On April 26, 2009, five years ago this week, I arrived in Seattle, ready to start my new job as Online Marketing Manager at GameHouse (part of RealNetworks) on Monday, April 27. This is part two of the story of how I got there(read parts one, two and three).
About a month before I departed Broadjam, we had lunch with a guy named Joe Kletzel, who was heading up a new venture called NewTunes.
The premise of NewTunes was to help fans discover new music while playing an active role in improving the music search experience.
There are a lot of organizations working hard to catalog and record the metadata for every recorded song in the world – most notably Pandora. These organizations have rooms full of data entry people listening to songs and recording things like their mood, genre, beats per minute, artist, instruments, etc.
Back in 2008, when we were starting NewTunes, we figured that it was going to take Pandora 30 years to manually tag each and every known published song. Our premise was that we could crowd source that work and get it done in a fraction of the time – meanwhile helping people discover new and earn free music in the process.
Our main tool was called MusicStreaker. It would play 30 second clips of songs and ask the listener to click on multiple choice questions about the song regarding the song’s mood, genre and other metadata. The more songs they rated, the more loyalty points they would receive. The loyalty points would result in free music that could be purchased right there on the site.
I was pretty excited to join NewTunes as I really believed in the premise. Unfortunately, there was one significant decision made right before I arrived that would ultimately sink the entire venture. One of the board members, Andy Hayman, would outsourced the back-end development to a company called Onit Digital.
Like Dig Communications, the digital agency chosen to handle NewTunes public relations, Onit was chosen because Andy Hayman had a friend there. Both ended with a similar crash (although it took nearly a year for Onit to achieve it).
Dig was famous in our office for two things. The first being our trip to Chicago to develop the NewTunes brand. After a full day sitting with them, we concluded that the persona for NewTunes was that of a “clever dolphin.”
The second moment of notoriety was when one of their assistants mistakenly let their email autofill include me on an email thread between Andy Hayman and his friend at Dig in which Andy had written about how NewTunes was doomed to fail. The irony of the email was that NewTunes would ultimately fail because of the two partner decisions made by Andy, himself. The money spent on Dig and Onit would, indeed, kill the effort. Andy was removed from the Board shortly after that.
As I said, the Onit decision was far more costly. They weren’t up to the task of building the tool we needed, and then they outsourced the development to Thailand, which ended up coinciding with a revolution that took place shortly after they shipped the work over. The failing of Onit was not like the Dig miss. It was a slow ebb that lasted nearly a year.
Without getting into the details of it, they were not up to the task of building the systems we needed and they often showed little understanding of what we were trying to do. They talked a good game, and misled us for the initial two months until we hired a developer who was up to the task of determining what they were really up to and what we really needed – the gulf that existed between. But by then, it was too late… All of our remaining money would be committed to exploring legal actions against them, and we were done.
Many good things came of this venture. On a personal level, I was able to learn a great deal about digital search marketing and content strategy. With little to no product, I was able to build a fairly significant web presence for newtunes.com. I also worked with Sonicbids to create a few great events that, like the product itself, never came to fruition.
Our digital footprint legacy is actually still alive and well at musicstreaker.wordpress.com (“musicstreaker” was the name of our tagging game). It hasn’t had any new entries in some time, but you can still see a history of NewTunes and new music related posts. I sometimes look back at it and am somewhat amazed at some of the music I actually did discover a few years ago that is popular now.
I’m also proud of the fact that at its peak, the blog – focused largely on music and the development of NewTunes (until it devolved into my personal playground) was receiving nearly 1,500 reads per day – attributable largely to the work I did linking and connecting with other sites and employing some best practices to keep our posts near the top of Google searches. In our peak month, posts on the blog were read over 49,000 times. In total, the site is just under 10,000 visits short of 500,000, though it’s still getting daily traffic to this day.
While the ultimate death of NewTunes was unfortunate, at least we were able to see it coming months before we actually closed it up. This allowed me to spend a significant amount of time searching for a new opportunity.
We were just entering 2009, the economy was collapsing and layoffs were the headline of the day. I had done everything I wanted to do in Madison, and my wife wanted to move, as well. The job search was on, and the entire country was now in play.