Chicago Tech Startup: SoundOff.fm

March 6, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

TINC Magazine recently caught up with Dan Arwady and Jim Skuros, founders of SoundOff.fm, an online platform for artists of all genres to upload their music for free in order to gain audience exposure. Music is then listened to and rated by SounOff.fm radio listeners, allowing both voters and musicians to earn credits toward downloads and uploads, respectively.

TINC: What growth phase is your company in currently?

Dan Arwady: Pre-A Series (no external funding)

TINC: Give us your Elevator Pitch.

Dan Arwady: SoundOff.fm uses A-B voting to uncover “diamonds in the rough” – songs that have a lot of potential to grab attention very quickly.

TINC: Can you tell our readers more about the process and reach of the product or service you provide?

Dan Arwady: The site is open to all artists and music lovers. Any artist can upload their songs to our site. They must pick a genre and the best 20 seconds of each song.

To start listening to music, voters first select a genre. Then, they hear two 20-second clips of music, back-to-back, in a blind test (no info about the artist or the song’s voting record, etc.). They pick the one they like better.

Then, we tell the voter a little more about both artists in the contest so they can learn more about the music they just heard.

We use a proprietary algorithm on the back end – not just a song’s overall Win Percentage – to identify the “diamonds in the rough” and rank the songs on our Leaderboard. This Leaderboard is always changing and is a great place for casual listeners to discover great, unheard bands on the Internet.

TINC: What industry would you most closely align your company with?

Dan Arwady: The Music Business.

TINC: How is your product different from the other guys? What makes your company unique to the scene?

Dan Arwady: SoundOff.fm removes the typical barriers to entry. ALL music gets heard on the site, and it only gets voted up or down in a non-biased way. All artists are welcome to submit. Also, our algorithm on the backend helps to uncover great trending artists.

TINC: How many employees do you have on board right now?

Dan Arwady: 1-10

TINC: Who are the founders and CEO’s of your company?

Dan Arwady: Jim Skuros and Dan Arwady, Co-Founders.

TINC: When was your company established? What is the official founding date?

Dan Arwady: Launched / Founded on 9/29/11.

TINC: Tell us about development platforms you may be using, or what you’re coding this in.

The Leaderboard on SoundOff.fm

Jim Skuros: The site from its inception was built to scale. Being a Technical Architect by trade, a lot of time and effort was put into media caching and scaling. The site itself is developed on Pressflow 6, which is a fork of Drupal. This allowed us to get our MVP up and running for little cost, while still reusing some public modules. Pressflow is designed to scale so it has some advantages over a true Drupal install or Custom PHP. A lot of thought was put into queuing and cron workhorses that encode the music on the website in a way that can continue to work if the site needs to scale up quickly due to demand. We are also making use of some open source software such as FFMPEG for encoding.

Finally the entire system is built on Amazon Web Services. This allows us to be infinitely scalable and react to website demands. We have alarms in place to force autoscaling. This also allowed us to pay for only what we were using. The AWS model is great for startups and allows people to have a totally scalable solution for a low monthly cost.

TINC: What is your technical approach that makes your software better? How are you getting the details right or working in a more optimized way?

Jim Skuros: I think the approach we took to development was to spend extra time on Architecture upfront, and pick flexible platforms. Doing this allowed us to save ourselves from scaling pains in the future. Also, we spend a lot of time testing and logging issues before we ship our code. I understand that both of these points go against the lean startup model, but we have had bad experiences in the past with people judging your product before it is functional. We moved as quickly as possible to ship working code. We adhered to the lean start up model in that we stripped out all unnecessary features in the interest of being quick to the market.

Soundoff.FM from RoboToaster on Vimeo.

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