It’s been nearly two decades since the introduction of the very first iPod, but most of us would be hard-pressed to recall the time before the MP3 stopped being a fad and became the de facto audio format. The arrival of YouTube in 2005 further cemented the decline of the “tangibles” that had up to then propelled the music industry – the Walkman, album art, radio shows and that most tactile souvenir of adolescence, the mix-tape.
While creating your own playlists is still a basic feature of streaming services like Spotify, curating your music collection has been all but revolutionized. Gone are the days of cramming 20 tracks onto a single CD-R. The streaming economy was built on the promise of limitless access at the fraction of the price of an LP.
As of May 2014, over 1.5 billion playlists have been uploaded to Spotify, with at least 5 million being created or edited every day. Making and taking song recommendations has never been easier, or more overwhelming.
Same but different
Enter Tradiio, the streaming service with a twist (and a shout, if you’re prone to over-sharing your impeccable tastes on social media). Established in 2014 by Alvaro Gomez Nogueiras, André Moniz and Miguel Leite, Tradiio promptly carved a niche for itself by incorporating into a run-of-the-mill streaming platform everything else that makes life on the Internet so addictive: game play, online shopping and a virtual stock market.
Just as music lovers now have an infinite catalog of discographies at their disposal, Tradiio was founded on the observation that aspiring musicians, too, have gone from hawking home recordings on forums to selling albums and merch alongside chart-topping artists on Bandcamp. Although indie bands have greater access to promotional channels than ever before, it’s also become harder for their voices to be heard from among a vast sea of clamoring wannabes – 77% of the music industry’s total output is generated by just 1% of its artists.
Initially working with just Portuguese musicians, Tradiio took its cue from the traditional artists and repertoire (A&R) model, issuing every new user 5,000 virtual tokens and encouraging them to “invest” in up-and-coming performers of their choice. The most eagle-eyed of talent scouts would be rewarded in the form of bonus currency, concert tickets, even audio equipment.
Tokens can also be accumulated by completing challenges like “Listen to two new tracks today” or “Discover four reggae songs”. In turn, fan-invested musicians who gained popularity on Tradiio would receive developmental support in the form of studio time, in-app promo and festival slots.
Beating the sophomore slump
Still, the question persists. How can a small local startup compete in an international oligopoly where consumers are already spoilt for choice? Even Jay-Z’s Tidal failed to garner the built-in audience it expected, and competition among streaming platforms is now so fierce that some of its founding fathers are being crowded out of the market. (Rumors of SoundCloud’s impending bankruptcy swirled when it shut down its San Francisco and London offices and laid off nearly 200 employees earlier this year.)
In August 2016, Tradiio announced a dramatic departure in its business model from the virtual stock market to the monthly subscription. Although the switch from free to paid content might spell trouble for some, it must be noted that Tradiio’s approach has always been less about how we consume music than the multifaceted ways we now consume culture.
Unlike Spotify and Pandora, who focus on bringing new music to the masses, Tradiio first made its mark by establishing itself as a middleman, actively brokering interactions between artists and their public.
Like true A&R mavericks, it demonstrated a knack for identifying trends outside of the music industry and working them to its advantage. It forged strategic partnerships in the form of campaigns like UberSessions, where bands streamed live performances shot by a 360-degree camera from within an UberX Clubman.
It seems entirely likely, then, that Tradiio’s founders have modelled their new approach after the growing popularity of direct fan-funding efforts in the creative industry. Sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo have been embraced by everyone from self-published authors to hip-hop legends De La Soul. Their appeal stems from a highly customizable rewards system that not only brings artists up close and personal with their fans, but also provides them with a direct and immediate revenue source.
For anything from US$3 to US$20 a month, users can support Tradiio-partnered musicians like Tourists and Swedish singer-songwriter Ayelle by subscribing to music video-cameos, invitations to listening parties and Skype meet-and-greets.
With over 42,000 artists and 250,000 users now on board, Tradiio has announced further plans to tap into English-speaking audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s also taken crowdfunding straight to investors. In December 2016, Tradiio surpassed its goal of €600,000 on equity crowdfunding site Seedrs – the largest sum raised by a Portuguese company on the platform to date and valuing the company around €4 million.