Q & A with Ed Aten of Swift.fm

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Ed Aten is a pretty busy guy. We were lucky enough to catch him for a moment to ask a few questions about the newly launched, post beta-version of Swift.fm

Who is Ed Aten? Why did he create Swift.fm?

My grandmother was the only other person in my family who was into music and she took it on herself to encourage me even from afar.

She made me a tape of her singing Christmas carols a capella and I
used to listen to it year round.

I started playing music from there. Jazz & funk on drums. Singer
songwriter and rock on guitar. Seeing shows. Just loving music.

The whole time I had also been into tech. I started downloading MP3s when it would take an entire day and run up the bill.

In 2009 I went to visit my best friend in Chicago and we stayed up all night playing music for each other off of our phones and the internet.

Hungover on the flight back the next day I started riffing about ways we could connect people super easily. It was from that session Todd and I built the first Swift.fm.

First Swift.fm became great but as we started connecting with people, learning more and sitting down with our amazing users we understood the real opportunity; creating a tool that directly connects artists and fans.

That’s what new Swift.fm is all about being the best tool to for
artists and fans to socially connect with music. Its our total and
complete focus.

How long after coming up with the initial idea did it take to get things up and running? What did the process entail?

We built the first version of the service in about 2 months. Working
with a small team it keeps you really focused on the core of your
service. We relentlessly removed features, scaled back ideas and tried to define as clearly as possible what our service is about.

The second version took much longer. I went on a 6 month listening
tour with artists, labels, fans and major brands to get beyond the
‘pulse’ of the industry but really find a clear distilled vision of
what we believe the future is.

Its that vision that is guiding everything we are doing with Swift.fm.

Has Swift.fm faced any adversity since its inception regarding legal issue surrounding the distribution of copyright protected music by stream freely or is your site and service treated as online radio?

Great question and I’ll start out by saying that we haven’t had any issues. From day one we have wanted to do something that supports artists and as such we are unequivocally against stealing 100%.

Our site is covered under the DMCA which for us basically means we don’t have to let a few bad apples spoil the situation for everyone. If someone posts illegal content we have a defined system for removing it when rights-owners notify us.

We have always been and will always be a resource that supports great artists and great music.

We are really excited about the possibility of helping artists monetize this content as well and are in active discussions with them about the best way to do that going forward.

What would you say have been some of the most creative and effective uses for Swift.fm by both artists and non-artists users of the service?

Its hard to talk about Swift.fm and not talk about Questlove. His
influence, creativity and just the sheer amount of music he makes puts him in a league all his own.

As the Roots were recording ‘How I Got Over’ Quest dropped all kinds of mixes and edits of the album in progress. He must have put out something like forty different 30 second snippets of the songs as they were being created.

I’m a huge Roots fan, so for me that was a really amazing thing to be
a part of but as someone focused on the future of music I saw it as a
clear example of the road ahead.

Bands create so much music, most create hundreds of tracks a year, but only release a very very small percentage of that. The typical album release cycle is like what, 12 months? 18 months? 24 months? We already see a lot of artists breaking out of that to share more music with their fans in real time.

Not just to keep them interested and engaged with the band but because they love it and now for the first time they have the opportunity.

The new version of Swift.fm is created to make all of that even easier and in a lot of ways is based on how we saw Questlove’s and the community using Swift.fm.

Can you suggest some important steps when pursuing an endeavor similar to developing a tool like Swift.fm?

Try to only do one thing.

I blog about this stuff a lot but the key thing I would suggest is to
try to find the smallest, clearest problem you can fix. Have a one
sentence description of what you are trying to do and use that as the guiding force behind every decision you make.

Its not the ideas that are the hard part – Its about creating something small enough that users can pick up your tool and know which problem it solves and what to do with it.

What would today’s Ed Aten say to Ed Aten of yesterday right before he launched Swift.fm?

‘Take a nap.’

Living in the business/startup world means my meetings usually start at 8 or 9AM but living in the business world means I have artists to connect with before or after shows to all hours of the morning. I try and squeeze a nap in there when I can but that usually doesn’t happen.

Lastly. When are you coming to hang out with us in NYC?

I’m going to be in NYC in mid July. I cant wait to weigh in on the
east vs west Shake Shack vs In N Out battle. I’m from Missouri so feel like I can be an impartial judge.

To give the new Swift.fm a test run visit here http://swift.fm/join/

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