Brendan O’Driscoll from Soundwave


Earlier in the year I went to Music 3.0 a week long seminar on the future of the music industry. The week was a barrage of talks  from interesting people doing interesting things and one of the talks that really struck me was given by Brendan O’Driscoll and Craig Watson. They were speaking about their company Soundwave, which is  creating a way to find out, in real-time, what songs people are listening to. I got in touch with Brendan to find out more.


Brendan O'Driscoll from SoundwaveHow did Soundwave get started?
I started Soundwave with my cousin Aidan Sliney in November of last year. We applied for Launch Pad 4 with a completely different idea in July and got some really good feedback that was very motivating. We sat down and said ʻwe didnʼt get in this time but weʼre going to learn from this, take all the lessons, all the pointers and the comments and apply it to a brand new idea.ʼ So we just started brainstorming ideas.

How did the idea come about?
There was a viral video came out around that time. Itʼs a New Yorker who takes to the streets with a camera, stops people with headphones on and asks them what songs theyʼre listening to. Itʼs a simple video but it took off and went viral. Millions of people watched it and everyone was saying ʻthatʼs incredible, that somebody can just plug into this one location, at one moment in time and see what people are actually listening to.ʼ We thought, with all the technology out there, it should be possible to see what people are listening to all around you. Thatʼs as far as we went with the concept, just a curiosity to know what others were listening to.

Why do this now?
The overriding factor now is that the music industry is suffering from a shortage of data. They used to rely on data based on purchases of songs, now 95% of songs are downloaded illegally, which has done 2 things. The first, as everybody knows, is that itʼs cut the primary revenue of the music industry. Secondarily, what people don’t realise, is that itʼs turned the light off over their market. We can come along and say ʻHey you guys are completely in the dark youʼre just fumbling around. What we can do is turn that light back on and show you where people are and what theyʼre listening to. Telling you in real-time whatʼs happening in your market.ʼ

What sort of feedback are ye getting about the idea. Is it bands looking to find their
audience or what do people see the information being used for?
We went out and talked to small band managers and said ʻWhat could your use this information for?ʼ and they said ʻIf I can see if my band is getting traction or not?ʼ So itʼs something they would use as an early validation tool to see ʻIs our stuff taking off or not.ʼ At the mid size band manager level they were looking at the product to identify pockets of fans. For example if youʼre a band based in Galway are there pockets of fans based in London that are listening to you, they can decide if they should do a big push in London. With music labels weʼre really looking at distribution patterns. Weʼre playing around with the idea that you can plot the distribution pattern of a song for a major artist, or label. So a band can go live with a song and track its progress over time and location.

How itʼs spread…
Exactly. Who the key influencers in that chain are that are boosting that song onto their social network, talking about it and hyping it up. If you can understand that pattern and that song goes on to become a hit thatʼs very powerful information.

What the value for the average music listener?
Weʼre getting really good feedback on is the idea that someone could plug into the app and then tune into different graphical locations or groups of people just to see whatʼs being listened to. We came up with the idea of Sound Circles as a filtering mechanism. You create a Sound Circle for location which allows you to fence off a particular location to tune in to that location, for example Time Square. You can also login with your Twitter or Facebook and create circles of your friends. You could create Sound Circles based on groups of people, like a rock friend Sound Circle. You go through your friends and tag some of them as rockers then when youʼre in the mood for listening to rock music you can see the top songs based on the group. Essentially a new method of music discovery.

Thanks to Brendan for taking the time to talk to me. The guys are doing surveys in preparation for the launch of the beta version at the moment so if you’re interested in being part of the process give them a shout via Twitter or email. You can find out more about Soundwave on their website, and check out their promo video below.