A British technology start-up that aspires to become an Instagram for music has secured a major coup in hiring Universal Music Group’s recently-departed digital guru.
Crowdmix, a music-focused social network that is attracting tens of millions in funding despite not having launched, has appointed Rob Wells, who left Universal in February, as its chief commercial officer.
Mr Wells, in 15 years at the world’s biggest record label, pioneered bringing its music into the digital age by promoting the use of music streaming services like Spotify, joins as Crowdmix prepares to launch its service to the public next year.
Its smartphone app presents users with a feed of posts from other users including 2,000 “influencers” including major artists and celebrities, who can share music and other updates. Users will also be able to join “crowds” – groups of like-minded people – based on subjects such as music genres or their local city.
Crowdmix will then display charts for crowds so that, for example, you can see what the most popular songs among Londoners or dubstep fans are.
The service plays music via other streaming services such as Spotify or Google Play Music, rather than hosting it itself, and streams previews of songs for those that do not use them.
It plans to earn revenue by charging consumer brands to promote their content within the app, and has been working behind the scenes for two years to agree relationships with companies, record labels and streaming services as it operates under the radar.
Crowdmix’s founders Ian Roberts and Gareth Ingham believe it can succeed where others have failed in building a social network around music.
Social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter boast hundreds of millions of users, but music sharing makes up a tiny proportion of activity. Meanwhile, established services like Spotify and iTunes have added social features, but with mixed success.
Twitter took its music app offline last year after failing to get traction, while Apple’s Ping, described by Steve Jobs as “sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes”, was discontinued in 2012, two years after it launched.
“There are established music services but they are trying to squeeze the conversation around it; nobody’s constructed a service around music,” said Wells.
“From an artists and major label perspective, it’s a machine for breaking artists, it’s a machine that will let you make popular artists.”
Crowdmix raised £14m this year and is currently raising a similar sum. It has gone from 14 to 120 staff in less than a year, and has opened offices in New York and Los Angeles.