Why Music-Based Social Networks are Doomed

In the short period since March, Crowdmix appears to have joined the meltdown, first with announcements of layoffs, then the departure of its CEO and news that employee pay was being withheld (although they have reportedly settled up). The product, a music-based social network, was due to launch in May; but we’re nearing the end of June, with no sign of it being made available.

I did manage to snag a product demo last month and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t bad. What I saw was cleanly designed and totally competent — but that’s likely not enough to save it. The biggest problem with any music-based social network isn’t anything design or engineering or business development can solve — it’s all about scale, and the catch-22’s therein.

Crowdmix certainly wasn’t the first social network to try its hand at capturing the music market, and despite the tragic history of this space, it probably won’t be the last. The initial version of MySpace was arguably the first music social network, and for a time it was massive, although it was largely contained to certain genres. Part of the reason the first version of MySpace became so big in music was because there weren’t really any other places, YouTube aside, where fans could stream tracks for free. MySpace 1.0 started to crash and burn shortly thereafter, and a relaunch was largely unsuccessful.

One of the reasons the new MySpace didn’t make it was that it suffered from the problem that bedevils every social app — scale. I think my interaction was the new MySpace was fairly typical — I got an invite, signed up to see what it was all about, didn’t see anyone I knew there, and left. I never went back, and neither did most people.

If/when Crowdmix makes it out of the gate, they’ll face similar problems. Users already have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to serve their social needs — a new platform that requires some time and effort needs to have a compelling hook to keep people engaged and willing to give it multiple chances. One of the smartest things Facebook ever did was start on college campuses, where even if you got a few hundred people to sign up at launch, chances were other people on that campus knew at least one of those people, and it could grow from there. Unless it pivots dramatically, Crowdmix can’t really do that.

And here’s the other thing that could doom Crowdmix — scale. Terrible, right? It needs to get to scale to succeed, but once it gets to scale, many of its value propositions become moot.

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