How I Started an
Online Social Music Platform
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Marc Frankel and I am the Founder and CEO of SameTunes! SameTunes is an online social music platform. Our goal is to help people compare music tastes, create fun playlists, and connect with friends all under a backdrop of music.
Find out your own music tastes and how they compare with friends from things such as top songs to top artists and more. Generate a shared playlist so people can be happy about the songs chosen whether that’s at a party or on a long roadtrip. I’m excited about creating connections through music!
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m a rising 5th year Business major with a minor in Computing & Intelligence at Georgia Tech. I fell in love with coding in middle school and since then I’ve always wanted to combine my love of computer science with more entrepreneurial endeavors.
In high school, I founded my first tech startup, Vamonos!, a location-based text messaging app which won various prizes at different business pitch competitions. My experience and initial success with Vamonos! instilled a dream of founding and running a successful tech startup. My hobbies include keeping up with the latest startup/tech news, delving into the stock market, and practising my coding skills.
I’ve also always been a music enthusiast and one thing I felt people struggled with was talking about music. It often comes down to a manual back-and-forth of “What kind of music do you listen to” and “What artists do you listen to” until you get some vague sense of what someone likes. And I don’t blame them. It’s incredibly difficult to encapsulate your music tastes in a couple sentences.
Music is such an integral part of someone’s identity and there are strong correlations with music tastes and their personality. Music can amplify current emotions and moods while also serving as a platform from which people can bond over. Which such an omnipresent aspect in life such as music, why were there still problems? I talked to countless people about issues on first dates where talking about music can be cumbersome or even having difficulties finding a compatible playlist on a long road trip.
That’s why I created SameTunes, a social music platform. I wanted to make it easier for people to compare, share, and discover music. Music exists in every culture in the world and is a great connector force for humanity. I want SameTunes to connect the world over everyone’s shared love of music.
SameTunes lets users instantly compare music tastes with friends, finding out things such as what top songs, artists, and albums you have in common. People can also learn about your own music tastes such as their genre breakdown and your own top songs, artists, and albums.
We offer a host of social features to keep up with your friends and their music tastes such as friend profiles and created shared playlists. I hope people can enhance current friendships (or even make new friends) through genuine connections via SameTunes!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Being a college startup founder has its fair share of challenges but also presents itself with opportunities to rise to the occasion. I’ve dreamt of the chance to run my own startup and utilize the skills I’ve honed throughout the years. It started out as coding when I was in middle school and grew to when I started Vamonos! in highschool. Early on I “caught the bug” of startups and since then I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity of running my own startup. Despite the enjoyment in my day to day as the Founder of SameTunes, it is definitely not without its challenges.
One of these challenges was convincing my developer team of the tech stack I wanted. I used PHP as our web development scripting language and oftentimes PHP suffers from brand image issues especially to new coders. PHP is often viewed as “older” and “slow” but it offers unparalleled stability and data management benefits, especially with websites. Trying to convince a team of thoroughbred computer science majors that the “uncool” tech stack was the way to go was no easy task, especially considering how I’m a business major with a computer science minor. Eventually, they came around to it with enough persuasive conversations and even came to enjoy the solid, dependable tech stack that is PHP.
Another challenge was Coronavirus. Managing SameTunes in the midst of a pandemic was no easy task. Our startup accelerator program moved to virtual and cancelled our office space leaving us with only virtual options. While work from home has its benefits, this was a team that had not met each other and was a completely new dynamic. I worked with our CTO to secure an office space where we could collaborate and utilize that startup energy.
Another issue was managing people my own age. While it’s difficult enough to manage people younger than you, it was a unique issue to wrestle with to handle people your age or even older. I learned key lessons in patience and communication to best engage with my team and create a cohesive environment. The struggle often came from when or when not to treat things like a group project.
Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t want my experience any other way. I loved the ups and downs and the lessons I learned. We grew as a unit and worked towards something bigger than ourselves. I look forward to learning from my team and continuing my startup journey.
Who is your target market?
We believe music is a beautiful connector between peoples and cultures. Music can provide such a unique perspective on our personalities and our views of this world. Anyone who uses music streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music, and are interested about their own music tastes are our target market. These generally are people ages 13-35 who are curious about themselves and others, especially in regards to music.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
When we first launched our MVP back in February, we marketed to family and friends as well as people in the Georgia Tech community, people who we had a connection to could help see if there was any interest here. Growing from that, we mainly wanted to explore unpaid/cheaper options to truly see if this was a viral idea.
We created a social media presence through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to engage with our users. We tried using paid advertisements from Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat but the engagement and CTR were disappointing.
Our most successful approaches have been connecting with our potential users in an authentic way that also allows for avenues to share with others. One of these approaches was posting on a popular college Facebook meme group called Zoom Memes for Quaranteens, which allowed us to spread to other colleges and people tagged the friends in the comments.
Another successful marketing tactic was our referral competition which garnered over 2400+ referrals and helped incentivize some excitement within our users.
Perhaps one of the most challenging but rewarding websites was Product Hunt, a place where startups can launch and showcase their product. We woke up at 3am to launch our product and had family and friends pour in to help support us, and we eventually got to the 5th product of the day! Which we view as an extra special achievement since we launched alongside an Instagram Product (Reels). It was great seeing the engagement from tech enthusiasts and receiving crucial feedback to bring us to the next stage.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
This is a tough question and something we are actively grappling with. Retention of customers is at the forefront of our planning and development to ensure that users come back and enjoy our platform. We want to not just be a gimmick. We maintain contact through update emails about new comparisons and friends. Our main focus is on how to bring customers back and we are in the midst of creating features such as a music journal to show users how their music has changed over time and personalized playlists based on their unique music tastes.
