Songbird’s roots are firmly planted in music playback giving millions of people the ability to play back their music collections on desktop and mobile. However, Songbird not too long ago undertook efforts to provide a better social music discovery mechanism to fans. We were late to the game providing an iOS music player to market and decided to introduce the product in a calculated way that would allow us to truly learn what was most valuable to music listeners. We’ve learned a lot from this process and thought it would be valuable for other folks building music applications to have the same insight.
When Songbird’s iOS app was first introduced, it solely focused on music discovery. The application would look at your local library, determine the artists you were most interested in, then display a list of content specific to those favorite, or “followed”, artists. This allowed you to discover the latest goings on with the artists you were most interested in as well as receive content specific to those artists from around the web delivered to directly to you. You could also discover other artists that were related to your followed artists as well as search for other artists you might have come across and wanted to learn more about. When version 1.0 of the iOS application launched on October 22, 2012 we found a high degree of interest in the app with average engagement time per session of 12 minutes. People were checking out artists streams which included pictures, YouTube videos, SoundCloud tracks and were clearly enjoying themselves in the application. However, the biggest single point of feedback was, how do I play my local music?
Taking this feedback we included a built-in music player and shipped version 1.4 on February 22, 2013. We knew that the vast majority of people who listen to music on the iPhone already had music on that device, most likely originating from a carefully curated library on their desktop. Low and behold, average time spent in the app grew 46%, the number of people who “bounced” from the app, meaning they installed, checked it out, then nearly immediately left dramatically dropped from 18% down to 2%, and the number of unique users per day grew 78%. This was clearly a hit with folks.
But wait, there’s more.
So we had a good discovery and local music playback app, but we were still getting feedback that people wanted more content. There were a few suggestions to integrate streaming music services but so many people complained about catalogs lacking key artists and walled gardens that prevented them from sharing music interests with their friends in an easy way. One of the folks on the team discovered an application that was doing something interesting with YouTube videos but it was more just an open search app for any YouTube content. Some people like an open ended content repository but more people were interested in just a curated view of content that was personalized to them ala radio. So what we decided to do was take the radio concept and mash it up with personalized discovery for YouTube content. We incorporated these capabilities, called “YouTube playlists” and released version 2.0 of Songbird for iOS on March 26, 2013. This additional functionality on top of the discovery and local playback features led to additional 74% growth in average time spent in app, 60% growth in daily unique users, reduction in bounce from 2% down to 0.8%(!) and we continue to see exceptional growth and adoption of the product.
Key learnings: First discovery is great, but you need media playback to go along with that. Second, there has been so much focus on cloud and streaming services that people have been ignoring users local libraries which is a detriment to a service who desires to maintain users on their service (aka respect the collection!) Thirdly, the most engaging music experiences are ones that include discovery of new artists, (re)discovery of existing artists through additional content, access to both local and web media and a great consumption experience all in one place.
Many more lessons to learn and ones we can learn together to create exceptional music experiences for everyone.