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Steve Martocci

CEO & Cofounder, Splice

“MUSIC PRODUCTION IS STILL STUCK IN THE ’90s,” says Steve Martocci, CEO and cofounder of a music technology platform called Splice. “People are working with huge files scattered across computers and external hard drives… and we’re not talking just any artists, we’re talking top 100 performers.”

What Martocci and his cofounder, Matt Aimonetti, envisioned was a cloud platform that would streamline music production the same way Google Docs streamlined work streams for, well, everyone. Its features would include tracked changes, progress back ups and the ability for two people to simultaneously collaborate on one song. The best part? No longer worrying about crashes or sending huge, hefty files—the work would live on the cloud.

“It’s something I think all programmers who are fans of music have thought of,” Martocci remembers. “But such creative processes can be daunting. You would have to understand exactly what goes on in the brain during an incredibly creative process in order for the software to have any impact… I think that may deterred [other entrepreneurs].”

So, before Splice’s founding in 2013, Martocci and his team spent months talking to musicians, analyzing pain points and bringing them into the fold. The result is the ultimate confluence of music and programming—a software startup backed by Tiesto, Swedish House Mafia‘s Steve Angello and Scooter Braun, but created by the best in Silicon Valley talent. And how did they do it? “By listening to users first.”

A music technology startup with artists for artists

WHEN LAUNCHING A STARTUP, the first step is an idea. But the second, and most important, step is determining whether there’s a use case. Do people actually want this thing?

“If your target audience doesn’t need it, it almost doesn’t matter how good your idea is,” explains Martocci, who also cofounded Blade and mobile group messaging app, GroupMe, which sold to Skype for $80M in 2011. “You have to know what problem you’re solving… whether your potential users’ pain is strong enough to leave them open to change.”

Many programmers found music too intimidating or too foreign, which might be why the space went undisrupted for so long. The last innovation to hit the industry was really the switch from analog to digital workstations like Ableton, Garageband and Logic—and that was 20, 30 years back.

“But then a musician friend of mine got into programming and discovered all the amazing tools we had… The first thing he said was, “Dude, where’s GitHub for Abelton?’ GitHub being the open source software that streamlined the then-fragmented process for computer programming.”

As the idea solidified, Martocci and his team spent as much time listening to artists as they did designing the software, a key difference between them and other startups. Each feature and function was driven by an actual problem musicians were facing.

Exploring A Use Case

If your target audience doesn’t need [your product], it almost doesn’t matter how good your idea is.”

AS ARTISTS CONTINUED TO VOCALIZE THEIR PAIN POINTS, Splice built onto their initial offering (the aforementioned cloud-based version control system, which is totally free by the way). It’s why the three-year-old company has so many products. Their fastest growing? Splice Sounds, a library of all the samples a musician needs to build a song. (A sample being everything from the sound of a car alarm to a kick drum.)

“For $7.99/month, you can get access to millions of samples and loops,” Martocci continues. “And that really solved two things: one, they’re all tagged by characteristic and genre, so, it’s easier than ever for musicians to find what they’re looking for; and two, it combats piracy and allows the artists who created these sounds to get paid—the biggest cut goes to them.”

There’s also Splice’s free Beat Maker, and the ability for you to watch artist users like Deadmau5 build a song step-by-step. Some leading musicians even release sample backs allowing fans to download their loops and sounds without royalties. (Just check out this example from KSHMR.)

“I remember as a kid stealing sample packs all the time because I didn’t want to spend $40 every time I wanted one sample,” says DJ Jauz. “[With Splice], all you have to do is look up whatever you want—whether its a vocal, a clap or kick… it’s the smartest way to [do things].”

But don’t think Splice is a tool for just electronic music.

“I think that genre tends to invite more collaboration,” he says. “They’re always remixing each other’s work, and there’s this idea that if one DJ gets commercial success, they bring their friends up with them. But really, every major artist today is making songs on a laptop. Just take Adele’s 25 as an example—the majority of that album was recorded with a MacBookPro and a microphone.”

An Evolution Of Products

I think [the electronic] genre tends to invite more collaboration.”

GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF TIME Splice spent working with musicians, we have to wonder: Was it easy getting them onboard?

“Musicians are very interesting people,” Martocci says to finish. “They’ve spent their whole life learning this craft—learning how to get content out of their head and into a song—and suddenly here is a group of computer programmers saying they have a better way of doing things… I’ll be honest: Some of them were very dismissive at first.”

But the musicians who use Splice love Splice. Just take songwriter Prince Fox, who appears above at the startup’s NYC headquarters.

“The first time I found Splice, I was like, ‘Damn, they did it,’” he remembers. “The program is like your best friend who’s a way better DJ than you… I honestly couldn’t imagine music without it.”

Musician Reactions

Splice is like your best friend who's a way better DJ than you.”


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