Interview With Michael Shumway, Co-Creator of AudioCouch.com



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In this episode I talk with Michael Shumway, Co-Creator of AudioCouch.com and discuss the concerns and questions you came up with from the "Will it work" episode from a few weeks ago. The question I have for you now is...

HAS YOUR OPINION CHANGED?

Why or why not? Knowing what you know now after listening to Michael's side of the equation, what do you think about AudioCouch's future? Leave your thoughts in the comments area below.


15 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

I can see how its mainly targeted towards people in the workforce..but if I was working and looking for something like this, I'd just go to songza.com and create a playlist of ANY song I want. Free.

6:06 PM  
Blogger TeenBiz said...

Dave, good point, songza.com is a great place to go...they use ads to monetize that website which is an option that AudioCouch is considering.

One of songza's weaknesses is the low quality of much of their music (some of which doesn't work at all) because of various recording/streaming sources. Do you think the ability to upload music at its full quality as well as download from any computer would provide a competitive advantage?

7:49 PM  
Blogger R said...

Great podcast! The interview was very interesting - I'd love to see more of them.

I thought the parts about getting help from others with a project, and not trying to do it all yourself, was very useful. I ran into this problem recently - I wanted to create a website, but knew I didn't have the skills to do it. I decided to hire a web programmer, and it's saved me tons of time and stress.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Kitty Lover said...

Can you just not get a $20 or less USB memory stick and put your music on there then down mload itunes, windows media player etc and play your music for FREE?

5:16 PM  
Blogger Nath5000 said...

He said “make sure you hit your core first” but I’m confused about what that target core is. Based on what has been presented about AudioCouch it seems that the potential consumer would have to be:

1) Someone who uses multiple PCs on a regular basis.
2) Someone who doesn’t own an Mp3 player, laptop, or even a large USB memory stick that they can store and play their entire library from. This person wouldn’t own these things either because they can’t afford them (even though mp3 players can be extremely affordable) or because they are older and not tech savvy enough to realize that they can.
3) Not necessarily a student but more likely someone older who is not as tech savvy.
4) Someone who might prefer to listen to the music through the PC speakers at work or at a public cafe rather than listen on a pair of headphones from an mp3 player.
5) Someone who is (presumably) a tech savvy audiophile who would pay for the ability to upload higher quality music rather than the free alternatives listed in the other comments that provide lower sound quality. (If someone only had a limited space of 2GB wouldn’t they probably upload in the lowest tolerable quality so that they could fit more music into their online library?)
I understand he’s going after a niche market but is this niche so small that it wouldn’t even be profitable or justify creating a service for?
-On the “quality” competitive advantage comment you made:
I think the Mp3 generation is a testament to the notion that most people do not care about audio quality. Everyone moved from the CD quality generation to the compressed 128k mp3 quality generation and almost nobody even noticed. This further perplexes me as to who the potential customer for AudioCouch could be.

2:48 PM  
Blogger TeenBiz said...

R, glad to hear you liked the interview, I will definitely try to get more scheduled soon. What kind of website/business are you in?

Kitty Lover, great point identifying a possible competitor. This is something they will need to consider, if they can't make their service more convenient than using a USB drive, they won't have much of a product.

Nath5000, i can tell you are thinking hard about it, and you've made some great points. Lets talk about each one individually.

#1) Right on, that is what Michael himself said.
#2) Looks like these are assumptions, correct me if I am wrong (it happens a bit so I wouldn't be surprised if i am) but Michael never said that anything about the target market's tech savvy-ness or current technology use, other than how many computers they use.
#3) He said, "probably, not a student", but never said anything about tech-savvy-ness. In fact, based on the knowledge that this is geared toward professionals who do use many computers, they probably are somewhat savvy for the most part.
#4) Not sure where you got this idea either, maybe just not understanding where all these computers are people use? Just FYI, the computer I use are home, laptop, school, office, parents house...two of those I need headphones, three i can use speakers.
#5) I am assuming you are referring ot my earlier comment on this one. The idea of quality was a question I posed, wondering if we thought it would provide any advantage. If I understand you right, you are saying it wouldn't? Songza lacks quality not because of bit-rate, but because many of the songs are converted from one form to another, usually ending in flash, and many of them are personal recordings from live events.

Thanks a ton for your comments Nath5000, you are really digging deep and that is good to see. However, be careful of one thing. As students, we sometimes seem to be taking a possibility (e.g.; they don't own an ipod, need high-quality, etc.) and using many of these on top of each other to try to prove a point. One thing that entrepreneurs have to be able to do is problem solve, if we constantly play devils advocate, we end up thinking our ideas will never work. Think about anything long enough and you can talk yourself out of it.

