Hype Machine – Blog-Sourced Music Discovery
Founded in 2005 before the days of (legal) music streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music, Hype Machine (lovingly known by fans as “Hypem”) initially gained traction among the Napster and Limewire generation as the newest way to illegally download music. Back in its early days, Hype Machine enabled its users to download music for free (through a sneaky right click “save link as”).
As the industry began to crack down on blogs and sites posting downloadable mp3 links, Hype Machine gradually shifted to a streaming only aggregator. It is now, essentially, a music blog of music blogs. For the purpose of this post, it’s a crowd-sourced music blog ;).
How Hype Machine Works:
The Blog Aggregator:
The founders – a small, co-ed group of music lovers based out of Brooklyn – hand-pick and source hundreds (there are currently 791 blogs on Hype Machine) of music blogs across the world. Each of these blogs is then added to the Hype Machine database and catalogued by genre. Note: In order to maintain quality, the team is super picky about which blogs they do and do not add to their aggregator. You can view their critieria here.
Hypem users can then follow individual blogs based on their personal music preferences (similar to how you might follow someone on Twitter or Instagram). Every time a catalogued blog posts a new song, Hype Machine pulls the post into its site via an RSS feed. Listeners / followers are then able to “heart” individual songs via a personalized stream, which aggregates all the posts of followed blogs. “Hearted” songs then become part of a user’s “Favorites” playlist.
“Most Popular” Chart:
Want to know what’s trending among bloggers and listeners? One of Hype Machine’s most utilized products is its three-day chart, a ranking of the 50 most-“hearted” songs on Hype Machine at any given time.
Value to Music Lovers:
Hype Machine has arguably one of the most diverse and trendiest collections of music on the interwebs. Through partnerships with music hosts such as SoundCloud, many different kinds of music are able to stream through Hype Machine. Labels and promoters—both independent and major—distribute their pre-released and/or newly released tracks on these music services (i.e. a SoundCloud or Bandcamp) without huge risk of piracy. In addition, many unsigned artists, cover artists, and remix artists use these services to host their music as a promotional tool for new music. When HypeM-catalogued blogs then embed this music in their blog posts, it streams directly to listeners. The site has become a major source of music discovery – indie music, in particular – for industry lovers.
Moreover, Hype Machine allows users to follow many different blogs – all in one place. Instead of navigating to many different blogs to discover music, a user can simply go to hypem.com and peruse their favorite blogs all at once.
Value to Artists/Labels/Promoters:
Bottom line: Given how Hype Machine is set up, the more blogs that post any given song, the more listeners that song is likely to reach. Many of these “most blogged” songs are subsequently “hearted” by users and end up on the “Most Popular” chart. Many promoters and labels use this chart as a metric of success.
Hype Machine has become a way for the music industry to rate indie music, and a way to drive purchased downloads for individual songs.
Value to Bloggers:
Hype Machine drives tons of traffic to their catalogued blogs. For every blog post fed into the system, there is always a direct link back to the full post on the original blog site.
In addition, as promoters and artists see the benefits of Hype Machine, the more they work to build relationships with individual bloggers. As a result, many bloggers (even the smaller ones!) have greater access to the music industry ecosystem.
But how does Hype Machine capture value?
Hype Machine has never charged users to listen, nor does it have any plans to gate content any time soon. However, while Hype Machine used to allow its users to download music for free (through a sneaky right click “save link as”), the site now has directed links to purchase music via retailers such as Amazon Music and iTunes. The site then has a revenue share agreement, the proceeds from which are a primary source of earnings.
In addition, Hype Machine also has an advertising partnership with Townsquare Media and is known for its full-site advertising takeovers.
The model is brilliant, really. The site has run for a full 10 years now and with only a team of 5-6 behind it. How will it continue to scale and grow? In recent years, Hype Machine has leveraged its relationships with bloggers and artists and have started to push for more preference at live music events such as SXSW (where it runs its Hype Hotel throughout music week). More to come, I’m sure!
The real challenge, however, that faces Hype Machine will be: How can the site retain its position as the place to go for music discovery? As streaming services such as Spotify strengthen their music libraries and artist diversity, build out their algorithms and push out products like Discover Weekly, will Hype Machine be able to survive? Can it subsist on the indie/unsigned/blogger-driven niche?