Youtube of audio,” says Brad Hill, president of Radio, Audio, Internet News (RAIN). “That was tough, because Youtube is already the Youtube of audio.” And this is where specificity actually helps. “Generally with streaming - there might be a future for category specific platforms for music. We’ve been saying for a few years that there are audiences that need this that have been underserved. Whether a startup is purely for listening or is created to match artists with listeners, being specialized does seem like a good idea.”
Nonetheless, as Audiomack grows to a healthy 6.5-million monthly active users, its founders are cautious when it comes to scaling too quickly.
“Artists and creators and fans: Each one of those entities are stakeholders” says Ponte. “We have to scale each one enough so it doesn’t take over the value of the other one. Yeah, we could make a ton more money per stream but then it’s annoying for fans. We can take away ads and make it great for fans but then artists don’t get paid. We have to scale incrementally.”
And the challenge of scaling effectively affects music streaming services just like any other startup - perhaps even more. “Music is expensive,” says Hill. “With escalating scale comes escalating costs.”
That balance is a difficult line to toe, but so far Thinknum data suggests that Audiomack’s unique mix of niche-focus, open access and staying true to their market is working.