We have a slogan here at SameTunes: compare, create, connect. We have the compare locked down but we are moving forward into the next phase of create and connect. “Compare” is what brings people into the door and “create” and “connect” encourages them to stay. We are developing our platform with user retention in mind and having ways for people to connect socially over music is critical.Lastly, we believe in user feedback. We have weekly conversations with various users about their thoughts on the platform, what pain points they face, the aspects they enjoy, and what they would love to see. Being big believers in customer discovery, we have put in a lot of work into perfecting our analytics in order to better understand our users.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
For me, collaboration is at the center of everything we do. On day one, we had our orientation program, and we did various team-building exercises to ensure a strong community of collaboration that new startups like ourselves need to thrive.
I believe that collaboration comes from strong relationships, so one of the important things was for the team to strengthen their friendships. This manifested in activities such as post-work gatherings, group lunches, and friendly banter. Throughout the summer, I took a group of seven strangers and helped create bonds that not only helped in their personal lives, but also aided in stronger teamwork at SameTunes.
Despite the pandemic, we managed to secure a small but cozy office space where we could collaborate closely with each other, and I found that in-person work has been critical in a strong and fruitful team culture. Our daily standups and bi-weekly sprint meetings brought together different perspectives as well as viewpoints that culminated into the platform that is SameTunes and the strong culture behind it.
Our three values are: do right by the user, do right by the team, and embrace the similarities in our differences. For the first value, do right by the user, it is about transparency, privacy, and accountability. Whenever we design new features into SameTunes, we always design with the user in mind and how they interact with our platform. Second is, do right by the team. While the first value is more external facing, this value is more internal-facing as it guides us to keep in mind the people behind SameTunes. Finally, we like to embrace the similarities in our differences, which is recognizing that every person is unique, and that uniqueness is what brings us together as a community.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We used several different softwares to achieve our goals of constant improvement. Things softwares include BitBucket, Hotjar, Clickstream, and ClickUp. We used BitBucket as a coding repository where we can work together on our code. We used Hotjar to envision how the user experiences our website in order to identify and eliminate pain points.
Custom internal Clickstream analytics is for examining the different clicks on our website and for detailing metrics. In order to keep all our tasks organized, we used ClickUp to plan and execute sprint meetings, and to allow for efficient work management.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
My journey as a startup founder gave me insight into what real hands on experience looks like. I learned the importance of communication especially in regards to my vision, how my team played into that, and how executed it. It is always important to keep your team on the same page which was facilitated by daily standups in weekly all hands meetings.
Another thing I learned is resilience, people will doubt you and tell you that it is not possible. However, I learned to keep my head down and work on what I believe in which has brought SameTunes to where it is today.
Lastly, I would say to be humble. Trust your co-founders and trust your team. They are in their day in and day out working right besides you, so they sometimes know the process better than you. At the beginning, I thought I always knew what was best for the company but I’ve come to realize how valuable other peoples input can be. If there is anything you can take away, it is to believe in yourself and to trust in your team. Always hear everyone out, but listen to a few. Everyone can always contribute no matter their title or position
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
As I mentioned before, I always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I got a taste of it in high school with my first startup and I have been chasing that feeling ever since. It is the feeling of building something bigger than ourselves and working with amazing people to do just that. Oftentimes, our American culture can feel so individualistic, but the goal driven team mentality is my favorite thing about entrepreneurship. There is nothing more exhilarating than realizing the joy SameTunes has brought people, especially during these trying times.
Being an entrepreneur also means the ability to work on projects that have meaning and having the autonomy to control the direction they go in. We are more than our one person, we are the sum of experiences and perspectives that embody the human condition.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Don’t get me wrong, I love being an entrepreneur but it also comes with a couple aspects that are not my favorite. At the start of SameTunes, I constantly had people tell me it was infeasible and that my idea was dumb.
My least favourite aspect is probably not being taken seriously. Being told the idea was just a gimmick was extremely common. Even as we were trying to sell them on the bigger picture. As a young founder, I faced ageism and people didn’t believe in me or my abilities. If you truly believe in your idea, you have to work hard for it despite the consistent beatdown of negativity.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
NPR’s How I Built This inspired me on my business journey, I love hearing about people’s journey through ideating, creating, and executing. It gives me a sense of community that other founders faced the same issues I do. Their little tidbits of advice and insight proved to be invaluable when handling business issues, my team, users, and more.
Their How I Built Resilience subseries shows how founders deal with problems, these lessons gave me the strength to know I can do it as well. I would highly recommend this series to anyone I know not only because of the valuable lessons you learn but to satiate any curiosity on how some of the world’s most recognizable brands came into existence.
I am also a big fan of the Syntax podcast. It’s a more technical podcast that helps me stay up to date on current tech and coding trends.
Finally, some of the many management and business books I have read and enjoyed are One Minute Manager, Delivering Happiness, Elon Musk’s Autobiography, Lean Startup, and Zero to One. They all have interesting lessons to take away.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I see a bigger company, with more employees, and larger revenues. The current addressable target market is about 8 billion and is estimated to grow to 17 billion dollars by 2024. The music market is huge and we want to capture that segment of the population so people can feel connected.
We believe we have something amazing in our hands and we want to share this with other people so they too can embrace the similarities in our differences.
We have a planned expansion to other music streaming services and a bunch of new features especially in the social realm of things. In 2 years time I hope to be profitable, with a team of at least 20, helping to make the world a more fun and sharing place.