WILKES-BARRE — The digital age has changed the way we listen to music and connect with artists. Platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify offer different flavors for different fandoms, but each community’s size means that up-and-coming artists can get lost in the shuffle.
Last March, Dallas’ Samuel O’Connell and Nanticoke’s Matthew Simoncavage set out to create something apart from the established ways of consuming music online, a socially-centric software that does for music what apps like Instagram and Vine did for photo and video.
“We’re kind of modeling it as the Instagram for music,” Simoncavage said. “So just as with Instagram you post photos, you record a song in the app and post it. It’s got a social media feel, so you follow other people, they follow you, and then there’s also a review element to it and the ‘like post’ element to it.”
O’Connell and Simoncavage’s ideas first manifested themselves as Xylo, but when a December dispute to their copyright claim caused a rebranding, the app was repackaged as Tunefly. It was around this time that O’Connell and Simoncavage added the third member of their team, Elizabeth Klein. Klein, a certified public accountant who grew up with O’Connell in Dallas, was one of the first people to put Xylo through its paces; now she’s helping put Tunefly out into the world.
“They had contacted me maybe November or December of last year basically just looking for ‘money management 101’ or where to go, how to go forward with it,” Klein said. “I was really excited about it … after I had beta tested it they reached out because I have an accounting firm and I work a lot specifically with start-ups and small businesses, so we got in touch and we met.”
Each member of the Tunefly team is an example of their overall target user base. Klein is a hobbyist musician; she tinkers with different instruments, mostly guitar, and posts her songs to Tunefly solely to share them with others. O’Connell is a member of a local folk band called Atherholt, so he approaches Tunefly as a tool to reach new listeners. No matter their ability level, musicians will be able to record and post to Tunefly through the app, with the optional ability to snap album art with their phone’s camera. The current time limit on songs recorded within Tunefly is four minutes, but the team plans to increase that to five through future updates. They also expect to support full song uploads for mastered tracks.
Simoncavage completes the trifecta as the music enthusiast, and he’s trying to give fellow fans a number of reasons to make Tunefly their one-stop shop for everything aural. Users can curate a newsfeed of favored accounts by following them and can help promote songs by clicking the ‘love’ button or writing a favorable review. This data is aggregated into real-time charts that list Tunefly’s most popular tunes, and a steady stream of aggregated music news is just one swipe away for those curious about what’s happening outside the Tunefly community.
The team isn’t opposed to members of the larger music community becoming members of Tunefly — they’ve set up an official artist system similar to Twitter’s blue-checked verified status — but they don’t want to lose their focus on the app’s purpose.
“We find if you post a song on YouTube that it’s difficult to get traction on that and to break through the clutter, because it’s so diluted with other non-related content and Minecraft videos and yadda yadda yadda,” O’Connell said. “In order to say, ‘hey, check out our song,’ you have to put it on Facebook and Facebook doesn’t favor YouTube. There’s just so many different options, so (Tunefly) is a platform truly specifically for musicians or music lovers to interact with each other in a really cool way.”
O’Connell, Klein and Simoncavage plan to move Tunefly out of open beta and into the Apple App Store in early May. Until then, iOS downloads of the app are available by signing up through Tunefly.net. The team expects to begin development on an Android version following the app’s launch on Apple platforms.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts