|Created by||David Porter, Remi Gabillet|
|Launched||8 August 2008|
8tracks.com is an internet radio and social networking website revolving around the concept of streaming user-curated playlists consisting of at least 8 tracks. Users create free accounts and can either browse the site and listen to other user-created mixes, and/or they can create their own mixes. The site also has a subscription-based service, 8 tracks plus, although its features are still evolving. Currently, a $25 payment purchases a 6-month subscription, during which time advertisements are removed from the website interface while subscribers are logged in. Specific DJ-focused features are in the works, but will likely include profile customization, mix analytics, and unlimited uploads.
8tracks Founder David Porter claims his idea for a “music-oriented social network” has been in development since 1999 during his time in business school at Berkeley. However, this music-oriented social network was founded in 2006 and launched on August 8, 2008. One of Porter’s major influences for the project was Napster, more specifically its “Hotlist” feature, which allowed users to add other users to their “hot list,” consequently giving them access to that user’s entire library. Also, after having spent 3 years prior to business school in London, Porter was fascinated by the social nature of the city’s electronic music scene in which DJ’s gained cult-like followings and augmented their following primarily through peer referral. Based on these concepts, Porter drafted a business plan entitled “Sampled & Sorted,” which is now the name of his blog and was able to garner some initial attention for the project from venture capital firms. However, given his relative inexperience in the business world, Porter joined Live365, gained an understanding of their business model, their strengths and weaknesses, and was able to refine his original proposition. With the rise of Web 2.0, Porter finally decided to found 8tracks in the Fall of 2006, and after compiling a preliminary team, was able to launch the site on August 8, 2008.
8tracks is a website that allows users to share and discover music in a simple, legal, and free way. Listeners are able to search through existing mixes and/or as create their personal mixes. Member must include a minimum of eight songs, uploaded from their personal music library or directly accessed through a SoundCloud bridge, per playlist. Users can search for mixes by individual artist, specific genre, or by utilizing the “cloud” feature that sorts mixes by clickable, emotionally and/or psychographically descriptive tags (i.e. autumn, love, sad, eclectic). Individual songs within a playlist each feature a direct link to iTunes should the user wish to purchase that song. Users can “like” entire mixes or “star” individual tracks within them in order to facilitate quick access in the future, and can also “follow” other users, effectively subscribing to the mixes they create. Users also have the ability to embed the mixes they create and share them through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. 8tracks also has the ability to reverse sync with these social networking sites to allow users to easily find their "friends" and expand their network.
8tracks also allows users to interact through smart phones. The iPhone App contains features similar to the web platform; users can "heart" mixes and "star" individual tracks and also purchase songs they like through iTunes. The Mix Feed gives users a stream of all their favorite tracks, and they can search for any artist of interest, or find mixes that include them. Users can also browse by genre or mood tags (rock, sad, etc.). The iPhone App allows features for new music discovery on the go as well. The Mix Feed gives users a stream of all their favorite users’ tracks, and they can search for any artist of interest, or find mixes that include them.
In November 2011, 8tracks made its debut in the Android Market, launching with more than 300,000 mixes. An Android 2.1 or higher device is required in order to use the app, but Market stats reveal more than 10,000 downloads within days of release.
Everyone can listen to mixes for free. Unlike other music oriented social network such as Pandora or Spotify, 8tracks does't have commercial interruption. On the home page, listeners can either select multiple tags to sort the mixes or enter favorite artists to get recommended mixes. The range of tags spans from Folk to Dubstep and everything in between. Listeners can also comment on, favorite, and share mixes.
Anyone can be a DJ on 8tracks. The site allows its users to add titles, images, descriptions, at least 2 tags, and at least 8 tracks when creating a playlist. They also have the option to mark mixes as unlisted, which makes them private, or not safe for work (NSFW), which hides them from users who opt-in to a filter. When a DJ uploads songs to the site, they appear in a list next to where the mix is created. There is also a list of tracks from SoundCloud provided by 8tracks for DJs to add to their mix. DJs can share mixes via Google+ and Facebook. Each DJ has a profile which can be accessed by clicking on their name or avatar. This page displays the users basic information such as their location, a short bio that they can add, their Twitter handle, or any other website related to them that they would like to have featured. In addition, one can see all the mixes they've published, how many users follow them, and how many people they follow. To add a DJs mixes to your feed, you can follow the DJ. Every time a DJ is followed their mixes are displayed on your feed in reverse chronological order. DJs have the ability to follow other users as well.
With 8tracks, developers can build an 8tracks player. There is also a forum where developers can ask questions to peers or staff. Both official and third-party apps are available for listeners to use. The API requires an API key and offers a variety of data which can be used to create an app. Official 8tracks apps are available for iPhone, Android, and Mac. In order to comply with copyright laws, developers must record and give the number of plays of each song to 8tracks.
By requesting for a unique artist tag, Artists are able to promote their music on 8tracks with a special account. They are able to create mixes with a combination of their own and others' music, or to post full albums via a content-owner account. By using 8tracks to promote their music, fans have the chance to interact with the artists. Notable artists who use 8tracks to promote their music include: Metric, Bassnectar, Carolina Liar, and B.o.B.
8tracks is a legal and functional music-sharing network due to their compulsory license with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC for the public performance of musical works. This license allows non-interactive webcasters to use any music or recordings that have been released to the public.
There are various ways in which 8tracks ensures its compliance with legal restrictions:
- 8tracks follows specific programming rules that limits the number of songs that may be transmitted from any one album or any recording artist on a given channel or playlist.
- Negotiations to directly license music from participating independent record labels and artists who see promotional value in Internet radio.
- 8tracks pays a royalty rate in two different ways. They first negotiate with representatives of copyright owners and then establish a pursuant to a proceeding conducted by the three judges on the Copyright Royalty Board. These musical works royalties are paid to ASCAP, BMI, and SECAC. This portion of revenue comprises 3% to 5% of total revenues.
- Reports to the copyright owners of each song used is transmitted on the service, pursuant to negotiate reporting requirements or requirements adopted by the Copyright Royalty Board. As a result, royalties may be fairly allocated and distributed to individual copyright owners and recording artists.
8tracks has begun to offer their user-curated playlist platform to brands looking to open channels of communication with potential consumers through “music-centric interactive marketing” campaigns. For instance, apparel store/community Threadless partnered with 8tracks to host a monthly contest in which Threadless’ warehouse crew judges playlists and the curator of their favorite mix wins a $50 gift certificate. To promote their new, retro Piiq headphones, Sony ran a contest in conjunction with fashion website Lookbook where users created mixes representative of “A Day in the Life (of You)” and those with the most likes won fashion and/or music-related prizes. Rolling Stone also added an interactive element to the release of its yearly “Playlist Issue” by compiling genre-specific celebrity- and artist-curated playlists that were hosted through the magazine’s 8tracks user page and also embedded on the Rolling Stone website. This integrated media approach was significant in that it allowed otherwise heavily copyrighted music to be streamed legally. Notable curators included Tom Petty, Elton John, Art Garfunkel, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. Finally, California hotel chain Joie de Vivre and its partners offered a variety of prizes to DJs who published and generated the most likes on mixes driven by the theme of “California road trip” in order to drive brand awareness during the peak summer travel season.
Points of Difference
8tracks and other Internet radio sites, such as Pandora and Turntable.fm, allow users to explore a variety of songs and artists based on their musical preferences. Listeners are able to discover new artists and songs that they would have never encountered otherwise. Based on the users music interest, these Internet radio stations randomly select songs that are similar to the users' initial choice. Like Pandora, 8tracks’s music license limits the number of songs that users can skip every hour.
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