Fresh from my summer vacations, I’ve got some great interviews for you. The first one is with Mickey Richardson from ShareMyGuitar.com, a superb social network for guitarists that was reviewed on MusicKO last month. You can read the original post here before delving on Mickey’s great answers. Pay special attention to the in-depth advice he gives when asked about the obvious mistakes to be avoided when launching a music-related startup.
And the second part of this interview (“Music & You”) can be read here.
Full Name: Mickey Richardson
Tell us a little about your startup. How was it conceived? What are its most distinctive features in your opinion?
The site was conceived mainly because I had taken up playing guitar. Like a lot of people do when they start playing, I was looking for a way to find good quality online lessons, as well as a way to get answers to my many questions I had about playing guitar like: What kind of strings should I use? What is the correct way to hold a pick? What songs should I focus on learning? What scales should I practice? The list goes on and on. The thought process was that if I could find a community where I could exchange questions, ideas and so forth in a format much like Facebook but just for musicians, it would be the perfect way for me to connect, network and progress on guitar. That’s how SMG came about.
One of the most distinctive features about SMG would be that it is a niche guitarists/musicians network. Our members can connect and become friends with other musicians who are located in nearly every country in the world! Connecting with others is easy because of nice features like the wall feed, live chat and a host of other cool features. To me, one of the coolest things about SMG would be that no matter what culture our member’s come from, their guitar speaks the same language.
What was the original launch date?
Well, I guess I should first explain that the idea for the website was initially for a social network for guitarists, but due to complications with finding the right developers to make it all happen and work out all the logistics, I launched the SMG Blog prior to the SMG social network. The Blog was launched in August 2009. The SMG social network followed the Blog, by the end of December 2009.
What has been the response so far? In which countries has it been more successful?
The response has been really great. Our members have provided us with a lot of useful feedback to allow us to constantly improve and grow the site. It’s really funny when we look at the early versions of SMG and then compare them with what is here today. It’s like night and day! It’s so much better, not only in the layout or design but also in the stability of the site. Although we tend to get a lot of positive feedback, which we really appreciate, its also the people who have let us know what works and what doesn’t that has allowed us to make the site that much better. The most common response has been “Cool, Facebook for guitarists!” and we take that as a tremendous compliment.
The USA leads with the most active daily users. Next would be user from the United Kingdom, Australia and followed up with an even mix of users scattered throughout Europe. In any given day, you can find that new members have signed up from South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia as well. As long as there is an Internet connect, people can log on and join SMG!
What features can we expect to see implemented in future revisions?
All kinds of stuff! We are in the process of adding a “Pages” feature that will allow our members to create a special SMG Page in order to promote themselves, their product and obtain a loyal following. We are also developing an iPhone and Droid App to allow our mobile users to access SMG in a more optimized format. Another feature we are working on is adding sub networks in order to allow other musicians the ability to login and connect with each other in a instrument specific or mixed genre format. So a lot of exciting features are in the works and coming soon.
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 seems simple to me for the most part. The Internet makes it easier to get information. For example, a musician can post songs online and get the material to an audience faster, cheaper and at a greater profit margin than in previous years. We can look back and see how Apple embraced a new technology and created iTunes, which has sold billions and billions of song downloads to date!
Unlike in past years, anyone can have a virtual recording studio in their living room these days by using anyone of the many great audio-editing tools on the market. Bands that I played in within the last 10 years were still paying recording studios a lot of money to have the tracks recorded and mixed. Now anyone with a computer can record, market and sell their songs online. The music industry dropped the ball in not embracing the new technology, no doubt about it. But there should be a balance in getting top-notch marketing and distribution, while allowing artists the ability to make a larger slice of the pie; all of this is thanks to the Internet and an evolution of technology in music.
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?
My advice would be to go for it! If you have an idea for creating something that you believe other people would find useful and you are willing to put in the time, effort and dedication it requires to succeed, than you should absolutely go forward and make it happen.
Mistakes to avoid… where do I begin? I made plenty of screw-ups, but they have all been learning experiences. Here are some tips:
1. Get help! Don’t try to do everything yourself.
2. Trust is good but a contract is better. When you are ready to hire a developer, seek professional references and make sure they can backup what they promise (time/results) with a contract. You should have a contract agreement that spells it all out. Then, prepare to pay 50% of the total cost upfront and the balance upon completion.
3. Make sure to use the correct web host for your website. I went through several web hosts before finding the right host for my needs. Also make sure that you have the right type of server for your websites needs in terms of bandwidth, memory, and CPU. Will it be a shared server or a dedicated server? These are important decisions that will need to be addressed correctly depending on the software you are running and the amount of traffic you will get.
4. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s not possible. Just try to be the best at one thing. You can always build and grow upon that.
5. Lastly, have fun with your website! If it loses its fun, than something went wrong. You will need to isolate whatever that is and correct it quickly. Now go start the next BIG music website!
Continue to part 2 of this interview (“Music & You”)