Songbox solves an age-old music industry problem
Back in the day, making it in the music business was as much about admin as ambition. Every hopeful musician spent hours burning CD demos, printing up labels and information sheets and packaging it all up to take to the post office.
Michael Coll, founder of Private music-sharing service Songbox, says the problem with posting out CDs was that no one knew what happened next. Only on the rare occasions that someone replied did he have any idea if his band’s music had even been delivered.
“For all I knew the person at the post office set fire to my packages,” said Michael.
Michael put his musical ambitions on the back burner in 2013 to focus on his career in software development, but he never forgot the frustration of sending out demos. When he came to work at the headquarters of a major media company he was horrified to see, even in the streaming era, CDs were still arriving from all over the world.
“We received dozens of demos in the post every day,” Mick recalls. “Some of the packages were exquisite. Some were terrible. What they all had in common was that none of them got heard.”
Michael describes what he and the other developers called ‘the corner where dreams went to die’ - a stack of CD’s cleared from the office once a week to be thrown away, unheard. And it was at this time that he started thinking about how to build a platform that would solve the problems that he had seen both as an artist and as an industry insider.
“I wanted to give music creators the opportunity to send out their work efficiently and securely with the benefit of knowing who is actually listening, and maybe more importantly, who isn't.”
Five years later and hailed as one of Scotland’s brightest startups, Glasgow-based Songbox is changing the way musicians share their audio files. With privacy and security built-in, the web-based service allows musicians and other audio content creators to safely share their files with co-creators, industry executives, reviewers and DJs. Content creators can see that uploaded files have been received, which tracks have been played and for how long.
Songbox currently has more than 3,000 users worldwide, from Grammy winners to hobbyists.
Big name users include Canadian megastar Bryan Adams and Cranberries songwriter Noel Hogan who both appreciate the ability to share and store new music easily.
Songbox has also been endorsed by music labels, who see it as a way to distribute music quickly within their networks. Playground Music, the Nordic Region’s largest indie label, describes Songbox as “perfect for sharing music with media and partners over the world. The interface is easy and fast”.
Looking to the future Michael decided to bring in a partner to help him develop Songbox.
“I absolutely knew I had something with Songbox; But I also knew I needed someone to help me build the business.”
Michael explains that his passion is product development and maintaining customer relationships, but that he knew that to grow Songbox to its full potential would require a broader business focus.
Late in 2020 he introduced Songbox to Ciaran O’Toole who he had worked with previously and who he knew had complementary skills and experience.
“Ciaran and I worked together in startups and I knew he’d set up successful companies since. He knows his way around building businesses and he knows the music industry. It felt like the perfect fit.”
Ciaran says Michael messaged him, told him about Songbox, explained the idea in a sentence and he understood it instantly, as he was also familiar with the problem.
“Michael introduced me to Songbox and I knew it was a great idea. After a few long conversations to set the vision, we set about developing the proposition then formed the business together in April 2021.”
For the remainder of 2021 into Q1 2022, the focus will be on growing the Songbox customer base organically and putting together a great team to build the business. Looking a little further into the future, Ciaran will be looking for investment to help accelerate business growth and secure market share as early as possible. Freed up to focus on product development, Michael will be adding an enterprise tier for business customers and introducing mobile apps to further enhance the Songbox user experience.
Songbox naturally attracts the top tier of the music industry.
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