David Kaplan ’83 was recently featured in PDA, a blog profiling his new music entertainment business, Pure Solo, based in the UK.
“Joining the highly competitive music startup scene, Pure Solo has a genuinely new idea; a catalogue of 10,000 legal backing tracks to popular songs and software that lets players record their own voice or instrument over the top. The recording software is free, and the site charges for various extra functionality,” the article explains.
Kaplan’s description gets more to the heart of the consumer (or her parents), “Haven’t you always wanted to hear your daughter sing or play an instrument over your favourite songs? Well, get her to download those songs from Puresolo.com and within minutes she can be e-mailing you her recorded versions for you to listen to at home, in the car or on her iPod. PureSolo has been developed to meet the needs of the music performer.”
Kaplan graduated from Hobart College with a B.A. in psychology. While a student, he was on the Dean’s List, a representative of the Hobart Student Association and was involved with the student phonathon. He was featured in the Winter 2009 issue of the Pulteney St. Survey.
The blog article explaining Pure Solo follows.
PDA: The digital content blog
Elevator Pitch: Pure Solo heralds a new generation of karaoke
Jemima Kiss • March 2, 2009
Joining the highly competitive music startup scene, Pure Solo has a genuinely new idea; a catalogue of 10,000 legal backing tracks to popular songs and software that lets players record their own voice or instrument over the top. The recording software is free, and the site charges for various extra functionality, with downloads charged at between 99p and £4.99.
Pure Solo was today announced as a partner for the Arts Council Take Away scheme, which is designed to encourage more young people to start learning and playing instruments.
Pure Solo was founded in February 2007 with three directors, four full-timers and funded by a handful of private investors. Chief executive David Kaplan takes us through it.
• Explain your business to my Mum
“Haven’t you always wanted to hear your daughter sing or play an instrument over your favourite songs? Well, get her to download those songs from Puresolo.com and within minutes she can be emailing you her recorded versions for you to listen to at home, in the car or on her iPod. PureSolo has been developed to meet the needs of the music performer.”
• How does that work?
“The free software allows you to record yourself singing or playing over professional backing tracks with real musicians as accompaniment. The lyrics or music appear on screen and you can practice and record as many times as you like before adding reverb and saving as an MP3. What’s really exciting is the ability to then share your recordings in the Pure Solo Community and post them to your Facebook page, burn your own CD or email the files to friends. The user can record against a downloaded track as many times as they wish.”
• How do you make money?
“We have a straightforward pay-per download model for the backing track and accompaniment and give the software away for free.”
• What’s your background?
“I spent 22 years at Goldman Sachs in a number of trading businesses. That was a great environment to learn about business process, management, the importance of strategy and the need for connectivity to your client. Also, as a requirement in the music industry, Goldman Sachs was a terrific foundation for the respect of the legal elements of a business. While this has helped Pure Solo on a number of levels, the rest of our directors have a diverse skill sets and experience.
“John Thirkell, our chief operating officer and co-founder, has 30 years in music as a renowned trumpeter with bands like Jamiroquai, Level 42 and Tina Turner. The chief technology officer Jonathan Knight is a former colleague of mine at Goldman, and our newest addition, Elyas Chowdhury, has 15 years in consumer marketing management for Nestle, Kraft Foods, and Expedia. We have titles but consider this a team effort and all our fingernails are equally dirty.”
• How many users do you have now, and what’s your target within 12 months?
“Based on our current performance and distribution plans we expect to be achieving 100,000 unique users per month by the end of this year.”
• Name your closest competitors
“In the low-barrier-to-entry, recording-over-high-quality-backing-track space, we don’t see a lot of competition. Naturally in the karaoke space it exists but we’ve been called Karaoke 2.0 in Tech Digest and feel excited about that. In the education software market Sibelius and Finale are great products, although they serve a somewhat different user and purpose.”
• How are personalisation and recommendation part of your business?
“The core of our business is a personalised musical experience. Everyone loves to hear themselves play or sing – we take that a step further and make the process quick & easy and allow users to legally share the end results. The viral effect of this sharing should not only spread the word but also drive content requests and recommendations.”
• And how do you plan to survive the financial crisis?
“This is about personal discipline of living within your means. It always has been. During weak economic periods though it is important to think not only about survival but also pursue an equally disciplined investment and growth mindset. This applies both for personal and business purposes.
“Despite being a new business and wanting to invest, survival will come from discipline on a day-to-day basis.”
• What’s your biggest challenge?
“In the financial industry, especially trading, one had minute-by-minute updates as to how one was performing. In the building of a company the returns come over a longer period of time and that has been a major change.”
• Which tech businesses or web thinkers are the ones to watch?
“We really like the creative things YouTube can do in their next phase. We also believe Nokia is a great long-term mobile music strategic player. We also are fans of Spotify.”
• What’s the most important piece of software or web tool that you use each day?
“We are pretty practical – emails, browsers, and search. But we do like the fun things too.”
• Where do you want the company to be in five years?
“We’d love it if Pure Solo was being used as a core music teaching tool, not only throughout the UK but also around the world – and hope the individual music performer comes to think of us like they think of MySpace.”