Mar 10 2021
YPulse’s Music report found that 44% of 13-39-year-olds agree: “COVID-19 and quarantines have changed the way I listen to music,” while 37% agree: “COVID-19 and quarantines have changed the kind of music I listen to.” One way music listening has changed? It’s become more of a solo venture. Social listening with friends has undoubtedly taken a nosedive in the wake of COVID as music events were cancelled, and parties and hangouts became more rare for young people. But music is still an inherently big part of social spaces—it’s just that they’re online. In fact, social media (e.g., YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) is the top source that young consumers tell YPulse they use to listen to music. It’s also the top way they discover new music artists and songs.
TikTok has shown that music can be a fundamental part of a social platform’s success—and now new platforms are emerging that are making music even more of a focus and a shared experience “from the ground up.” Enter SameTunes, a new social music platform that wants to match users based on music compatibility. According to CEO and Founder Marc Frankel, users simply log in with Spotify and it “auto-sucks all [their] data” and automatically starts matching them with other compatible users and friends based on music taste. The platform declares that “music should be social” and believes that music listening can be enhanced by exploring the data behind streaming behavior. It also allows users to explore their own music listening stats—basically giving them ongoing access to the (uber popular) annual Spotify Wrapped feature.
We spoke with Frankel as well as Founder and Chief Marketing Officer David Yap about the evolution of SameTunes, what trends are taking over the music sharing space, and how young listeners are discovering new music:
YPulse: How did SameTunes get started?
Marc Frankel: I originally started SameTunes two years ago. It was plain and simple. I had this initial idea just to let people instantly compare music tastes with each other. It was founded on the core idea that people have more music in common than they think because the whole idea of the platform was to try to celebrate our similarities and differences. The second I started releasing it into the world, I found that the people you wouldn’t think you could be musically compatible with, you actually are. It got more serious around this time last year when we got into an accelerator program at Georgia Tech called CREATE-X. Over the summer, we worked on rewriting the platform into the version you see today that has a lot more features. From there, it’s been growing and we’ve been iterating, and the majority of our focus has been on funding and trying to raise a pre-seed round, expand on different platforms, and live out its full vision.
YPulse: How does it work?
MF: SameTunes is pretty simple. You just go to the platform, log in with your streaming provider—which, right now, we only support Spotify—and once you do that, it auto-sucks all your data into the platform. That’s the cool thing about SameTunes versus just a generic social media platform is that it actually automatically works. You don’t have to try to think about what type of music listener you are, it knows what type of music listener you are. At that point, you can explore your own music data—we like to call it a “Spotify yearly wrapped on-demand”—so if you’re a big fan of those, you can access that data all the time, and can either search for friends or send an invite to them—and instantly compare music tastes with them, see the type of music they’re listening to, and a whole bunch of other features. It’s pretty easy to set up, and most people will be comparing music in less than 30 seconds.
YPulse: How is SameTunes differentiating themselves from other music and social platforms out there?
MF: Compared to other social media, our main difference is that we’re built from the ground up to share music. Right now, existing services, with the exception of TikTok, were never about sharing music. A lot of people share what song they’re listening to or what mood they’re in by taking a picture and put it in an Instagram Story, and just have a song play it, or have lyrics flash over it. That’s cool because you can make an aesthetic with that, but it doesn’t express your whole music taste as a person. The average person listens to two and a half hours of music a day. How can you express that in a single picture? You can’t. That’s compared to Instagram, Snaphchat, and all those guys. But our platform is automatic. We can express your entire music taste. All our features are always driven by a music thesis. But Instagram and Snapchat? Not so much. Even to TikTok, they’re the biggest player in making music go viral, and are the “music social media app,” but it’s also impossible to share a song on there that’s just a song. When you get recommended videos, users rarely ever get recommended videos based on the music—it’s based on the content or who else is liking it, so, it’s not really actually music-based. Music is a core thread of it, but it’s never going to give you music based on what you like so we still think we’re different.
Compared to other companies in our space, the main thing we say we’re doing is three-fold. The first one is we want to be as platform-agnostic as possible. A lot of those other services are launched as “a fun thing” users can do with Spotify, and the second part is our main focus on compatibility. Compatibility is our thread through everything. When I originally started SameTunes, it was just to show how easily compatible you were with somebody, and we got told harshly, but correctly, at our accelerator that it was a “gimmick.” We pivoted to make compatibility not our end all, but our means to our end by powering everything we do. It powers things like friend recommendations, it powers things like FriendTunes Weekly, which is like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, but music from your most compatible friends. Finally, another big one is we let the music data speak for itself. We try to be as automatic as possible. We’re not asking users to login and ask them what kind of music they like. We’re trying to eventually get to customization, but we always pitched it as 90% to 10%—in that 10% would be customizable—and the rest would focus on platform agnostic, compatibility, and let the data speak for itself.