Great comments though guys, especially your Nath5000...keep em coming...i love hearing your ideas and perspectives.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Nath5000 said...

I completely agree with Kitty Lover's comment about the USB stick.

Thanks for replying to my comment Gregg. I was just trying to put the pieces together and figure out exactly who they're targeting and what that potential customer’s problems are. Trying to figure out why they can’t solve the problem with the already available alternatives, such as a USB stick or cheap mp3 player. I know nobody mentioned the term "tech savvy" but that's the feeling I got from what Michael was saying when talking about how the site is simple and intuitive and the reasons why students would not understand the need for the service. About the PC speakers vs. headphones thing, I was basically considering that someone might rather use an alternative to an MP3 player so that they can listen through speakers instead of headphones. I agree with you on point number 5. Those alternative websites really are poor quality in terms of offerings above and beyond the sound quality issue.

I understand the last paragraph of your comment as well. I agree that it’s possible to over think something to the point where you can convince yourself not to do anything. I do think, however, that being reasonable and realistic and having a clear starting point is still important if it guides you in what you're doing. I know that you’ve mentioned in a previous podcast before that you have come across other students who have strong opinions but they have not actually tried starting businesses on their own. Nothing is a substitute for first hand experience.

I do agree with you that one of the most important things for an entrepreneur is to, at some point, actually be able to get out there and take action starting a business rather than thinking or considering all day. I understand the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach which seems like it could be in play here, but I think that even within that approach at each step you need to think as reasonably and critically as possible right from the beginning. The aiming part is, from my understanding, about changing, improving, tuning the product after already starting to sell it. I don’t think that this philosophy is suggesting that you start any idea even if it is unclear or unjustified as to whether its good or not or whether the consumers problem is justifiable enough. I think this important, especially if money or valuable time is at stake.

I agree that any business is really just trying to make money by satisfying a consumer need by solving the problems that those needs pose. The thing here in this case is that I don’t understand why this problem is big enough to justify developing an entire pay-subscription based service. I just can’t wrap my head around figuring out who would pay for it when there are simple alternatives. In this case it seems like the problem has already been solved and that AudioCouch doesn’t really seem to have a unique selling point or competitive advantage.

For example, in your case Gregg, if you face this problem having many computers that you switch between, why would you rather pay $100 a year to store 16gb of your music when you could spend 25 bucks on a USB stick of the same size and play the music from each computers audio player directly off of the stick? What advantage does AudioCouch have to you or their target market?

Also, I think Michael mentioned the iPhone. Why would anyone use this service on an iPhone when it is already an mp3 player?

It sounds like he is designing his service based on feedback from asking around. Isn’t there is a big difference between “asking around” and a properly designed random sample survey or other method of market research? “Asking around” to friends or co-workers or among the product design group seems like it is more likely to get favourable responses that aren’t really going to help or be representative of a the actual market.

11:41 PM  
Blogger TeenBiz said...

Nath5000, more great points. Speaking of which, what business are you in anyways / what are you studying? I'd be interested to learn your background.

I think a lot of what you are saying can be boiled down into one question. "Who is going to pay for a service that has little or no advantage over so many other, less expensive options?" Would that be a good summary of your feelings with AudioCouch?

Well, here is my big secret...I agree with you. I have tried to stay neutral and encourage everyone to explore both sides, but AudioCouch faces an uphill battle. I know they can get it to work because Michael is both extremely creative and very hard working. However, looking at their pricing scheme and the market, it is hard to wrap my head around where they are going to get enough users to make this pay off.

Let me also quickly answer your question, "why would you rather pay $100 a year to store 16gb of your music when you could spend 25 bucks on a USB stick of the same size and play the music from each computers audio player directly off of the stick?"

There is one main reason, I don't use flash drives...I haven't for about a year. Everything I have is online. I used to use one and then one day, worried about losing an important file, I backed up up my flash drive to my site hosting account. The lightbulb turned on, and I haven't used my flash drive since. To me, conveniece is not having anything (no matter how small) to drag from computer to computer. That isn't to say there aren't other reasons I wouldn't use AudioCouch, but your question was specific to flash drives.

In the end though, lets not forget that Michael has a much different perspective than most of us. We wonder why anyone would spend $100 a year for something so simple, but Michael spends his days with businessmen who drop $1500 on a first class flight to Bozeman, Montana to meet face to face with someone for lunch. We say "why not use Skype?" So when it comes down to it, an $8/mo subscription is nothing to them for a little bit of convenience.

