With Loudcrowd, Nabeel Hyatt Sees Mult-Billion-Dollar Opportunity in Music Gaming: “This Thing Is Ours to Screw Up”
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provides enough value to them. So it’s a virtual-goods-based mode. We aren’t trying to make it interesting enough that Coca-Cola will get involved. We’re trying to make it interesting enough that consumers will pay.
X: Right now there are only two games on Loudcrowd—Dance and Spin. I’m assuming those are just the tip of the iceberg. Can you talk about what else is coming?
NH: It is the tip of the iceberg. I think we regard the building of this product much like anyone would try to build a great Web startup, which is to get the smallest nugget of the product that you thought was appealing, and get it out there for users to test, versus building it in a big room for a long time. As it happens, the product is of a large enough scope that it took us a long time to get it to this point. But I think what you’re seeing right now is 10 percent or less of what the potential profile of the product is. We’re releasing a new game next month and very regularly after that. These will be very different types of games. Some will be competitive, some will be light. The constant element with all of them is that they will help you to engage and interact with the music in interesting ways. That is where we are staking our claim.
We analogize that back to the kind of value that MTV brought to consumers and the music industry early on, by really being the pioneer in combining video with the music background. We don’t want to be just a game—which is what most of the companies that are making music games are doing today. We want to be a place that you come back to when you think about engaging with music.
X: From the design choices you’ve made with Loudcrowd, it seems that you’re trying to spin the site toward an audience of teens and twenty-somethings. Do you hope that it will also appeal to a somewhat older crowd?
NH: Our look and feel went through heavy iterations and early alpha testing. As we got feedback, what we found was that the music that was playing influenced the audience more than anything else. As we started to play certain types of music that would appeal more to a 30-year-old, they seemed to imbue the avatars and the look of the site with a little more of that feeling. With the music we’re playing now, it’s slightly more independent but sophisticated popular music. It’s not aimed at 12-year-olds. It’s really more of a college age and slightly afterward.
The ultimate goal of Loudcrowd, even though we’ve aimed at the college crowd today, is to be a universal service. We just know from our background in community-building that you can’t be all things to all people when you start out. Look at Facebook and the way it started out just at Harvard, or MySpace and the way they started out with the LA music scene. We expect to follow a similar trajectory of focusing on a small community and getting them very passionate about it. We’ll be watching our statistics and metrics very closely, and as we start to feel like the product is hitting its stride, you’ll see Loudcrowd expand its scope and move out, over the next year and a half.
X: Does Conduit Labs plan to come out with other games and products, or is Conduit essentially becoming Loudcrowd?
NH: We left how many products Conduit was going to make as a somewhat open question at the beginning. It became very obvious very early on that the potential for this product was that it was a multi-billion-dollar company, if we executed it right. I would say that if you compare Loudcrowd and MTV—Viacom was built on the back of MTV, and they had a worse path to market and a worse monetization model than we have. This thing is ours to screw up. We happen to be very well placed. We’re in a position where consumers have shown a willingness to buy, and the Internet is a mass medium. We’re also in a position where the record labels are looking for new revenues, and they’ve been surprisingly supportive and excited about this. So this is the project that, we think, is Conduit Labs.
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