About 125 million people are using an app that lets them record and share their music-making skills, reports Brad Stone in Bloomberg Businessweek (10/14/13). Smule offers a total of "18 mobile apps" for voice, guitar, piano and more that allow users to "post their own songs" as well as "sample tracks" from others. "We’re making the internet a big campfire," says Smule chief executive Jeff Smith. "Most of the songs are quite bad, but some are pretty good, and now we’re enabling people all over the world to listen to them."
The five-year-old startup recently "unveiled a revamped website, Smule Nation, which highlights select performances from users across all of its apps through a social network accessible online by anyone with a personal computer. It’s a big step for the company, whose apps previously were usable only on mobile devices." The software isn’t necessarily easy to use. For example: "The company’s Ocarina app … requires users to blow into their phones to play notes." Smule advisory board member Perry Cook says the apps are part of a long-term trend toward the democratization of music making.
Smule has also attracted "well-known artists, including Grammy-winning country group Lady Antebellum," which has "used the app to connect with fans." Reality TV shows, including The Voice and American Idol reportedly have been in touch about the possibility of using Smule Nation to audition singers. For now, the Smule "apps are free," with money made on ads and "ad-free subscriptions. For $40 a year, heavy users can also store an unlimited number of songs on the startup’s servers." The company expects to "turn a profit in the next few months."