Interview: Co-founders Of Mixvisor

LYFSTYL had the chance to speak with Nicholas Slattery and Giles Butler – the two co-founders of Mixvisor a music software company dedicated to making music sites smarter.

What is Mixvisor?

Mixvisor is a music tool for website publishers. We let publishers build and share playlists from Spotify and Apple Music on their pages, giving their audience a way of previewing tracks without leaving the page.

Our music player can detect artist names in page content, and automatically generate a playlist of their tracks. So, we are automating the playlist creation process, which is a great time-saver for many publishers (including myself, with my own blog) who end up spending hours trawling through platforms such as Spotify building playlists.

How does your auto-detection system work?

We use natural language processing to detect the artist names in page content, then pull a selection of their latest tracks from Spotify/Apple Music using their respective APIs.

If, for instance, you’ve mentioned Disclosure and The Weeknd in an article, our software can recognise their names (from a dictionary of artist names that we reference). It then looks to Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music to see if any artists on these platforms match the names we’ve detected. If there’s a match, we grab five of their latest tracks and include them in the playlist.

That’s the high-level rundown of our tech. In terms of functionality for publishers and users, we are constantly iterating to improve this. Right now, for example, we are working on letting publishers choose which tracks to include for each artist, which will be a huge step for us in terms of giving publishers complete control over the playlist-generation process.

How did the idea for Mixvisor come about?

Giles (my co-founder) and I met at Sydney Startup Weekend in 2014. We were both working as early employees at different startups at the time, and were keen to start our own project. It turned out that we are both engineers and musicians (I’m a bassist and drummer, and Giles has a degree in music production), so building a music-tech company really made sense for us. We agreed that the current state of the digital music industry left something to be desired, and set about brainstorming all the (legal) ways it could be improved.

We ended up winning the competition that weekend with a pitch for a concept of what evolved into Mixvisor. Since then it’s really been a process of evolution; as we receive more feedback from publishers we are tweaking our software to make it as useful as possible. Things like our recent integration with Spotify, and the analytics platform we are working on now, wouldn’t have come about if not for publishers coming to us with with suggestions and requests for particular features.

How does Mixvisor benefit artists and websites?

Our software is first and foremost for website publishers. We don’t have a streaming platform of our own, so our focus is 100% on how we can create the best possible tool for publishers to save them time and help engage their audiences.

There’s been a lot of talk about curated playlists recently. On one level I understand this, because tastemakers can directly offer their take on what’s hot. On the other hand, the music industry is the only industry I can think of that considers doing something manually as the state-of-the-art. Mixvisor is aiming to strike a perfect middle ground between “playlist algorithms”, which get accused of lacking variety and personality, and manually curated playlists, which consume huge amounts of time constructing. By detecting which artists publishers are mentioning in their content, we are pre-empting the playlist they would have made: an automated-curated playlist.

In terms of benefitting artists, we give users the option to click through to track pages on Apple Music or Spotify, so our music player will add to artists’ streaming royalties on these platforms.

What are your thoughts on the current major streaming platforms?

I could talk about this for hours, but I suppose a concise summary of my current sentiment would be – good start.

As an aside, I don’t think downloads should be underestimated just because streaming is the cool new thing. Downloads still eclipse streaming in most countries, so we’ll be keeping our integration with the iTunes Store to accommodate for this.

Which streaming services do you personally use?

Giles and I both tried out the 3-month Apple Music trial. At the end of the trial he still hasn’t made his mind up, and I started paying for Apple Music. So on the Mixvisor team the scales are certainly tipped towards Apple. Honestly though, I’ve never tried other options, such as Deezer…the French certainly love it!

As a producer myself, I like having a library of songs stored locally, so it’s hard for me to give up iTunes, and the Beats 1 guest shows are seriously phenomenal (my personal favourite being Josh Homme’s Alligator Hour).

What are some of the challenges that you have faced so far?

Initially, our biggest challenge was how to detect artist names in content, find them in Apple Music, and create a playlist, all fast enough that people wouldn’t notice the loading time. So they were really technical issues.

Now, our challenges have more to do with getting in front of publishers and demonstrating how our software can save them time and increase the utility of their website. Publishers get an absurd number of emails every day, so we need to experiment with different channels of finding the people who would enjoy using our product.

Have any of the big music platforms reached out to you guys?

I expect they’re too wrapped up battling each other to take any notice of us yet, as we’re still just getting started. Since we’re integrated with Spotify and Apple, we are actually facilitating their business, so would never become a competitor for them. People who typically get in touch with us are website publishers/bloggers – which is exactly what we want!

What is the end goal for all this? Do you want to eventually sell this company? Or do it forever and potentially take it to IPO?

This really depends on how we grow; we would only sell if we thought it would improve our ability to execute our vision by an order of magnitude. Our long-term plans are quite extensive and ambitious, so they could certainly stand to benefit from the support a larger company could lend us. Likewise, the predominant reason for taking a company to IPO is to publicly raise capital, which may be a wise decision down the track, but there’s really no way to predict these things at this stage. It all comes down to timing.

What are some cool things you have planned in the near future for Mixvisor?

In a couple of weeks (fingers crossed!) we’ll be letting publishers select which songs/albums to include in the player. We’re itching to get this update out, because it will give publishers total control over what tracks go in their players, and we’re keen to see what bloggers can come up with!

The next step for the music player will be letting publishers choose which streaming service to integrate their site with (i.e. choose to integrate with only Apple Music, or both Apple and Spotify etc.). This way, if a publisher has elected to integrate with Spotify, we can also let them export their playlists to their Spotify account.

Another big product we’re working on is our analytics platform. This will be a platform for publishers to visualise metrics such as artist and track play counts, user locations, and listening habits on their website. The idea behind this is publishers will be able to see how their audience is interacting with their content, and tailor their content and marketing towards particular people, depending on their music preferences and geographies.

So that’s the near future for Mixvisor. We’re super keen to see how publishers respond to these new features and products – already people are telling us to hurry up and release everything already! It’s honestly great to hear such enthusiasm for what we’re working on – keeps us pushing through long days and nights trying to get it right!

Check out Mixvisor to see how it can benefit your site.