As part of a recent search for gainful employment I was asked to submit a one-page writing sample on the subject of one of my most innovative projects or inventions. That was an interesting request in and of itself, but answering that question allowed me to mentally go back to the beginning of my techno journey and a website named Musicv2.com.
In 2001, the most obvious option for independent musicians looking to share their music online was MP3.com. At its peak, MP3.com was delivering over 4 million audio files per day and was home to more than 25 million users. Boasting what was at the time the tech world’s largest IPO to-date, it was the leader in the nascent online music streaming industry.
By early 2002 however, following an acquisition by Vivendi Universal and due to a shift in strategy to primarily focus on major label artists, satisfaction was falling and the independent music community was looking for alternatives.
Being 24, armed with a newly purchased domain name, youthful hubris and $1500 in “seed” money from my grandfather, I thought myself uniquely positioned to displace Vivendi’s $320m 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”.
In late 2002 Musicv2.com officially launched 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 services were lacking, large file uploads.
While the site was met with enthusiasm and a degree of success, what was clear almost immediately was that if we wanted to achieve the founding goals and succeed against “the big guys”, we had to be singularly focused on our artists and be constantly innovating.
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 enabling our artists to feature their music on other platforms which was relatively unheard of at the time.
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 100’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, Musicv2.com did eventually come to an end and we officially ceased operations in 2009. While I didn’t retire a billionaire or revolutionize the entire music industry, what is true is that the experience continues to be a source of growth and opportunity. Even now almost 20 years after the site launched, I still find value in looking back and reflecting on both the success and the mistakes.
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. I know that what I have become today is a direct result of the experiences gained during this time and the people who believed in the dream of an upstart little music site that never wanted to be the biggest, only the best!
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.