Over the past decade, the music industry has been shifting at a dramatic pace with the decline of CD sales and the increase of illegal downloading. While online radio stations have allowed users to access music freely, they have not been profitable and often are not user-friendly. This where Romanian entrepreneur and music lover Nicu Ivanescu comes in with his revolutionary platform: Just Hear It. Founded in 2007 and officially launched a few months ago, Just Hear It allows you to listen to any songs that you want (unlike Pandora) on a site designed specifically for music (unlike YouTube) and have half of the profits redirected toward record labels. If this BR!NKer eventually manages to put “all of the songs on earth” on his site and attract investors, Just Hear It could revolutionize the way we listen to songs online, solve the problem of illegal downloading, and save the music industry.
You’re in an elevator and you have thirty seconds to pitch the idea of Just Hear It. What do you say?
Just Hear It is like YouTube, but for music. A lot of people use YouTube for music, when it was designed for videos; it makes it hard to manipulate the music into playlists and libraries that you can use continuously. Just Hear It makes it simple to search for any song in the world. You can then see your history.
How does Just Hear It differ from other music stations such as Pandora?
I like to say that it’s different because of the love. We really love music. We go further, always. We love our users, and they can see that. Also, the biggest difference is that Just Hear It gives you a choice. Our interface allows you to drag and drop your songs in order to reorder your playlists. Finally, we offer the users a “lyrics” feature. You can actually write any lyrics, type in the words that the artist is singing, and you’ll get that song.
Yeah! Just type: “you can sing you can jive,” and you’ll have “Dancing Queen” from Abba.
How was the initial project born?
I started it during my freshman year with my best friend who was going to Emory on the East Coast. One night, my roommate showed me Pandora, and I thought it was the coolest thing that had ever been made. I really liked it but the thing that stood out for me was that it was powered by advertising. That was interesting because it meant that we could make anything and give it away for free… powered by advertising. That’s how Facebook and a lot of sites work now… I was frustrated with the fact that on Pandora you can’t choose the songs or share them with your friends. You can share a station but not that specific song.
Did you ever meet the founder of Pandora?
I met one of the founders, John Kraft. I interviewed him for one of my classes. Something that really stood out to me was the fact that they managed risk by being willing to take enormous amounts of risks. That’s why they made it. When you’re set on doing something no matter what happens, you’re going to do it. They mortgaged their houses and were in debt. This determination is something we took for our website.
Why is it important to share a specific song?
It’s meaningful. I always like to send my songs to friends, girls… It’s a special thing that represents what you were feeling at that moment.
How are songs getting on the interface?
It’s user-generated content. Users everywhere in the world can upload the songs if they have the rights to it.
How do I know if I have the rights?
If you sing it. [laughs]
What happens when users that don’t have the right upload it?
If the record label does not want the song up there, they can send a DMCA takedown notice, which is basically an email telling us the name of the song they want down. And we’ll take it down.
How are you reaching out to record labels?
There are so many sites trying to get in touch with them that it’s been hard. What they will eventually do is pick the website that stands out in terms of traffic. Eventually they’ll listen to us. What I’m trying to do with Just Hear It is to bring all of the songs in the world into one place, one website with a cool user interface. Then, what we’ll have is the entire population of the earth hooked up. We own their ears. We can convince them to buy anything, most notably products of advertisers. Imagine how powerful that is! Even compared to Google. Google only has their eyes. I have their ears. I can play audio commercials, which is more powerful. You can’t run away from audio ads.
How has the project been so far? You only launched recently, but you’ve been having a lot of success.
Without doing any publicity, we reached two million users in one month. When people see it, they love it right away. They can tell it has huge potential and they’re usually blown away. The hardest is for record labels to take us seriously. It would be wonderful if the music industry would understand that we are not cannibalizing CD sales or iTunes sales, but illegal downloading. We are offering users an easier alternative. Instead of stealing a song, you can Just Hear It.
You’re originally from Romania. Why come to the United States?
Starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur is the reason I came to America. In the United States, everything is structured and when you see something missing, you should go for it and fix it. The business landscape is more opened and there are less rules. It’s definitely easier to start a company here.
Now I have to ask you this: what kind of music do you listen to?
I hate people that just say, “this is not my type of music.” Every single song has something beautiful in it. The genre should not be of matter. It’s like saying I like blondes! If you can find a gorgeous brunette and look into her eyes, you’ll like her. That said, I’m big into house music right now. I like deadmau5 a lot. [Note: you can listen to him at justhearit.com/#/search/deadmau5]
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
We want people to join our team. Developers, designers who love our work should consider it. We’re also looking for record labels to hear us out, pick up our phone calls and license with us. It’ll be an opportunity for them. Finally, we’d like to attract some investors.