Tech start-up of the week: WholeWorldBand

1 Dec 2014

John Holland, CEO of WholeWorldBand and founder Kevin Godley

Our tech start-up of the week this week is WholeWorldBand, a free iPhone and iPad app artists and brands can use to make and share videos.

Based in Dublin, WholeWorldBand is a free iPhone and iPad app that allows anyone to make music and videos that can be shared and enjoyed worldwide. 

The app already has users ranging from music industry heavyweights such as Ronnie Wood (The Rolling Stones), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), and New Model Army, as well as thousands of beginners and up-and-coming musicians collaborating together.

The app was launched at the end of 2013 and is now live in more than 100 countries on the Apple App Store, an addressable global market of US$5.9bn. WholeWorldBand acts as a virtual recording studio: users pick a recording session and contribute a vocal, instrumental, visual, or anything they feel like adding using just the camera and microphone in their iOS device. They can share their creation via social media through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Soundcloud.

As well as scooping an award for Best App and Innovative Use of Technology in Digital Marketing, WholeWorldBand (WWB) was also named the Grand Prix winner at the recent 2014 Eircom Spider Awards.

A virtual recording studio

WholeWorldBand’s aim is to be a major player in how music is created, shared and monetised in the digital age. The majority of users are between 19 and 34 and can be found in the North America, South America and the UK.

“WholeWorldBand is a free iPhone and iPad app for the video age that is about content creation, fan engagement and creative marketing,” explains John Holland, CEO, WholeWorldBand.

“It allows anyone to easily make music and videos with or without their favourite artists and friends that can be shared and enjoyed worldwide.

“Think of it as a collaborative, multi-track version of YouTube.”

Holland said that using the app is like entering a virtual recording studio. 

“Fans create or join an existing recording session and contribute a vocal, instrumental, visual, or anything they feel like adding. Everyone from famous professionals to complete beginners can work together to create great songs and visuals using just the camera and microphone in their iOS device – and then share their video mixes directly to YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud, and Twitter.”

The market

WholeWorldBand’s customers can be segmented into four main categories: established A-List artists, music fans aspiring musicians and brands.

“We want to put into the hands of everyone in the world, the ability to create, collaborate and share in sound and vision with their favourite artists and each other on any device.

“Artists produce music, merchandising and the live experience for us all to enjoy, this gives them a new musical experience to monetise or use to market.”

The founders

The founder of WholeWorldBand is Kevin Godley. Godley’s background is as an artist. He was a founding member of 10cc and Godley & Creme and he then went on to direct some iconic music videos, such as Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, Herbie Hancock’s Rokit and Blur’s Girls and Boys, to name a few.

Holland’s background embraces music and business. “I am a bit of a mongrel with 20 plus years’ experience crossing music, technology and business working across the spectrum from big, blue-chip corporate environments through to working for myself and start-ups.

“Music has always been an important part of my life and I’ve had a recording studio and organised gigs since my teens. I’ve worked in some of the top mobile and tech companies up to C-level executive.

“I really love the intersection of different cultures those of business, technology and art. I get a real buzz out of working with smart, highly motivated people solving problems, finding solutions and creating value.”

The technology

Holland said WholeWorldBand’s technology can be divided into two equally important parts; the app and the back-end.

“In terms of the app, ensuring a great user experience is a key focus for us but it’s not just about a pretty, engaging front-end, the app also has to do some pretty complex stuff (which we have patents pending for) in terms of the audio and video synchronisation, and making sure that’s up to a professional standard. The app is available now for iPhone and iPad and we are currently developing for Android and Web, with a release for web to come very soon.

“In terms of the back-end this is in the Amazon cloud which is very scalable and secure. It handles serving the video as well as managing the payments, rights management and social media functions.”

Holland said WholeWorldBand’s aim is to be a major contributor in how music is created, shared and monetised in the digital age.

“As I mentioned earlier, we want to put into the hands of everyone in the world, the ability to create and collaborate in sound and vision with their favourite artists and each other. WholeWorldBand provides a platform that brings value to users, artists and brands in a fair and transparent way.”

A whole new ecosystem

Holland said that building the app has been extraordinarily challenging and complex. “This isn’t about building a better mousetrap it is about creating a whole new ecosystem and way of creating music in a fun, positive, engaging and creative way that supports the musicians, artists and creators of music whether they be amateur or professional.  

“There have been huge challenges but credit to what I like to call our MAAD team: they have the Motivation, Attitude, Ability and Determination to persist and work through each and every challenge. It is a privilege to work with such great people.”

He said WholeWorldBand continues to make strong progress and growth, with download figures well into six figures and extraordinary positive feedback from both users and industry as well as high levels of engagement.

“We are on track to have nearly 20,000 active recording sessions on the platform by the end of the year. Think about that for a minute; that amount of creativity is mind blowing and it is only a matter of time before a new big star or hit emerges from the platform. That is why we put so much hard work into licensing, rights management and payment systems.

Early investors in WholeWorldBand include former U2 manager Paul McGuinness and Trevor Bowen from Principle Management.

“Paul McGuinness and I were early investors in this project which I believe provides an opportunity for artists and, by definition, record and publishing companies to augment their income by utilising partly finished tracks or building a strong rapport with their fan base,” Bowen explained.

“The project has been properly set up with royalties being calculated correctly and is considerably more lucrative than streaming.”

Holland said that in terms of investment WholeWorldBand is looking to develop relationships with investors that can bring value other than money.

“Investors that are prepared to make introductions that make a difference and occasionally take some time out of their busy schedules to meet and give advice and guidance when needed are invaluable. We can nearly always make room for this type of investor.”

It’s all about the team

Holland described the Irish start-up scene as encouraging.

“There are lots of really great entrepreneurs, sharing, learning and supporting each other, some really supportive and smart private and institutional investors and great state supports through the likes of Enterprise Ireland, IDA as well as incubators such as the NDRC and Media Cube in IADT where we are based.”

His advice to other start-ups is to focus on the development of the team.

“A great idea is as useful as a glass hammer if you cannot deliver it. It is all about the team, not just the staff but also your investors.

“Start-ups are a rollercoaster, you and the team need determination and an ability to pick yourselves up and keep going when things go wrong – which they will, but equally not to get over hyped when things go extremely well.

“It’s a long game and on average overnight success takes 10-15 years.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years