Recently, I had the opportunity to write on the subject of one of my most innovative creations and/or inventions and while that was an interesting request itself, answering that question allowed me to mentally go back to the beginning of my techno journey and a website named Musicv2.com.
In 2001, if you were an independent musician wanting to share your music online, you probably had it uploaded to MP3.com.
If you happen to not be in your 40’s like me or are anywhere near my kids age, (5 ranging from 23–7), I’ll help you out here. You can think of MP3.com as the primordial Spotify for unsigned musicians and in July 1999, (minutes before the tech crash of 2000), it boasted the tech world’s largest IPO to-date at $370M.
By early 2002 however, after being acquired by Universal and fueled by the need to actually make money in a post tech-crash world, the site’s focus had shifted to exclusively featuring major label artists. This left many of the independent musicians disgruntled and looking for alternatives.
Me, being 24 and armed with a newly purchased domain name, youthful hubris and a few thousand in “seed” money from my grandfather, I thought myself uniquely positioned to displace Vivendi’s investment, and so it was.
I promptly began employing freelance developers found on various job posting boards and set out to build a music sharing service with the primary goal of empowering the independent music community in the ways other sites of the time had failed to do. The guiding principle and unifying mantra was simple: “Not the biggest, just the best”.
After 6 months of all-nighters and marathon coding sessions, Musicv2.com officially launched in Dec. 2002 with a respectable list of features including fully customizable artist pages, in browser media streaming, song level commenting, a dynamic charting system and the one thing all other music services were lacking at the time, large file uploads.
With the site launched and members joining at a healthy pace, we knew that if we wanted to really “stick it to the man” and succeed against “the big guys”, (I‘m Gen-X, you’ll have to forgive me here), we had to be singularly focused on innovation and giving our artists every tool and advantage that we could. After all, we were the scrappy upstart and these were paid memberships!
In a time before Facebook, we introduced the idea of friends and listener accounts to leverage an artists’ social graph to expand their reach.
Before URL shortners were synonymous with web links we introduced “U-Link” technology which allowed our users to create shortened direct links to their music.
When Myspace became a prominent player in the space we introduced an offsite embeddable player that enabled our artists to feature their Musicv2 content on other platforms, which at the time was relatively unheard of.
As the web changed, so did our services but the core focus on empowering our artists remained the same.
True to the original mantra, Musicv2 never became the biggest and since best isn’t a word one can self-ascribe, I’ll focus on what is quantifiable. Musicv2.com was once ranked by Alexa.com as one of the top 10,000 most visited websites in the world and broke into the top 1000 in the US and Canada.
We were home to 10’s of thousands independent musicians, received millions of monthly visitors, pushed 1000's of terabytes of data per month, (this used to be a lot), and became a fixture in the underground music communities of the time.
Like all good things however, Musicv2.com did eventually come to an end and the site officially ceased operations in early 2009, (a casualty of the 2008 recession). It was an unfortunate end to a much loved community but not an entirely uncommon story for the time.
As for me, I didn’t retire a billionaire or revolutionize the entire music industry, but what I did get is the joy of seeing little pieces of Musicv2’s DNA spread across today’s popular music platforms and the pride in knowing that we played our part in the internets’ early evolution.
If innovation can be thought of as a creation that goes before you and illuminates future paths, Musicv2.com deserves a permanent place on my list of remarkable inventions.
Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoyed this brief look back at a little known piece of internet history.