YPulse: MTV News reported that you all collaborated with a TikTok user to elevate your platform as well as to “offer his audience a chance to compare their listening habits to his own.” What role has TikTok played when it comes to elevating your platform?
David Yap: TikTok has played a little bit in our growth, and we’d love for it to play a stronger role. We haven’t found huge success, but we eventually hope it will through partnerships and influencers. One amazing thing about TikTok is how easy it is to find people who are passionate about music, and that’s where our target base is. For example, with Matthew Meyer (@matthew.meyer), I saw that he loved making Spotify playlists for his followers and loved giving music recommendations, and that’s where I reached out to him about a partnership to elevate and talk about SameTunes because I felt like his audience and our platform would make a good connection.
MF: [TikTok] is absolutely a kingmaker especially among Gen Z. It’s a little hard to control. I think what we’re struggling with the most is the idea that you have to come to the platform not trying to promote. When you try to make a straight-up ad, it’s going to fail. The best people are able to blend it—and that’s where you have to take a page out of the influencer handbook, and you have to see how they’ve been able to do it. You almost have to become an influencer before you’re an influencer. It’s a hard thing to do. TikTok will 100% be a brand strategy. It has to be. Our entire target market is on there.
YPulse: Are you seeing that young people’s music listening habits have changed since the pandemic started? Are they connecting with others through music more than before?
MF: The pandemic has changed everyone’s lives, and a huge one is when we first started SameTunes we did a survey, and 50% to 60% said their source of music is their friends. You have to wonder how much of that came from being at a party together, studying together, hanging out together, driving somewhere, or going to music festivals—where you would just get music from other people. Suddenly that got cut off—and you were back to relying on older methods, which if you were lucky enough to go on Spotify, you could share a playlist. Otherwise you could send them a song name or link—and that gets chaotic and breaks down compared to the old way. They all figured out these different, new ways to share music. I actually think it’s a big part of why TikTok was able to take off during quarantines because it was a cool, automatic way to share music. Connecting is an important part of everything we do.
DY: Billboard tracked the entertainment landscape, and during COVID-19, music streaming is up 10% just across the whole country as an average—and for sure, I can imagine that includes the target popular of Gen Z and Millennials. I think people are just more often online or alone, and they just want something to do rather than sit in silence. Something that I struggle with—that I’m sure other Gen Z and Millennials struggle with—is being alone and being so surrounded by silence. Music, online hangouts, video games, and things like that really fill that void.
MF: David highlighted a key factor that we talk a lot about. Like I said before, people were listening to two and half hours of music on average before the pandemic, and most of us that worked in an office are now on our computers all day, or those who are in class, are at a desk streaming music all day long. Music has just become a huge part. The Billboard study mentioned how it’s 10% bigger—and that’s a crazy amount. That’s where we think automatic solutions like SameTunes can really help because are you going to be sharing your music 10% more? How many Instagram stories can you make? That’s where we think lockdown has changed it. I’m not sure how much of that is going to be permanent, but the trends coming out of Spotify and other people who post data, music streaming and pure consumption has only been going one way—and that’s up.
YPulse: Why has music sharing become such a big part of young people’s lives during lockdowns?
MF: Beyond just a way to connect with others, it comes down to identity. I think people like deriving a sense of identity from music, and people get tribalistic about it. People obviously get passionate about the artist they support. I don’t think there’s too much anger toward people who like music that you don’t like, which is kind of nice about the music industry. But I think multiple people get excited when a lot of people share the same musician, so we love seeing that. I think people love seeing and having things confirmed. I think people are just sharing music in general as a way to appear as their own micro-influencer or to appear like they’re a tastemaker. There’s something satisfying about me recommending a song to David, and him being like “Oh, sweet! This is a banger.” and I know his taste now. That was the inspiration behind FriendTunes Weekly, and it automatically shares your music with your friends, and it’s only going to share with people you’re highly compatible with. Even though that’s specific to us, I think that’s why people share their music on platforms like Instagram—is just to show off who they are as a unique individual.
