New start-up Soundwave aims to rock music world

Apple founder, billionaires, actors and rock stars are already big fans

MAKING WAVES: TV star, actor and Twitter royalty Stephen Fry, pictured with Carol Vorderman, left, and Davina McCall, has rowed in behind Irish software start-up Soundwave, which may be just about to completely revolutionise the global music industry.

Tom Lyons

Dublin start-up Soundwave has convinced Stephen Fry, the English actor followed by almost six million people on Twitter, to launch its ground-breaking music discovery, sharing and analytics app, in London tomorrow.

Set up by Brendan O'Driscoll, 25, Aidan Sliney, 28, and Craig Watson, 29, Soundwave earned plaudits from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak earlier this month who described it as "a music product that fits my life so perfectly".

Mark Cuban, the owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks and a regular on TV hit Entourage, as well as The Coronas' Danny O'Reilly, are other users of the app which only went live last Thursday.

Sitting in Food Game, a cafe in Dublin 4 a few doors down from Soundwave's office, O'Driscoll said its music app was being launched simultaneously in 14 different languages on both android phones and iPhones.

Soundwave's beta version of its app has already proved a success with Fry, Wozniak and hip Dublin bands like Choice Music Prize winner Delorentos all trialling it.

O'Driscoll said both Apple and Google had helped it refine its app prior to its launch. "The product itself is inherently viral," O'Driscoll said. "If I download the product as an early adapter I am going to want to know what my friends are listening to and share the product."

Soundwave works by allowing users see what their friends or favourite bands or celebrities are listening to in real time. It also allows the music industry see which songs are being played most.

"This allows users discover new music for free by seeing what people they know or like are listening to," O'Driscoll said. "If we get traction with the product there is a very interesting play to be made with all the data.

"Record labels want to know what is trending and what is being played in certain locations," O'Driscoll added.

"They want to get in from the outset by getting their artists on to the app and using the app to increase their engagement with their fan base."

Soundwave was founded in February 2012 and was part of the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad programme. It now employs eight people and is chaired by Aidan O'Driscoll, an accountant and director of Irrus Investments, a Limerick-based group of angel investors.

O'Driscoll, an uncle of Brendan, is a former senior executive in Avocent Corporation. Among the advisers to Soundwave are Paddy Benson, a vice-president of product engineering at NewBay Software and Gary Leyden, director at NDRC LaunchPad.

Brendan O'Driscoll said Soundwave had received ready help from Dublin's burgeoning start-up scene. "Everyone is rallying around us," he said.

"One of the best things about the tech industry in Dublin is that everybody is supportive of everybody else."

Soundwave had developed two revenue models, one tried and tested and the other a long-term holy grail of the world's music industry.

"If you discover new music within an app you can also purchase the song through our app," O'Driscoll said: "By facilitating the sale you get a fee. It is an affiliate concept that has been proven and is directly linked to the number of users."

The other revenue model O'Driscoll said was to try to become the Google Analytics for the music business. "Bands, music agents, consumer brands can log on and find out what music people are listening to and where. What songs they listen to and what songs they don't. That is information people are really looking for right now," he said. "They have no visibility of what people are listening to."

The music industry, O'Driscoll said, knew when you paid for a song but that was it. "They don't know if you've listened to it 10 times for a year or never again. You might have shared it with a 100 people or not, you might have liked it or disliked it. This is a real-time way of seeing what is playing when and how often."

O'Driscoll said competitors in this space were only scraping data and unable to deliver what Soundwave could. Post-launch, O'Driscoll said Soundwave would consider launching more new features, including one suggested by Wozniak, who has logged 700 song listens since he downloaded the app only a few weeks ago.

"Steve thinks we should explain not just what music people are listening to but also explain what concerts are on," O'Driscoll said. "If I was to draw a circle over Dublin tonight I could see what concerts are on. I could then start listening to the music of that concert and try to figure out should I go or not? That is a really good idea. There is a lot of potential for us to expand on the music map feature.

"What you see now is only a base level of what we can do."