March 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

SXSW: In App Age, MySpoonful Bets on Email

Conventional wisdom now dictates that music is moving to “the cloud,” which is basically a fancy way of saying that it’s moving to accounts accessed on the internet, rather than on a local hard drive. Music services, Apple iTunes included if the rumors are true, are converting their platforms to be more app- and cloud-friendly, opting to stream the music they provide rather than hosting tracks for download.

MySpoonful, however, staunchly believes in the virtues of file hosting, email newsletters, and a web-based platform. The San Francisco-based company — which spent two years catering to the Bay Area music scene as Spooonful (yes, with an extra “o”), before relaunching nationally as MySpoonful in January — has stood firm against the winds of change, confident in their belief that measured frequency and timely, in-depth output will ultimately win out over the constant updates more commonly seen on cloud-based platforms.

We sat down with  MySpoonful CEO Dan Cohen at outside of SXSW’s Interactive conference and asked him to talk about what makes MySpoonful unique, the virtues of owning music, and why he’s not jumping at the bit to convert his site into an app.

Chase Hoffberger, How does MySpoonful differ from similar services like RCRD LBL and Stereogum?

Dan Cohen, CEO MySpoonful: We view ourselves as music for busy people, in that people don’t have a ton of time to ingest music at all hours. We focus on the artist as opposed to the track. I like to refer to it as Form, Frequency and Focus. The Form is basically a profile of an artist, with one download — also available as a streaming track — a bio, which our team writes, and a photo of the band. And we try to go deep into what the band is about. On a Frequency basis, we only hit people three times a week — three times a week with one track. So we’re basically sending out three tracks a week as opposed to ten or twelve or whatever. The Focus, as I mentioned earlier, is on a single, independent artist every time we send out the newsletter. We think that lets you get to know the artist a little bit better. Do you think that your users have responded to the fact that they’re not being inundated with music all the time?

Dan Cohen: We get a lot of feedback through our website and through email, and overwhelmingly the reception has been positive. I think a lot of people like the Frequency and the Focus on artists specifically. Most of the comments have been very supportive of our structure. We’ve been compared to a DailyCandy for music. How do you view the differences between keeping music on the cloud and making it available for download as something you can own?

Dan Cohen: I think that people still want to be able to download music and hold it.  The cloud isn’t a perfect solution for being disconnected, but more and more I’d imagine it’s moving there. The death of the album is something that’s been pretty sad to me. We try to bring it back to a point where people are ingesting an artist and looking into their complete body of work rather than moving on after a single download. On a mobile device, your site looks different than on the web. Do you have any plans to build an app that would make your process user-friendlier and allow visitors to find what they want in a different way?

Dan Cohen: We do have a mobile-optimized site as you mentioned. It looks different, and it’s formatted for the mobile phone. Our player works on the mobile platform too, so if you press play it will play on your device. And you can actually download the track on a phone like an Android; can’t do it on an iPhone, obviously. You can search by artist, as well. We think that what we have right now on the mobile platform suits most people’s needs. That said, in the future we may make a native app for the Android or the iPhone. Is there any hesitation to go into an app because of your belief in holding the music?

Dan Cohen: I don’t think so. I think the app would be a solid delivery method, but I think right now that it’s a matter of focus. We already have a pretty big subscriber base with email, and if you’re a busy person, emails can be easier to track and revisit. Our demographic may also be slightly older than your Stereogums or Pitchforks, so we treat things different. DailyCandy and Thrillist have huge subscriber bases, and their primary means of delivery is email.