Aug 29 2008
We caught up with Steve Spalding, the Digital Marketing Manager at Grooveshark (a music sharing community), at Gnomedex last week. Steve is an electrical engineer and editor of the critically acclaimed technology/business blog, “How To Split An Atom.” He is also a digital marketing and social web guru whose expertise is increasing the overall effectiveness of marketing campaigns through the Internet.
Steve is also the managing partner of Crossing Gaps LLC. He has built startups and counseled numerous CEOs and founders. Steve’s work has been cited in various sources such as the LA Times and Geoff’s book, Now is Gone.
BB: Grooveshark is the latest iteration of peer to peer. Why is Grooveshark different?
SS: 1. More than anything else we want to make it affordable and convenient for people to get the music they want, when and where they want it. The only way to do this sustainability is to make certain that the all of the rights holders get their fair share. That’s great, but what about the users on the network? We wanted to push the boundaries of the model and reward the people who are kind enough to share their music over our network. We do this through a 60/20/20 split for downloads. 60% of whatever we charge, which is anywhere between $.49 and .99 per track goes to the rights holders and the other 40% is split between us and the file sharer (in the form of a credit).
2. We see peer to peer as a tool instead of the all end all. We have built a bunch of cool peripheral products that are fed by our peer to peer backbone — Tinysong (a URL shortening site), Grooveshark Lite (our streaming product), and a bunch of other little odds and ends. People seem to rely too heavily on the kitsch factor of peer to peer, we try to avoid that.
3. 11 million songs. Our library is extraordinarily complete and the songs in it are very high quality. Our staff is made up of audiophiles and one of the first things they did was make sure that we had really robust tools to remove songs that don’t meet our quality standards. Add that to one of the strongest, most diverse music libraries in the space and you start seeing the real power of the network. I don’t know how many people have told me that after they got into using Grooveshark Lite they didn’t need to open up iTunes again.
BB: Grooveshark will become inherently more social in its next version. Can you give us a sneak peak?
SS: I wouldn’t want to give away too many secrets, but what I will say is that we took all the feedback we received from Grooveshark BETA, stirred it around a little and spit back out a community. We wanted to give users robust tools to discover and share music, while not making it so complex it is inaccessible. You can definitely expect stronger Artist / Album profiles, better ways to search for and share playlists with your friends, and *lots and lots* of ways for users to share their knowledge of music.
BB: What is your specific role at Grooveshark?
SS: I wear a lot of hats but most often I handle Grooveshark’s online marketing campaigns. I talk to bloggers, help with designing advertising campaigns, handle the public relations between us and the tech community and manage our blog and the surrounding rich media content. Most recently I have spent a lot of time with our blog. I always loved the 37 Signals model of corporate blogging, where instead of focusing strictly on the nuts and bolts of the company you create content that will interest your user base.
One of our staff members is always out at festivals and we have brought back tons of interviews with big name acts (Vampire Weekend, the Fleet Foxes, Girl Talk) and in-house we have a really talented set of interns who churn out some really compelling posts on general music topics.
BB: On a personal level, you are one of the successful bloggers at How to Split an Atom. How is the project coming?
SS: It is going well. It has been my baby for just over 2 years now and I am really excited about how much it has grown in the last 6 months. That being said, we’re scrapping the entire thing and changing gears. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but it’s not too far off from the truth. One of the biggest problems in popular blogging these days is that we spend a lot of time circling around the same, common ideas. I hated the time I spent on that treadmill, and I wanted to refocus myself so that I never have to even look at it again.
In the next few months we will be doing some really exciting things that will turn the blog into a place for people who are interested in web applications, social media, tech and business surrounding them can go for inspiration, education and most importantly act as a springboard to actually start *building* things again. The tagline I just made up on the spot is, "transforming ideas into actions."
BB: Do you prefer personal or professional social media?
SS: I like both. What I like about Social Media is how broad it is, because of what I do for a living I am always feeling like my personal social media life bleeds into my professional one.
I think we will start seeing personal social media become more mainstream when it’s easier to decouple the two.
BB: What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry today?
SS: We underestimate our power, our power to change the world and change our lives using "social" technology. When an average guy like me can reach an audience of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in less time than it would take me to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I think that maybe, just maybe, we need to start looking at what we *do* with these platforms. What’s your cause? Do you want to tell everyone you know how much you love the MLB, maybe you can fire up some collaborative research tools tonight and help to cure Leukemia, it doesn’t matter — you can do it, you have the power.
That’s amazing stuff.
The reason I don’t buy the weblebrity shtick that infects our little corner of the blogosphere is because it denies the fact that we all can build whatever size platform we want from scratch. Influence is a hard nut to crack, but there are entire worlds of untapped potential still available. If you want to become the leading voice in Social Technologies in South-East Asia, you probably can still do it. Just because you can’t be "another Silicon Valley Social Media guy" doesn’t mean that all is lost.
What’s our challenge then? Easy, relevance. We have a lot of interesting toys, why not turn them into something that history might actually care about?
BB: What’s next for Steve Spalding?
SS: Everything. I am working hard to make sure that people know about Grooveshark, in my free time I am building the blog like I mentioned earlier and in the next month or two I am finishing up a book.
It’d be a full interview summing up everything so I’ll just say my Facebook status for a while will be busy.
You can reach Steve at: