A business model emerges for TastemakerX, the digital game for music snobs

By Erin Griffith , written on March 7, 2013

From The News Desk

TastemakerX has raised new capital and revamped its image. Where the site and app once touted its "stock market" for bragging about one's taste in music, it has now shifted its gaming element to be more of a digital record collection. It's a way for you to digitally display your taste in music the same way you'd display a shelf of CDs or DVDs on the wall. Look at these cultural choices, friends. I use them to shape my identity. Bask in their perfectly tasteful glory or cast judgements if you dare.

However, every album purchaser is not equal. The new TastemakerX now allows fans to show their degree of support. It's all part of a shift away from the stock market idea, to more of a fantasy sports for music thing. Where a fantasy league calculates points and wins based on elaborate statistics, TastemakerX will manage this with squishier metrics around popularity and listens. It's still focused on bragging rights over your taste in music, with a nice layer of music discovery to boot.

It could work, it could bomb. After talking to Founder Marc Ruxin, I'm not sure even he had the plan entirely set in stone. Which could be entirely by design -- the lean startup movement says you build an app, let people play with it, and adapt based on their actions. That's how subtly perfect UI elements like Instagram's "double-tap" to heart came about. That's how Facebook developed the News Feed of status updates after noticing users refreshing the "Recently Updated" tab on their static profile pages.

After working in beta for a year, TastemakerX's user growth has been just okay -- in the tens of thousands. Users see an average of 13 pages per visit and spend an average of nine minutes a visit. Today's tweaks are aimed at boosting that engagement and growing users. There is now Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud integration so users can listen to music right on the TastemakerX page, and a Spotify app is on the way, too.

Alongside those developments, TastemakerX takes off its "beta" distinction (which it also did in June) and announces an additional $1.25 million in new funds from its investors, Baseline Ventures, True Ventures Guggenheim Ventures and AOL Ventures.

Most interesting to me is the way Ruxin plans to monetize the app. Eventually, TastemakerX can be a white labeled way for artists, concert promoters, or media outlets to do promotions to their most loyal and obsessed fans. (Ruxin also points out that TastemakerX's artist pages are more elaborate than what you'd find on Spotify or any media outlet's database). Ruxin would not comment on the details of any such plans.

Many a consumer-facing app with a small but loyal fan base and great product don't make it to Instagram-levels of adoption. In some cases, those apps have found that brands, media outlets and celebrities are happy to co-opt their product and provide the all-important source of revenue. One extreme example of that is Wendr, the Foursquare of the future, which last year traded user acquisition for dollar acquisition when it pivoted into a social media agency. Others have found ways to balance brand initiatives in tandem with meeting the needs of their users. Given that the concert industry loves contests and ticket giveaways as promotions, TastemakerX could be positioned as a cool new platform to execute them on.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]