I have 404,772 users. Now what?By Philip Kaplan
Three months ago I started a social network for musicians called Fandalism. My goal was to build a database of every musician on the planet and give them a place to show their work and meet other musicians.
I launched it without much fanfare by inviting a few friends and posting about it on Hacker News. It took off surprisingly fast and currently has 404,772 registered users.
After a recent article about Fandalism on TechCrunch, a lot of people started asking me the inevitable questions, “what’s next for Fandalism?” and “how will it make money?”
Usually this is when CEOs get coy and give mysterious non-answers like “we’re continuing to focus on our users, but have a few new things we’ll be announcing soon…”
That’s what I’ve been saying.
And it’s what I’ve said in the past about my previous companies when trying to manage the expectations of employees, business partners, customers, investors and competitors.
But since Fandalism is only me and has no employees, business partners, customers, investors or direct competitors, it dawned on me that I can tell the truth.
And the truth is, I have no idea.
Well I guess I have a few vague ideas. But nothing that’s jumping out at the correct answer.
Thinking out loud:
Advertising. I could let advertisers target musicians by instrument, genre, location and so on. But I can’t really think of a lot of advertisers who want to target musicians. And amateur musicians aren’t famous for their disposable income. Custom ad solutions worked for Google’s search engine and for Facebook. This also looks to be the direction Twitter is going.
Ad networks. I could just slap an ad network on it. But I really don’t want to muck up the site with ads. Ironic since I founded a fairly large advertising company. PlentyOfFish.com is a good example of a guy allegedly making $10M/year from Google AdSense, but with a butt-ugly site.
Premium features. A blog I used to run sold $75/month subscriptions to readers who wanted to do advanced searches. At its peak there were 1,200 subscribers generating about $90,000 month in revenue. LinkedIn makes a lot more from this sort of feature.
Mobile app. Make a $0.99 cent app that lets musicians more easily use Fandalism on-the-go. Hope that it gets downloaded a lot. Meh. I should make an app, but it should be free.
E-commerce. Musicians are a large group of people (~10% of the US population) defined largely by the things they own — guitars, drums, microphones… There’s no “Zappos for musical instruments.” But that’s totally different from what Fandalism is today. So I’d have to build something new. Not to mention the complications that go along with selling physical goods. Or I could do a Groupon/Gilt/OneKingsLane-ish “deal-of-the-day” thing and spa.. err, email all my users every day. I’m not sure how they’d feel about that. Actually, yes I do. :(
Get acquired. I could have an awesome product with no revenue and get bought a la Instagram. Or TinyLetter. But I can’t really think of anyone who’d want to buy a big site for musicians. Maybe Guitar Center or something ($1.7B in sales last year!) but that seems weird. And that’s really the only big music company like that I can think of. And also I love running this site so it would be hard to let it go.
Don’t worry about it. Accept that Fandalism may just be an expensive hobby. Which costs around $2,500/month, primarily to EC2, S3, SendGrid, and various other services. Sigh.
For now I suppose I really should just continue to work on the product and make it better. My users are good at telling me what sucks about Fandalism so I’ve plenty to do.
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