The Evite sounded innocent enough: "Join me on Blip.fm," my friend Alyson wrote. "It's like Twitter for music."
So I did. Three hours later, it was full man-on-Web site love.
If you haven't experienced Blip.fm, sign up. Then be prepared to get nothing done the rest of the day.
Blip.fm basically allows you to play disc jockey. As the deejay, you search for songs you want to play and then blip (click on) them. The tune assuming it's available then streams in its entirety. Deejays can add a Twitter-sized comment to go with each track.
DJs can try to attract listeners, and most do. Or they can do what I do: play whatever I feel like hearing. If others want to listen in, fine. If not, I don't care. I like being able to hear John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and follow that with Sloppy Seconds' "I Don't Wanna Be a Homosexual." Your mileage may vary. (My DJ name is Donald Hollinger, by the way.)
In its simplest form, let's say you're sitting at your computer and want to hear a song. You go to Blip.fm, find the song from among the millions that are available and play it. If you want to hear several songs, blip them and they'll play back in order. It's that sweet.
Jeff Yasuda is CEO and founder of Northern California-based Blip.fm. In a telephone interview, he said the idea behind the site is to share your favorite music.
"Music is part of your social soundtrack," he said. "When you send a particular song - even without any text involved - that song actually has meaning. It's a fun way to interact with other folks."
Here's more of our conversation.
NUVO: Tell me the history of the site.
Yasuda: We launched Blip.fm in July 2008. It's really four dudes here in a basement. We've been really lucky with the amount of buzz we've received from music industry folks as well as the Web 2.0 folks. Our users spend, on average, 30 minutes per visit and they're very, very engaged.
NUVO: When you first thought of this, what were you trying to accomplish?
Yasuda: We had launched the company with a product called fuzz.com and, long story short, it was a pretty tough proposition. It was a set of tools and analytics for indie bands to sell their music and manage their fan base. We had about 30,000 or so bands using the product, but it was really tough to monetize. We sat down and thought: How can we get this site viral? How can we get people interested and create a compelling user experience?
Essentially, what happened was, my engineers sat down - sometimes with our permission and sometimes obviously without our permission - and just came up with the idea. They pitched it to the management team. We launched it as an experiment off fuzz.com and within a day we knew this thing was going to take off. We decided to put all resources behind it.
NUVO: You mentioned monetize. How do you monetize this?
Yasuda: Three different ways. One, you'll notice that with each of the blips you probably saw a bunch of links - buy MP3s, get ringtones. We've done partnerships with ticketing companies, with iTunes and Amazon.
The second is advertising. We have a combination of certain display ads as well as what I refer to as monetizeable actions. I spend a lot of time talking to marketers at ad agencies, as you can imagine, and one of the things they all agree is that they hate wasted impressions. You've seen what happens on other Web sites when people stream all day and minimize the browser and just play music in the background. There's no way to monetize that user.
For us, it's a much different story. When the user blips a song or searches for a song, when they reblip, add a song to their playlist, these are all important actions. They tell me the user is engaged, looking at the screen, and it's telling me the user likes the content.
The third way we make money is around licensing. Blip.fm is perfect for a mobile device - it's dynamic SMS [short message service] with music. On that front, we're talking to several carriers and handset OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] about licensing the Blip.fm application for mobile devices.
NUVO: Are there royalty issues you have to deal with?
Yasuda: There are always royalty issues you have to deal with. We're working through that with all the major labels as we speak. Generally, things are going pretty well. We're having these discussions, and I think the labels all see the value in what we bring and how we can create a much more organic way to market their artist. Music is now coming from your friends, and that's a much better way to experience music. I think the labels are smart enough to understand that.
NUVO: I know the point of this is to be social and share, but I had the exact opposite reaction. I play music for me, and if anyone wants to follow, great. But I don't care.
Yasuda: We don't dictate how users use the product. Sometimes you have no idea how people will interact with your product. For us, there are two primary uses. One is a passive, listening-only, sit back and digest music. That's not the primary use, to be honest. The other, which is much more active, is when you're sharing or blipping - DJing - music all day long. That's how people are using the site the majority of the time.
The majority of time spent on the site is not only by return visitors but by users who are DJing to the masses. The other streaming sites out there are only about finding you the right content. That's important to me, but I'm much more about finding you the right people who share your taste in music.
When I was a kid, the way I got my music was based on what the kids down the street were listening to. The most compelling music discovery is not when it comes from the computer or some algorithm but what it comes from someone you like and trust and know.