Earlier this week, I wrote an article called Why Is Europe Leading the World In Music Innovation? The article was based on a post from The Independent which details London’s prominence in digital music innovation. Written by Ian Burrell as he was covering the 2012 Digital Soundclash in London, I decided to reach out to the participants and I was able to interview the winner of this year’s competition – WhoSampled.com.
WhoSampled.com is a community site for discovering and discussing sampled music, remixes and cover songs. The London-based digital music service has a massive amount of samples, cover songs, and remixes in its database which consists of over 140,000 tracks and 52,000 artists. Below is an interview, I had with Founder Nadav Poraz about his company’s early beginnings and the environment for music innovation in London.
I see that Who Sampled has a large amount of users both in the U.S. and the UK, how long did it take for you guys to hit that critical mass and at what time do you actually notice it?
We’ve started to gain an audience for the service early on, and it kept on growth nicely ever since. “Critical mass” is a term that can be interpreted in various ways and means different things for different services. For us, we’ve had a good number of visitors, contributors, and moderators about a year after we launched. Around that time, our vision for how the site should work and grow was really taking shape.
Since launching in 2008, how much has your core product remained the same or has there been a lot of changes?
The core product has remained essentially the same, but we’ve added a lot of features since then. We’ve started out just with samples, and gradually added covers and then remixes to the database. We’ve added lots of great music discovery features such as listing producers and remixers, tagging, listing trending content and a forum. We keep on adding new stuff all the time and are very excited about several forthcoming product developments.
What were some of the challenges that you faced in the early days?
The main challenge has always been and still is to maintain the highest content quality possible, while keeping on top of the huge amount of incoming submissions we receive on a daily basis. Every single piece of information on WhoSampled gets checked before it goes live on the site, so there’s an enormous operation behind the scenes involving over 50 moderators and also members of staff. We’ve built a lot of backend systems to help deal with this challenge, and we’re doing well since we’ve now got over 140,000 tracks and 52,000 artists listed. It’s an ongoing mission.
I recently read an article in The Independent titled “How London Turned Into The global centre of music technology.” Do you agree and if so why do you think London leads the world in music innovation?
London has certainly developed a strong wave of music startups and it’s easy to see why. In many ways London is the music capital of the world, the major labels have a strong presence here and it’s always been a place that gives birth to new subgenres and indie labels. So musicians have always been drawn to London and in recent years, with the tech boom a lot of software engineering talent has flocked here too. Many people in this city are looking to combine their passion for music and tech and that leads to a lot of interesting companies and ideas coming out of here.
What are some of the highlights or moments that you are most proud of?
We’re very proud to be providing our data for academic research in several universities including Stanford. We often get praised by artists and labels we love as well as leading journalists, and that really makes us proud that we’re doing something interesting and important for music. I occasionally teach entrepreneurship and social media and that’s something I really enjoy doing. And last but not least, winning the 2012 Digital Soundclash was great fun!
I see that you are “big hip-hop head” like myself, who are some of the “new” hip-hop artists that you like?
I actually don’t get to listen to much new music properly as I’m so consumed by working on WhoSampled! But getting constantly exposed to music is part of the job. The most popular new artists on the site have recently been ASAP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, but many of the established greats keep on putting out cool new stuff so there are loads to pick from!