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Music sharing for a social networking age

Posted By David Shamah On March 23, 2010 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

A frustrated jogger searching for the lyrics to a song led to Tunewiki, a comprehensive, free and legal music sharing application for your cell phone.

 

Rani Cohen, founder of TuneWiki.

iPods are nice, but music tends to be even more fun when can you show it off and share it with others. That’s why Israeli developer Rani Cohen decided to create a new music application that allows you to share music with users all over the world. His development, TuneWiki, adds another dimension to listening to music, making it a social event, he claims.

Cohen tried to think of everything when he built TuneWiki, along with partner Amnon Sarig and programmer Chad Kause. As a result, the application for iPhones, Symbian platform and Android phones is the perfect balance between personal music player and social networking tool. You can use it to play music on your device’s library, and display the lyrics and album cover art. Song lyrics appear automatically and are displayed “karaoke style” – meaning they change in the window as each line of the song is sung.

The lyrics database is one aspect of TuneWiki’s social networking capabilities, Cohen tells ISRAEL21c. “When we first launched TuneWiki in 2007, we started with three users and the lyrics to 60 songs. By the end of three weeks we had 41,000 songs, and now we have over 400,000. The biggest karaoke company in the world, located in Japan, has the lyrics to only 40,000 songs,” says Cohen, adding that “it is thanks to the social networking aspect of TuneWiki that we have grown as we did.” Another feature: TuneWiki can translate song lyrics into 40 languages, at the tap of a menu selection.

It was lyrics – or a lack of them – that gave Cohen the idea for TuneWiki. “I was jogging once, listening to music on my old Nokia phone, when I heard a song I didn’t quite understand the lyrics to. I started searching with my phone’s browser for the lyrics – and after trying for quite a while all I could get was information about the song and the artist, but not the lyrics. I figured that if I was frustrated, there were probably many others who were, as well.”

Free and legal, with social networking at its heart

Applications that offer far less than TuneWiki does often cost money. Yet Cohen promises that the company has no current plans to charge for TuneWiki. “We have a good sized user base – more than five million downloads in 210 countries – so we’re able to draw revenues from advertisements,” he says. “We are building a community with TuneWiki, and we believe that community will be open to other, premium services we may offer in the future.”

Cohen insists on doing everything legally, especially given today’s rampant illegal downloading. “We have deals with 1,600 music publishers for rights to use the lyrics in TuneWiki,” Cohen says. “We also use Youtube’s API, so anything that is legally posted on YouTube is legally accessible to TuneWiki users,” which means that Cohen relies on YouTube to clear the legality of videos, allowing users to assume that anything they can link to was legally posted. The result, says Cohen, is the most comprehensive, legal music sharing application in the world.

But TuneWiki’s social component is the heart of the application. Instead of just listening to your own library, you can check TuneWiki’s “music map,” which shows you who is listening to what, and where. For example, you can click on the name of a city, such as New York, and you’ll get a map of the New York area showing you what registered TuneWiki users are listening to. Click on a user, see the name of the song, and listen along, as you’re transported to the YouTube video of the song. Once you’ve found a user whose tastes you respect, you can “follow” that person, Twitter style, and their song list will be sent to your TuneWiki inbox, so you can listen to what they’ve been hearing. You can also click on a link that brings you to a site where you can pay to download the song to your phone.

The lyrics of the song appear automatically on screen karaoke style.

If you’re listening to a song, you can click on the “Where is this song playing?” button, to receive a list of users and places who are listening to the same song. You can also comment on any song to Twitter or Facebook, with a “blip,” conveying that you “love it” or “hate it,” or with commentary – in 140 characters or less, of course. And it’s all wrapped up in a neat, easy-to-use and navigate package.

$7 m. raised in second funding round

TuneWiki also provides access to YouTube videos of the song you’re listening to, when available, as well as video versions of the same song by different artists. And it lets you listen to Shoutcast online Internet radio on your cell phone (the most reliable Internet radio player I’ve found for my Symbian phone).

It’s clearly a cut above other cell phone applications, and investors know it – the company just raised $7 million in a second round of funding led by Motorola, and a week later announced that DOCOMO Capital, the venture arm of Japanese mobile company NTT DOCOMO, was making a “strategic investment in the company in a supplemental closing to its previously announced Series B financing.”

The company says the money will be used to make “significant feature upgrades to TuneWiki.” There are plans to develop a mobile game and Cohen has other ideas on the drawing board, as well.

As befits a company so committed to social networking, TuneWiki has become a truly international organization, with offices in the US, Australia and Russia, as well as in Tel Aviv. “Music is an international language,” says Cohen, “and we’re glad that TuneWiki is able to bring good music to so many people.”

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