Sander Huiberts & Richard van Tol (Earwurm) – Interview (Part 1)

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on May 3, 2010

The founders of Earwurm (a very original music startup that I reviewed last week) were kind enough to answer my questions. Read on for the full background on their startup, and their own insight and perceptions regarding the music industry. Thanks a lot, guys!
And if you enjoy this interview (you will!), don’t forget to read the second part, “Music & You”.

Earwurm

Full Name: Sander Huiberts & Richard van Tol
Age: 30 & 33
Startup: Earwurm.com – Stick A Song In Someone’s Mind
Position: Founders

PART I

THE STARTUP

Tell us a little about your startup. How was it conceived? What are its most distinctive features in your opinion?

Earwurm.com is a website that revolves around sharing earworms, those sticky tunes we all have in our mind from time to time. Simply search our database featuring hundreds of earworms to find a tune and then share it with others via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If the song is not in our datebase you can easily add it to the site in less than 60 seconds.

The idea behind Earwurm.com is that almost everyone knows the phenomenon of having a song stuck in your head. Quite often earworms are triggered by simply hearing a tiny piece of a tune on the radio or someone humming it. Our background is in Music & Technology and, amongst other things, we teach Game Audio Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts, Faculty of Art, Media & Technology in The Netherlands. One of our lectures features a short sample of the song “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie (http://earwurm.com/music/1) which always leaves our students humming the song for the rest of the day. We wanted to do something creative and fun with that phenomenon and thus the idea of sharing ‘earwurms’, short fragments of songs that trigger earworms, was born.

What was the original launch date?

Earwurm.com was launched on the 20th of april, 2010.

What has been the response so far? In which countries has it been more successful?

The response is actually far bigger than we expected, especially given that we are not promoting the website and that it has only been online for two weeks. Hundreds of new earwurms have already been added to the database and about 83000 earwurms have been shared through email, Facebook and Twitter.
Many people like the concept for different reasons. There are those passionate about puttings songs in their friends’ minds, while there are others who simple enjoy browsing all earwurms and keep adding new annoying sticky songs to database.

What features can we expect to see implemented in future revisions?

We have got quite some features on our “Feature Creep”-list, but we would first like to see where users take the site to before implementing them. Some features include more Twitter-functionality and more fun statistics, such as a Top 40 of Earworms (or Earworst), Live Global Earworm Activity (“Global Worming”) and more!

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?

The music industry is still too much holding on to old methods and values which work for old media. Needs and demands have changed and will rapidly continue to change. We view music users as customers instead of offenders. It is the music industry’s task to offer an interesting alternative for the new music lover.

Earwurm.com could be seen as such an alternative, like some sort of viral music platform. Millions of people have songs in their head on a daily basis and are already sharing that experience, whether positive or negative, through email, Twitter and Facebook. The music industry could very well benefit by channeling or participating in this activity.

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?

Think in possibilities, out-of-the-box, be creative. Do not focus too much on particular technologies but instead get inspired by the activity that is enhanced by them.

Continue to Part 2.

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