Beats Music, meet Spotify, YouTube and Rdio: Subscribers of the Beats-branded music subscription service that was launched by music industry veteran Jimmy Iovine last month can now share songs and playlists with users of all those other services. The sharing is possible thanks to Bop.fm, a Bay Area-based startup that has been working on becoming a kind of Switzerland of the digital music space.
Bop’s siote deals with a fundamental problem of today’s digital music world: Services like Beats and Spotify let their users tweet links and share playlists as much as they want, but these links are worthless if their friends and followers are subscribed to a different service, or even reside in a country where a service hasn’t launched yet. Beats Music, for example, is currently only available in the U.S.
And that’s not the only problem: Subscription services like Beats and Spotify offer access to 20+ million songs, but their catalogs still contain some rather large holes due to complexities in music licensing. Beats for example doesn’t offer access to Dr. Dre’s seminal The Chronic album, despite the fact that Dre. is closely involved with the Beats brand. However, YouTube does host the songs of the album. “It’s a mess out there,” said Bop.fm co-founder Shehzad Daredia during an interview last week.
Bop want to solve that mess by allowing users to share links or even entire playlists with users of other services, and even mix and match songs from different services within the same playlist. To users, all of the sourcing is more or less hidden, and songs just play. “We are intelligently decoupling playlists from the underlying music services,” Daredia said.
The idea this kind of intermediate functionality isn’t new; digital music startup Tomahawk has been offering similar functionality for a while, and a number of sites tried to make playlist sharing easier before Bop.fm. But Bop.fm seems to be capable of walking a fine line in making its service both non-threatening to the services it uses and useful to the music lovers it serves. Case in point: Bop was able to get access to the Beats Music web API before its official launch.
So how does Bop.fm make money? Daredia told me that the service currently gets some affiliate fees whenever it convinces one of its users to buy a digital download or subscribe to a music service. In the long run, he wants put all that data it has been collecting about the availability of songs across different services and people’s listening habits to good use — a topic that is near and dear to our heart here at Gigaom, which is why we invited Brian Whitman, CTO of the music data specialist the Echo Nest, to our Structure Data conference in New York later this month.
And by using all that data, Daredia also wants to make Bop.fm the default destination for digital music. A few years ago, people used to have media player apps software of their choice to play MP3 files on their local hard drive, said Daredia, adding: “We want to be the streaming client of choice.”