Keeping a close eye on the music space, I encounter a lot of startups and fledgling products. Unfortunately, a lot of them are misguided, for a variety of reasons, most of which can be prevented. Often, these early mistakes result in painful pivots or founding teams giving up, which is a real shame, as we need more applied innovation in the music business.
Here are the questions I wish music startup founders would ask themselves early on.
Does this work as a mainstream behaviour?
The biggest mistake music startup founders make is they assume that everyone loves music the way they do. Most people simply don’t care that much about music. They like it, they love it, but in a very different way from whoever’s likely to read this — let alone found a music startup.
You need to be very critical of your idea. It’s ok if it doesn’t work for mainstream consumers, but then adjust expectations and target your product accordingly.
Does this work as a mainstream price point?
So let’s say you figure out you have the perfect lean-back experience for music listeners. You’re creating something that’s not demanding of its users and doesn’t require big changes in existing behaviours. In other words: you’re ready to cater to a mainstream audience.
What about the price point? Price points are difficult to determine and people are notoriously bad at predicting what price they’re willing to pay for something. If you’re going for a mainstream audience, your safest bet is pricing for impulse purchase decisions.
How does this work rights-wise in the long term?
You can’t live on the APIs of YouTube, Soundcloud or Spotify forever. At some point, you need to build your own business. Do you understand the costs involved of licensing? Will content disappear from the service?
Launching light weight is fine — if you’re looking to test an idea, using an API can be a great choice, but you need to understand your long term strategy, too, and plan for the next steps.
What are the ways in which people already solve this problem?
Changing an existing behaviour is hard work and takes commitment. It’s risky to assume people will immediately fall in love with your product, drop everything, and never look back. Problems I see entrepreneurs frequently try to tackle are: staying up to date with your favourite artists, better ways to find new music, or giving people all their music in one place.
Are these problems consumers are already aware of? We all have our workarounds, so it may not seem urgent to your target users. Understand exactly how people are currently solving the problem, so that your product fits into a certain behavior and augments it, so that it becomes better.
Radically changing a behaviour is painful for users.
Do I really need to do a consumer-facing startup?
Sometimes entrepreneurs do music startups, because they have a vision for the music business and they want to break into it. Doing consumer facing startups is often costly and makes it trickier to gauge interest and test the market. If your goal is to create a better music landscape, perhaps you could consider solving problems within the music business.
After all, many of the imperfections that consumers have to deal with have a lot to do with problems in the music business internally.
Does this already exist?
Shout out to the plethora of music discovery apps posted to Product Hunt every month.