TuneUp Media Moves Beyond Music Cleanup Into Sharing and Information Discovery

4/12/11Follow @wroush

Back in 2008, TuneUp Media in San Francisco created a piece of software so cool that more than 3 million people have registered to use it. The freemium program sifts through your iTunes music library and automatically fixes missing or incorrect song, artist, and album data. It also grabs missing cover art from the Web. In other words, it brings order to the chaos you generate when—like most digital music collectors—you throw together tunes you purchased, tunes you ripped from CDs, and tunes you obtained in, shall we say, other ways.

In its three years, the company has helped music fans clean up nearly 2 billion tracks. In the process it has attracted several hundred thousand paying users and hired a staff of two dozen employees.

There are just two problems. Once you’ve used TuneUp to clean up your music collection, you’re done—you don’t really need it again unless your collection grows substantially. Also, the world of digital music is on the cusp of yet another huge transition, from an era when everyone owns their music and stores it locally on a CD or a hard drive or a smartphone to an era when more and more people stream all their music from the cloud.

For both reasons, TuneUp Media is already reinventing itself. Even as its original product continues to win new users, the company has begun adding new social and discovery features, in an effort to stay in front of users even after they’ve scrubbed every track—and, a bit farther down the road, after they’ve switched to the cloud for their music. “Our biggest challenge to date has been pivoting from this notion of being a cleanup utility to the notion of being an enhanced information application,” founder and CEO Gabriel Adiv explained when I visited the company a few weeks ago.

It’s a sobering lesson on the nature of innovation: if you stop to rest on your laurels, you’ll probably wind up choking on them. Fueled by a fresh $6.3 million from IDG Ventures and other investors in its recent Series B round, TuneUp intends to keep moving, by expanding upon a feature called Tuniverse that help users learn more about their own music, as well as other features that let users tell their friends what they’re listening to and find out about local concerts by the artists they like.

“People come in and, first off, they clean a huge ton of music in their collections that’s been messed up,” says Adiv. “After that, it’s not like people will re-clean their collections. That’s precisely why we created features like Tuniverse and concerts and sharing, so once it’s clean there is all this really cool stuff you can do with it.”

Adiv has spent the last decade in the digital music industry. He used to work at Emeryville, CA-based Gracenote, which maintains a huge database of music metadata (song titles, lyrics, acoustic fingerprints for music identification—the works). When the first Apple iPod came out in 2001, Adiv was enchanted—but almost immediately, he saw how it created a new problem. “The iPod absolutely changed the way I consumed music. Portability and accessibility are huge; I was re-engaged with my music collection,” he says. “Amidst that, the biggest pain point was managing 10,000 songs on a single device, as opposed to managing CDs or vinyl. It was a major issue.”

Gracenote was “a pretty phenomenal B2B shop, but they weren’t building any consumer applications,” Adiv says. So he resigned, bought a round-the-world plane ticket, and took six months to think about his next gig. “I decided I wanted to create software that would solve the monotony of having to clean up my digital music collection,” he says.

With a technical partner named Raza Zaidi—who became TuneUp’s chief technology officer—Adiv built a prototype and started showing it to investors. The software solved … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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