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Earbuds lets audiences stream the playlists of athletes, entertainers and each other

By Jonathan Shieber

Earbuds, a new startup from Austin founded by former Detroit Lions lineman Jason Fox, wants to bring the power of social media to your eardrums.

The company is one of a growing number of startups trying to rejuvenate the music streaming market by combining it with social networking so that audiences can listen to the playlists of their favorite athletes and entertainers… and their friends.

For Fox, the idea for Earbuds sprung from his experiences in the NFL, watching how other players interacted with crowds and hearing about the things fans wanted to know about their favorite players’ routines.

“We were playing Caroline in the first game of the season and Cam Newton was warming up right next to me,” Fox recalled. “He was jamming. Getting the crowd into it. And I was thinking there’re 85,000 people here and millions of more people watching at home…  And I thought… how many people would love to be in his headphones right now?”

Jason Fox TC

Earbuds founder Jason Fox

It wasn’t just Cam Newton who received attention. Fox said at every press conference one or two questions would be about what songs teammates played before games. On social media, players would take screenshots of their playlists and post them to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Fox said.

The company has been out in the market in a beta version since February and has focused on lining up potential Earbuds devotees from among Fox’s friends in the NFL and entertainers from music and media.

“We made a decision to tweak something and make it very very heavily around influencers because that’s what’s really driving traffic for us,” Fox says. 

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Image courtesy of Earbuds

At its core, the app is just about making music more social, according to Fox. “There’s a social platform for everything, but in the days of terrestrial media distribution music has remain isolated,” he says. 

Logging on is easy. Users can create a login for the app or use their Google or Facebook accounts. One more step to link the Earbuds app with Spotify or Apple Music (the company offers one month free of the premium versions of either service to new users) and then a user can look for friends or browse popular playlists.

A leaderboard indicates which users on the app have streamed the most music and users can create their own streams by adding songs from their libraries to build in-app playlists.

Earbuds isn’t the first company to take a shot at socializing the music listening experience. The olds may remember services like Turntable.fm, which took a stab at making music social but shut down back in 2013. Newer services, like Playlist, are also combining social networking features with music streaming. That site focuses on connecting people with similar musical tastes.

Fox thinks that the ability to attract entertainers like Nelly (who’s on the app) and athletes could be transformative for listeners. Basically these artists and athletes can become their own online radio station, he says.

Fox spent nearly a year meeting with streaming services, music labels, athletes, artists and college students (the app’s initial target market) before even working with developers on a single line of code. The initial work was done out of Los Angeles, but after a year Fox moved the company down to Austin and rebuilt the app from the ground up to focus more on the user experience.

Early partnerships with Burton on an activation had snowboarders streaming their music as they rode a halfpipe proved that there was an audience, Fox said. Now the company is working on integrations across different sports and even esports.

Fox raised a small friends and family round of $630,000 before putting together a $1.5 million seed to get the app out into the market. Now the company is looking for $3 million to scale even more as it looks to integrations with sports teams and other streaming services like Twitch (to capture the gaming audience).

The company currently has seven employees.

Earbuds is available on iOS.

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How startups can make influencer marketing work on a budget

By Arman Tabatabai
Ishveen Anand Contributor
Ishveen is the CEO+Founder of OpenSponsorship.com, a marketplace she founded after her experiences being a successful sports agent, to bring transparency and affordability to the sports marketing industry, namely between brands and athletes.

Influencer Marketing has ballooned into a $25 billion industry, yet many marketing managers are left confused by this, because for them, it’s really not delivering the results to justify the hype.

Here’s the thing. Influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy such as Facebook or Adwords advertising. Each company needs to take a closer look at what influencer marketing can achieve, where it falls down, and how you can do a better job with this latest form of marketing that delivers, on average, $6.50 of value for every $1 spent.

The analysis below relies on clients and case studies from our experience at OpenSponsorship.com (my company) which is the largest marketplace connecting brands with over 5500 professional athletes for marketing campaigns.

With over 3500 deals to date across clients as big as Vitamin Shoppe and Anheuser Busch, established players like Jabra and Project Repat, and new startups like Brazyn and Gutzy, we have seen a lot go wrong (who knew you could disable comments on a post!) and a lot go right (an unknown skiier’s $100 Instagram, posted right before the Winter Olympics, going viral after he won the Silver)!!

Thanks to our in-house data experts, integrations with IBM Watson, robust ROI tracking tools and 10 years+ of experience combining the learnings of sports sponsorship with influencer marketing, we have gained extensive insights into campaign strategies.

We will share our learnings about what criteria to consider when choosing the best influencer to work with, figuring out how much to pay the influencer, what rights to ask for in the deal, what terms and conditions are reasonable and how to track ROI for the deal.

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Table of Contents


Who is the right influencer? 

At OpenSponsorship, we match brands with athletes for marketing campaigns, with a view to further expand into other areas of media and entertainment such as music artists, comedians, actors. Even within the athlete world, there is the concept of micro-influencers such as yogis, triathletes, marathon runners, all the way to macro-influencers such as NFL Quarterbacks, starting NBA point guards and everything in between.

Our 3 recommendations for picking the right influencers are:

Why Carbon just raised another $260 million

By Brian Heater

Two months ago, we reported that Carbon was set to raise up to $300 million, bringing the 3D printing company’s valuation up to a lofty $2.5 billion. The real numbers released this week by the company aren’t quite so lofty, but are impressive nonetheless. The Series E fetched $260 million, putting its valuation at closer to $2.4 billion.

The latest round follows a $200 million Series D that arrived in late-2017, bringing the company’s total raise to $680 million. What exactly is the bay area-based startup planning to do with that massive sum, in the wake of high profile manufacturing partnerships with companies like Adidas and Riddell?

CEO/co-founder Joseph M. DeSimone and recent addition CMO Dara Treseder (most recently of GE Ventures) stopped by our offices to discuss what the latest round means for the Bay Area-based company.

Asked for a timeline around when Carbon might exit, DeSimon offered a non-committal answer. “As we grow our business, we haven’t made announcements for our IPO or anything like that yet,” he told TechCrunch. But the revenue business is growing nicely. So we’re in pretty good shape.”

It’s hard to say precisely what goals the company is hoping to attain before going public, but at the very least, Carbon presents a good indicator that the 3D printing industry is back on the uptick — in some circles, at least.

Drone Racing League is raising $50 million

By Lucas Matney

The enterprise drone space has been heating up over the past couple years, but a startup in the entertainment drone space is raising the big cash now.

The Drone Racing League is in the process of raising up to $50 million from investors in a Series C round according to SEC docs published today. The startup has already raised over $26 million of that figure and is looking to secure additional investors to close out the rest. Investors in the new round appear to already include Lux Capital and RSE Ventures.

The company had previously raised $32 million in funding from backers including Sky, CRCM Ventures and Hearst Ventures. Drone Racing League closed a $20 million Series B in 2017.

The startup, as the name implies, is in the business of speedy drone racing. It was founded in 2015 with the goal of capitalizing on some of the excitement around the technology, while aiming to build out a league that captured the thrill of airborne Formula-1 racing.

We did a deep dive on the company’s efforts back in 2016 and the surrounding drone racing enthusiast space. The athletes fly custom-built hardware at 90 miles per hour in tourneys that take place at sites ranging from empty warehouses to professional sports arenas. Races have been broadcast on NBC Sports, Twitter, Sky Sports and FOX Sports Asia according to the startup.

We reached out to Drone Racing League for comment.

 

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