Thanks again for the feedback, this is really getting the cogs turning for everyone i think. If anyone has any other websites they have heard of that are just getting started, let me know, maybe we can do another "will it work?" show and perhaps pull off another interview as well.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Great idea can't wait to hear how it goes.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Nath5000 said...

Gregg,
I'm a business administration undergrad and I'm concentrating in a marketing direction. I'm not in any business yet and haven't attempted to ever start any businesses, but I've been interested in the topic of entrepreneurship for quite a while, especially from a marketing perspective.

On Marketing: I think a lot of people would assume marketing just means advertising, but I really gravitated towards that focus because I came to understand that marketing encompasses everything from product development, brand development, advertising, logistics, and consumer needs and behaviours. Those (and more), in my opinion, are the most essential components of any business. Marketing seems to be the home of inspiration and purpose (beyond making money for the owners) in any business and definitely seems to go hand in hand with entrepreneurship since most entrepreneurs start out inspired by some creative idea. A business can have the best managers, finance department and accountants but if the product or brand isn’t properly created, presented, distributed and can’t be sold or isn’t sold properly, than the other stuff doesn’t really help you out much. I think that goes for most businesses, or at least the kind that I’ve been interested in researching and reading about. I think you’ve talked about the 6 P’s of marketing in past podcasts.

Thanks for replying again and I agree with everything you’ve said in the last message. I think I have a better idea now of the mindset and justifications that Michael and the creators of AudioCouch have. I’ll definitely be interested in seeing how AudioCouch works out and how the business changes and develops over time.

10:01 PM  
Blogger TeenBiz said...

Nath, glad to hear you hit on marketing so much...for it is quite near and dear to my heart (I will graduate with my degree in Marketing in a month and a half). You are right on too, marketing is an essential part of any business, but lets be sure to give credit where credit is due.

Behind the scenes of every company is a financial group that keeps the business afloat. A corporation is a delicate balance of expenses and income, assets and liabilities, if it was up to the marketers along...well...the business would probably tank. Marketers must have careful input from the financial team (to know how much to spend) as well as the rest of the company to make sure they are heading in the right course to meet all the goals and objectives of the company.

I've already been in contact with more entrepreneurs in the quest for our next interview. If you guys have any websites or entrepreneurs you'd like me to contact, please let me know!

8:26 AM  
Blogger Nath5000 said...

Gregg, Congratulations on the upcoming graduation. Is marketing a Bachelor of Arts there in the United States? I'm in my last year as well. This would've been my last semester, but after this semester I'll be taking one more course this January-April because it was full for the fall semester. I hate how that happens. I'm also admittedly not a teen anymore. I actually found this podcast while browsing the Zune marketplace for business podcasts. When I saw the podcast with "Will it fail?" in the title, I downloaded it and listened and a lot came to mind. I'll definitely keep listening because it's an interesting podcast. I like the episodes, they're nice and short. Keep up the good work.

I agree about the critical importance of finance in any business. Anyone in any business, especially entrepreneurs, should have a reasonably good level of financial understanding/education. Just like what you kind of said, without financial knowledge any business wouldn't make it that far.

Is there a forum, chat room, Facebook group or any other type of online community that this podcast is connected to? Or are the comments the only way people stay connected and discuss things?

7:19 PM  
Blogger R said...

The website I'm working on is a site geared towards performing artists - it launches in a little over a week (www.blueoverture.com)

I also thought I'd add a comment about the AudioCouch idea. I see that other people don't think there's a clear market for AudioCouch, and that most people would just listen to music on an mp3 player. However, during my internship at a financial company over the summer, I noticed that the people who did listen to music listened to it over a speaker rather than headphones. Anyone who has to take phone calls as part of their job can't really use headphones. So, there really does exist a group who listens to music over speakers at work.

9:28 PM  
Blogger TeenBiz said...

Nath5000, for the time being its just the comments. I just don't have time to moderate or keep track of anything else...i'm a busy man. I believe that Marketing is a BS degree in the states, but honestly...I don't know! I am not the schoolish type, I go to school cause I love to learn and don't always know how the ins and outs of the education system work.

R, i just checked your site again and it looks like blueoverture.com is launching tomorrow. Let me know if I can help in any way. Best of luck!

3:57 PM  
Blogger R said...

Yes, when you clicked the link, my website was not quite transfered over to the domain, but now it has officially launched - www.blueoverture.com. Now it's time to market like crazy!

3:32 PM  

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