“Words matter” or “Your free music sounds better with lyrics” are just two of the slogans that best describe Musixmatch, the Italian start-up that has come to be the world’s largest lyrics catalog and platform. Founded in 2010, the company has grown to reach more than 60 million users around the world. But how does Musixmatch work?
The Musixmatch catalogue, platform and app principally allow users to: 1) access lyrics and/or their translation in other languages; 2) share and/or review written down and/or translated lyrics from songs all around the world; 3) synchronize their music library of many music apps (e.g. Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music) so that the lyrics pop up (like in Youtube lyrics videos) when one is listening to a song on a music app in his/her device; and 4) create the synchronization song(s) – lyrics, which will then be shared worldwide via Musixmatch and the apps in which Musixmatch is supported.
Musixmatch has been thus ideated for users who want to search for lyrics and also who want to see/think about the lyrics while listening to a song. In this respect, Musixmatch CEO Massimo Ciociola points out (paraphrased): “The fifth most searched category in Google is lyrics. Why, in accessing lyrics, can’t we provide a better, faster, more complete, more comprehensive catalogue and user experience with songs’ lyrics?” Another, peculiar aspect of Musixmatch is the size of its workforce compared to its users’ base. 30 employees (all engineers) vs more than 50 million users/downloads. These figures point out to an important feature of Musixmatch: the fundamental role that users and contributors have in creating value for the platform. In this respect, Musixmatch encourages users to contribute to the catalogue, by either writing, translating, reviewing or synchronizing songs’ lyrics. In this way, Musixmatch, like many other platforms, has been subjected to so-called “network effects”, where the value of the app to users has increased due to the increasing number of contributors. As CEO Ciociola points out: “Lyrics missing? We ask the community”. The incentive schemes for this crowd-sourced component can be best described by quoting the company’s website: “Inside the Musixmatch community users earn points based on the actions they do on the lyrics. Based on those points the user can reach a higher level and status in the community that give more power to his/her actions”. Therefore, the incentive scheme for users to generate value for the app does not include monetary rewards, but only recognition in terms of status/power of action in the user community.
Despite this absence of monetary rewards for contributing, and despite the fact that the company has not officially become profitable, there are several mutual benefits of this contribution-based system for both the firm and contributors. Users, through their contribution(s), can “show-off” and gain “social” benefits, in terms of increased reputation and self-esteem in the community they belong to. Some top users can even become “curators”, which “gives them extra powers to control what’s happening in the community”. Another aspect that Musixmatch emphasizes is the “feeling” aspect, where the firm asks “passionate” users who really enjoy to share lyrics to contribute. This emphasis is perfectly justified by the fact that people indeed love to share lyrics and the emotions that come with them and their blending with music in many social settings. We can think of Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube, but also of more offline settings like parties or night campfires with guitars and other instruments.
Musixmatch, from its point of view, sees the value of its platform increasing as more and more of its users contribute. Musixmatch’s current main source of revenue is data licensing , but the firm is also considering to start selling advertising space. Either way, a platform with larger amounts of data, which results from the network effects from the increasing number of users, can be a greater source of revenue for Musixmatch. The costs of monitoring the crowd-sourcing process can be rather limited. The microtasking nature of sharing, reviewing and translating lyrics does not require high levels of cognitive ability, competences or a particular expertise to check the quality of users’ contribution. Also, often times quality checks for lyrics translation and composition are done by the users themselves. In this respect, the company has been able to successfully set up a firm and effective set of community rules that regulates users’ activities.
In terms of external arrangements, Musixmatch has been the first lyrics’ app and platform to formalize legal agreements with major international publishers, such as EMI Publishing, SonyATV and PeerMusic among others. This has permitted MusixMatch to legitimize its role in the apps and catalogues’ world, to increase its users’ base and to become the world’s largest lyrics’ platform, or, as CEO Ciociola points out, the “Music Vocabulary of the World”.
Blohm, I., Zogaj, S., Bretschneider, U., & Leimeister, J. M. (2018). How to Manage Crowdsourcing Platforms Effectively?. California Management Review, 60(2), 122-149.
“Musixmatch Wants to Be the ‘IMDb of Music Lyrics,’ Launches Lyric Video Messaging App”. Billboard. Retrieved 2018-02-17
O’Hear, Steve. “Song Lyrics App Musixmatch Hacks Its Way To 50M Downloads/30M MAUs, Adds Spotify Support”. TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-02-17