Update: in June 2022, Track Club was officially named as a TikTok Sound Partner, a major milestone. This also marks it as the only fully customizable music partner on the global TikTok platform.
Marmoset is a full-service music agency representing a highly-curated roster of diverse and rare artists, bands, record labels and vintage recordings for music licensing. They have a unique and true commitment to community as the only Certified B-Corp music agency, reinvesting 10% of profits into community partners and holding themselves to the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance and public transparency.
The company saw revenue declining from customers of their self-serve search and licensing platform and engaged in customer research to find out why (using the Jobs to be Done framework). They discovered that their per-song licensing model wasn’t cost effective for the fast-growing demographic of content creators who produce a high-volume of video, audio and streaming content.
“Our revenue was decreasing from customers who would fit into a category that a subscription license would appeal to. We didn’t have that offering and our competition was moving more and more towards subscription-based music licensing platforms. We wanted to compete and stay relevant. We decided to make this massive investment into a completely new subscription-based app.”
Luisa was charged with leading the endeavor and says it was clear they would need help building the new SaaS —Track Club. I had a long-standing and excellent existing working relationship with Marmoset, so she and CEO Ryan Wines reached out to me to help and I jumped at the opportunity.
“This was a huge undertaking. It just didn't really make sense to try to put that on our small dev team and we really needed high-level technical leadership. We knew that Sam was great and he really understands and values what we do as a company. He was the obvious answer to start that conversation. We knew this would be a big lift and he was up for the challenge.”
Equipped with the previous customer research and Marmoset’s initial goals and ideas, we began our work with Innovation Roadmapping. Through a series of structured and collaborative workshops, we clarified the vision for Track Club, aligned it with the customer needs, refined the value proposition, established priorities, and defined the effort required to achieve those priorities.
One of the roadmapping exercises that stood out to Luisa was the now-wow-how exercise, in which we took all the features under consideration and sorted them into categories based on the level of innovation and complexity. We used this information to determine what elements we should build ourselves, which we should use an existing solution for, and what we should do now versus later to achieve the greatest impact and set Track Club apart from the competition.
“It was a really helpful way to prioritize what was essential and what is nice to have. And that just gave me a lot of confidence right off the bat that I had a lot of support and quelled some of my anxieties about diving into something I'd really never done before.”
Based on everything we uncovered through this collaborative and iterative process, I put together a phased, prioritized execution plan to guide the app’s development.
Acting as a fractional CTO for Track Club, I assembled a team to help build the app — including a designer and a small development team — that would be the right fit in terms of industry experience, alignment of values, and experience with the tech stack we’d be working with. After researching and vetting several options from my extended network of professionals, I recommended we bring on designer Jonathan Minori, who had done some work with Marmoset previously, and December Labs, a small development team in Uruguay.
“Having Sam guide us through assembling the team set a really solid foundation for success. I wouldn't have known where to start or what pieces of the puzzle we needed to put together a team. If you make one wrong decision about who to bring on, it can waste a lot of time and money to replace that person or work with the challenges of a person that was the wrong fit. The people Sam brought on have been amazing partners.”
To guide the app development, I translated the projects, priorities & goals we had for Track Club into high-level milestones and a list of individual tasks for the development team to execute and set forth regular meetings and demos.
I created the initial prototype and established the MVP cloud infrastructure, helping the development team focus on other high-priority work and move more quickly than they otherwise would have. I also translated any issues the development team came up against into appropriate business and music-catalog aware problems that I could present to Luisa and her team, reducing the time it took to get answers from days or weeks down to hours.
“It honestly blew my mind, the efficiency of the team and just how quickly they were able to Box things out.”
Enabling customers to fully customize songs to their needs by manipulating the individual tracks — something that had never been done before — was one of the key priorities for Track Club.
I developed and delivered the prototype for MixLab — a Web Audio-powered feature that would allow users to remix a song by increasing or decreasing the volume of each individual track directly in the browser, with no software installation required. I walked December Labs through how the technology worked so they could apply the prototype to the existing in-progress app and refine to a production-ready standard.
“MixLab alone was a huge innovation. There's no competitor that we know of that has a similar feature available to creators, YouTubers, and small businesses. It gives people so much more flexibility with what they're trying to achieve with music in their content. I think Sam and the rest of the team’s understanding of music helped them really knock it out of the park.“
In January 2022, Track Club began inviting beta users and fully launched in March 2022. The launch went smoothly with no major technical issues. Within six months, they started gaining a lot of traction in terms of both new users and revenue.
“Week over week, it's exceeded the goals that I set. We had set a goal of 60 new user accounts created per week and we're consistently hitting around 150. We're beating our revenue goals. We hit our August goal for revenue midway through the month and are close to exceeding our Q3 goal with nearly a month and a half to go.”
Track Club also enabled the Marmoset team to better serve customers. After having to say no a lot in the past when people have asked for a subscription option, Luisa says the team is happy to now have it available as part of the larger menu of what they can offer customers to fit their needs. They’ve also been receiving a lot of positive customer feedback.
“The numbers are one thing, but just to hear people say that they're happy and impressed and excited to try it, that to me is more rewarding.”
The MixLab feature in particular has resonated very well with customers and has proven to be a key differentiator from competitors.
“It’s truly a game-changing innovation for our industry. We’re in a really saturated market — there's a new competitor every day, literally. With so many options, it's only a matter of time before some people don't make it. Track Club gives us a huge leg up in staying alive, staying afloat, and staying relevant.”
Working together on Track Club was a mutual pleasure. Luisa says the leadership I provided throughout the project was instrumental in its success and would recommend working with me to others.
“I couldn't think of a better person than Sam to help guide a new team through something that is complex. His leadership, guidance, mentorship, and patience working with a team that is pretty new to a lot of this — I value that a lot and it made the development of Track Club possible. I would've been lost and been spending a lot of time researching and trying to Box out the best ways to do things had I not had Sam to lean on and to learn from.”