8tracks, the internet radio service that lets listeners tune into mixes created by fellow DJs, is releasing an updated iOS app Friday as it celebrates upward growth and success in attracting new listeners on its platform. The platform still doesn’t come near the numbers of a platform like Pandora, but its social nature and old-school mixtape structure have been big wins so far.
CEO and founder David Porter explained in an interview that he thinks the new iOS app is probably the best version of 8tracks that’s out there, although the platform exists on both desktop and mobile. He said the release of an attractive, high-functioning app will be critical for success at 8tracks, which right now weeks about two-thirds of its traffic on the desktop, the opposite trends that other internet radio services are seeing.
8tracks lets users upload songs from their own computers to create virtual mixtapes with at least eight songs or 30 minutes of music, packaging those mixtapes and allowing other users to search for and listen to their creations. It’s an old-school concept, and Porter said only about 1 percent of users create playlists, but some of those playlists become incredibly popular and sustain the site.
8tracks is free and supported by ads. Porter said that currently, the site is providing 10 million hours of music a month, with 5 million monthly active users who listen to, on average, two hours of music per month, compared to 2 million monthly active users in April 2011. Porter said the site has begun to turn a profit.
The company was founded in 2006, launched in 2008, and hired employees in 2011. The company raised a seed fund in 2011 led by Index Ventures, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, SoftTech, SPA, English DJ Pete Tong, and Ben Drury. In 2010 the company launched a partnership with Rolling Stone, which asked top music celebrities to create playlists via 8tracks.
Porter acknowledged that there’s plenty of noise in the internet music space, and listeners have plenty of apps to choose from when it comes to internet music. So why 8tracks? He said it’s the peer-to-peer nature of the service, as opposed to Pandora’s algorithms, that give 8tracks its particular flare. On on Spotify, most users are searching for songs they already know, as opposed to on 8tracks, where they can search for playlists by mood or genre, adding an element of discovery that might not exist elsewhere.
“You might think, ‘Oh it’s just another internet music site, why should I care?’ It’s really our hand-crafted approach that’s different. There’s a real social dimension that’s important to the community. The listeners know the DJs and they communicate.”