Majid ALSarra (Lyreach) – Interview (Part 1)

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on June 1, 2010

I had a chat with Majid ALSarra from Lyreach (the innovative search engine for lyrics that I featured last month on MusicKO) where he revealed the inspiration behind the project and his plans for the future. You can find it below. And don’t forget to check out Part 2 (“Music & You”).

Majid ALSarra

Majid ALSarra

Full Name: Majid ALSarra
Age: 29
Startup: Lyreach
Position: Founder

PART I

THE STARTUP


Tell us a little about your startup. How was it conceived?

Everything started two years ago, I used to be a software developer my whole life and I really loved it, but in mid-2008 I decided to be a boring man ,working in a boring field called business continuity in a startup bank started by the government.

I tried stupidly to live with such a situation, to have what I thought was a stable life, then I exploded.

I began programming everything like crazy; I was searching for a killer idea, I had been searching for such a thing even before the bank job. I have always been enthusiastic about the Web, but when I was in the bank I was too depressed to find a good idea.

And because I didn’t know “anything” about business continuity, I was searching in Google, and translating some stuff in a dictionary – in both cases using auto-completed sentences. “Google suggest” gave me some nice (but limited) recommendations. A lot of sentences that looked like what I had typed were featured, but I thought “why they’re not here in the suggestions?. Even when I click the “Search” button, it gives results that have the words of the input sentence separated randomly in a lot of results, even when I put the double quotation marks, I can see the sentence alone in the results, but I have to open the link and search for the sentence to find its context…” Then the idea popped out!

It kept brewing it in my mind for a while, and I began programming some code and testing it on some Wikipedia pages, I had more complicated (and also more useful) ideas than this one, but I didn’t have the time to implement them, so I decided to go ahead with this one.

Searching the whole Web was too huge for my tiny budget, that was why I thought about Wikipedia, but then I realized it would take ages to crawl their 6000,000 articles (English only!). So, I kept living as usual with these search ideas in my head, until I noticed how unpleasant it was when I heard a part of a song and could not find it by searching using only that specific part. It all clicked then, and the idea was finally conceived 🙂

What was the original launch date?

No exact date, it was there on the web for a long time while I was debugging it, then I told some friends to test it, and then I finally put the ads on Facebook & Google sometime in mid-May.

What has been the response so far?

It’s been good, a lot of sites & blogs talk about it all over the world, especially in Italy!

How does Lyreach work from a technical point of view? What features can we expect to see implemented in future revisions?

It has huge tables of numbers, those numbers describe the paragraphs and all possible combinations of 5 words in more than 400,000 lyrics (more than 470,000 actually). The updating process is not mature yet.

I have some stuff to add in the future, the first is to enable search engines to crawl through all the results, it will be done by a complicated way which is not clear yet (it involves putting the search query in the URL) , and I will try to find an appropriate business model so I can earn money and quit my job :P, when I do that and have a lot of time on my hands, I will create a different new way for searching (something like Lyreach but not limited to a set number of words) and I will try to make it for Wikipedia, I don’t know if this is a plan or just a hallucination!

There is a certain tendency to demonize the Internet in the music industry. I think it is all a matter of perspective – it all depends on the uses it is put to. What is your opinion? In which areas has the Internet left an unquestionably positive mark?

It started with the MP3 which made it easy to transfer the music & share it for free, that first encounter between the internet and the music was the source of that demonization. The music industry was losing a lot, and some companies did something nice to combine them like Apple-iTunes, Amazon, Sony, even Napster found its way, but that didn’t change the fact that users were still free to share anything. My opinion is, most people who get these free mp3s would not buy the songs otherwise, so the artist is not actually losing a lot. Moreover, MP3s work as free samples that market the song (in full quality), and it can’t spread freely in the Internet until the first group of customers have bought it, the people that will get it for free come right behind them. Besides, if they fall in love with the artist they might pay for it in the future!

This disturbance between the internet and the music industry has found its way into the hosting of the actual lyrics of song, I heard about some legal problems with the famous site MetroLyrics.com, and how did they solve them, that is why I didn’t display the full lyrics on Lyreach.

What advice could you give to anybody who is launching a music-related startup in the future? What are the obvious mistakes that should be avoided?

I’m not that much of an expert to give an advice, but generally be careful on the legal issues.

Continue to Part 2.

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