DY: Going off that, the way I view it is that it is a shared experience and nowadays, there aren’t a lot of shared experiences anymore. Pre-pandemic, we used to share experiences and activities by going to dinner or going to the movies, and sharing those interests, and seeing what other people vibe with. Music has always been an intimate part of a person. Like our identity—like Marc mentioned. In sharing music with another friend, we’re sharing that experience with them. It’s a type of connection that transcends the virtualness of normal Zoom meetings because you can text about it and introduce each other to more music, and it gives a narrative and emotion that wouldn’t be there via normal online communication.
Where are some of the ways that most young listeners discover and find new music?
MF: TikTok is definitely a big one. Their friends. Spotify’s Discover Weekly definitely gets a shout out. A lot of people, myself included, use that. One thing that’s always been part of SameTunes’ mantra is that music algorithms are great. We’re not trying to be the new music recommendation. Spotify’s got hundreds of people with their Ph.D working to be the best algorithm ever. We’re not going to win that battle. What we’re trying to do is take what Spotify has already built, layer social on top of that, and make it even better. So, for the vast majority of people when it comes to discovering and finding new music, it’s their friends, TikTok, celebrities, commercials for some people, and Spotify’s Discover Weekly.
What are some recent trends among young listeners when it comes to music listening and sharing?
MF: One interesting trend I’ve noticed is that the Spotify Discover Weekly algorithms are great, and they send you a lot of music. But what they tend to do is they fraction your music taste. Before, it used to be like: “I like rock.” Fifteen years ago, there would be three four colors on the “genre wheel” and that was it. That was your music. Now, that genre wheel is fractured into fifteen different colors—especially amongst Gen Z. I can listen to normal pop then Spotify will recommend music out of Hamilton. I like this. Boom! Or, something completely indie or something from another country—like Spanish music. The biggest trend we’ve seen is that the younger you are, the more diverse your taste is.
What should other brands know about SameTunes?
MF: As we grow out of being just a fun tool online into a full-stage business, especially as we found this round of funding, what we’re looking to do is partner more and more with other brands especially in terms of the honest influencer stuff. We’ve tried that a few times, but we want to throw some real money behind that. We’re launching a partnership with Linkfire, but doing something with them to do better link tracking and analytics that we can offer people. Anyone who thinks they have a unique way to partnership, we’re down to partner with them.
DY: In terms of how we connect with young consumers, Twitter’s “Stan culture” is so crazy, interesting, and unique. I got into one essentially, and started talking to a bunch of them, and got added to their group chat, and played Among Us for a little bit. Just creating those genuine connections with people. When we post things on Twitter, they’ll interact with it. They’re loyal people even though we haven’t met them, but they resonate because we created and took the time to make those connections.
What’s next for SameTunes?
MF: Internally, it’s completing the fundraising. That would allow us to scale up our team, put some more money behind marketing programs, and make our user base much larger. From the consumer perspective, the main thing we’re doing is features, features, features. The main one we’ll be doing is expanding to other platforms like Apple Music, Amazon, or YouTube Music—we want to bring them abroad. From there, it’s all about seeing what kind of music your friends are listening to. If I go to an artist like AJR, it’ll show all the friends you have that listen to AJR filtered by how much they like them—more fun features like that. Our eventual goal is, colloquially, we want to be the “Instagram for music.”
Marc Frankel is a Cleveland native that moved to Atlanta for college in 2016. Georgia Tech was a good fit for him because of GT’s mixture of business and technology, Marc’s two main passions. From a young age, Marc had been programming and developing business ventures in his spare time, all with a common theme: to help make the world a better place and make money at it too. During his time at Georgia Tech Marc was heavily involved with his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta, serving as its Vice-President and Treasurer for two years. He also worked in numerous summer internship positions including at NCR and Home Depot. During his final year at Georgia Tech Marc decided to utilize the school’s Create-X program to help kickstart his business idea SameTunes. Marc graduated from Georgia Tech in December 2020 and is currently serving as the CEO of SameTunes.
David Yap is a Biochemistry graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, with a minor in Biology. He has worked in a number of consumer-facing roles prior to being at SameTunes such as in the foodservice industry, student government, campus tour guides, paralegal, and more. He has always been interested in understanding what makes people “tick” and SameTunes paved the way for that interest. At SameTunes, David connects with artists, leverages influencer platforms, conducts user research, and keeps SameTunes fans around the world updated about upcoming projects.
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