Smule: The hottest, weirdest startup you may not know (Q&A)
In the eclectic world of startups, there’s one that stands out for its unique blend of technology, music, and social interaction: Smule. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re in for a fascinating tale. What started as a simple app has morphed into a global singing phenomenon.
Q: Can you give us a brief history of Smule?
A: Smule was founded in 2008 by Jeff Smith and Ge Wang. Smith brought his passion for music and entrepreneurship to the table, while Wang was an assistant professor at Stanford CCRMA with deep expertise in music technology. They aimed to bring music back to its social roots, harnessing the power of mobile technology to create a collaborative global stage.
Q: What does Smule do?
A: At its core, Smule develops social music-making apps that connect people around the world. Its flagship product is the Smule app—think karaoke but on a much grander, more interactive scale. Users can sing live or record performances, join others in duets or group performances, and engage with millions of community members.
Q: Is there anything that makes Smule particularly unique?
A: Yes! Two things stand out about Smule. First, their technology includes impressive audio processing that can make amateur singers sound much better than they would a cappella or unedited. Second is their emphasis on community. The platform doesn’t just allow you to share music; it’s designed to foster connections between users from different backgrounds through the love of song.
Q: Who uses Smule?
A: The user base is incredibly diverse, spanning all ages and dozens of countries. It’s accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a love of music—from shower singers to professional artists looking to engage with fans in a new way.
Q: What’s the business model for Smule?
A: Smule operates on a freemium model. The basic app is free but with limited features; users can pay for a VIP subscription that grants access to the full catalog of songs and additional features like advanced audio effects.
Q: How big is Smule today?
A: As of our last update, Smule boasts over 50 million monthly active users who spend an average of 20 minutes per day on the app—a striking level of engagement.
Q: Has COVID-19 impacted Smule’s business or user engagement?
A: Interestingly enough, COVID-19 had a positive impact on engagement levels, as people looked for means of connection and entertainment during lockdowns. The company saw an uptick in usage as communities formed virtual choirs and collaborative performances took on new meaning.
Q: What future plans does Smule have?
A: While specifics change with market demands, the overarching goal remains consistent—to expand their technological capabilities and grow their community. This includes deeper personalization, expanding their song catalog, improving social features, and exploring augmented reality experiences.
Smule may not be mainstream like some other social platforms yet, but its approach to combining tech with the timeless appeal of music is what makes it one of Silicon Valley’s more peculiar gems.