Meet Cymbal, a Music Sharing App for the 21st Century


Meet Cymbal, a Music Sharing App for the 21st Century

We have enough streaming services. The last eighteen months have proved that much, sucking us all into a whirlwind of awkward launches, bad blood, and deviously low royalties.

Instead of splintering our listening experiences into multi-platformed fragments, we need to come together. That’s why P&P joined Cymbal, an app that finally feels like we’re sharing music, not just showing off our feed.

Cymbal functions—and is designed—like an Instagram for music heads. Your feed is populated by songs posted by friends. Tapping a song plays its full duration, but you can’t navigate through the album or skip through the song—it’s one song, and one song only.

Cymbal allows you to post any song pulled from SoundCloud and Spotify, and while Apple Music and other services aren’t on board yet, we’ve found that they’re not all that necessary. You can get the app here, and be sure to follow us when you do.

Below, we spoke to Cymbal’s Charlie Kaplan about the challenges facing the streaming world, and what they’re doing differently to help make it better.

What does Cymbal do that you feel was missing from music apps?
Charlie Kaplan: I think that, for all it’s convenience, the advent of digital music made it too easy to listen in isolation. You didn’t need to go to record stores any more, or lend someone a CD, or subscribe to a weird record club. I think that element of music – who it came from—sort of disappeared when you could listen to all the music in the world whenever you wanted.

Suddenly, rather than paying 10 bucks to get the album you wanted, you could pay that same 10 bucks and get the entire fucking history of recorded music at once. It’s amazing. Streaming products are amazing. But the challenge is that they have to do so much: radio, discovery, playlists, saved albums, those enormous libraries, friends feeds, direct messaging, the list goes on. I feel like social gets sort of lost in the mix there, and that’s the thing that was really missing when music became digital.

There’s another challenge here, which is that while listeners are transitioning to streaming services, those streaming services themselves are also multiplying really quickly. Now there are many streaming options out there, which sort of compounds the antisocial character of digital music: You might be having an amazing experience with your music on Spotify, and your friend might be having the same amazing experience with the music on the parallel dimensional plane of Apple Music, and you’d never cross paths.

So that’s what Cymbal is going to do: We’re going to put everyone who’s listening to music, regardless of how they’re listening to it, in the same place. We want to be the universal listening room, the best place on the internet to find and share music. Cymbal isn’t so much a new idea as a resurrected old one: Music is better together.

What made you decide on Spotify & Soundcloud as opposed to other services?
Soundcloud and Spotify are hopefully the first two of many integrations we’ll add to Cymbal, but we chose them first because we think they’re sort of the yin and yang of music on the internet today. With Spotify, you get the comprehensive, voluminous libraries of virtually any artist you can name within the music industry, throughout history. With Soundcloud, you get the roiling, seething state of music today from the internet’s best creators, whether they’re DJs turning out amazing mixes, little unsigned artists spinning amazing new songs, podcasters talking about music, and all kinds of weird stuff in between.

Do your streams result in royalties for artists?
Yeah! We’re built on Soundcloud and Spotify’s APIs, so if a song posted to Cymbal is monetized on the streaming service it originated on, then artists are getting paid. All we do is increase the play count for the songs our users share, which can be really significant.

Are you worried about labels removing music from SoundCloud? How do you see streaming within the musical landscape in 5 years?
Those are two big questions.

On the first point, I think that the music business is changing fast and the rules are being remade just as fast. Soundcloud is a fantastic service that is forwarding many of the concepts I think are going to be the most important in music going forward, and it’s going to figure out how to work productively with labels, who are trying to make sure that artists can continue to exist as professionals protected by institutional structures. It’s a negotiation, but music is going to come out better on the other end.

On the second, I think an incredible amount of cool stuff is going to happen. Streaming is already on it’s way to being the dominant way people listen to music, and I think that tools like Cymbal are going to really transform what that means for listeners. Think about it: you’re going to have an enormous audience of listeners, all with access to as much music as they could possibly want, freely exchanging it with friends. The top accounts on Cymbal are going to be the ones with the best taste, the artists who frictionlessly distribute their music directly to their fans’ ears, the venues and festivals that introduce new artists in the same experience they sell tickets in, that know who you like and when they’re coming to town and what tickets are available. Streaming music provides access that couldn’t have possibly existed before, and the things people do with that access are going to be amazing for everyone involved—artists, listeners, venues, blogs, you name it.