Soundsupply is the place to go for Drops: curated bundles of digital or physical albums, offered for limited periods at low prices. It’s perfect for hunters, explorers, collectors, and lovers of all kinds of music. Co-founder Tim Mortensen took the time to answer some questions for Earn This about the joys of sharing great artists, both legendary and underground, with a public hungry for something new.
(Earn This:) Two Mortensens, you and your brother Eric, founded Soundsupply in January 2012. Given the steady success and expansion of the project, I can’t imagine you guys are doing it all alone. Who else have you got involved, formally or informally?
(Tim:) Believe or not, it still is just the two of us. We’re hoping to change that soon though! We’ve been really fortunate to work with some great bands and labels so the process of putting everything together has gone pretty smooth for a two-person operation, but we’d like the Supply family to grow soon if you know anyone who likes listening to music all day and needs a job.
It’s obvious from your releases (more than a dozen so far this year) and your website (recently revamped) that Soundsupply is doing well. Plus, you’re backed by Lightbank. Without hitting us with sales figures, can you describe the growth you’ve seen?
The growth has been amazing. We tend to focus on the size and engagement of the community that we’re trying to build and we’re seeing lots of passionate fans get involved in discovering and falling in love with a lot of the bands we’ve featured. We’re also really stoked on the amount of sharing that happens with each Drop. The rate at which people are buying a Drop and then telling their friends on Facebook or Twitter is staggering and we’re taking that as a really positive sign.
The last few Drops in the “main” numbered series have been spaced about two months apart. Is that the pace you’re aiming for? When your goal is to share as much music as possible, are there any concerns about saturating your distribution service’s fan base if you don’t give each release time to breathe?
So far, two months seems like a fair amount of time to dig into a 10 album bundle. We’re starting to explore some other ways our platform can offer music in between the main Drops, specifically with Artist and Label bundles, which allow us to offer more specific ways to discover a single band or label’s catalogue in one purchase.
At this point, when an artist gets their work into a Drop, are they expecting to net money and fans on the deal? Or does the steep discount you offer mean that artists and labels are typically investing money in order to gain fans?
From day one, every artist that participates in a Drop gets paid. It’s one of the main goals of our site to get direct financial support in exchange for being a part of what we’re doing. We do an equal profit share between all of the bands in a Drop and also offer one of the fastest royalty payouts in the industry. Bands usually get paid within 2 or 3 days after a Drop ends, so that money can be put to use right away. On top of that, it is a great way to get new fans that are owners of your band’s album.
Does this project, with its very real business side, conflict with your passion for performing or your other music-industry endeavors? Are there enough hours in the day?
I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to having a few extra hours most weeks, but a lot of things we do outside of working on Soundsupply definitely help more than they distract. For me, being on tour lets me connect with a lot of bands and see them live, which is my favorite way to find bands to feature in a future Drop. Eric does a lot of art for bands and labels, so it’s another great way to create a relationship that can lead to partnerships for Soundsupply.
You hail from Chicago, the land of Braids and Fall Out Boy. We’ve seen drops featuring Circa Survive, Cursive, and The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die. Deep Elm’s Emo Diaries got their own drop, as did Drive-Thru records. What I’m trying to say here is that you must really like emo music.
I guess there’s the saying “Write what you know” so maybe Soundsupply is the startup equivalent of that? In the beginning, we had the task of convincing bands to do something with us that was kind of a crazy and we had no data to back up that our idea would work, so we definitely relied on cashing in favors with bands that we were friends with or had been on tour with, which ended up being a lot of bands from that scene.
Still, Mini Drop 4 was a “Hip Hop Drop” and I’ve seen Drops featuring artists from Tera Melos to Haley Bonar to Rodeo Ruby Love. Do you ever think about what range Soundsupply can cover without seeming out-of-character?
Ultimately, we want to the best discovery site for all music fans, so we’d like to get to the point where we have something for everyone. We get requests every day for almost every style and genre of music to be featured in a Drop, and given our desire to please the community that’s developing, we’d like to provide that, but we want to do it right. We think there’s a way to present it and organize on the site that will make it work well.
I noticed that a band from Drop 1 recently got a dedicated 5-album Drop to themselves. So what’s the deal: are you in good with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, or just a fanboy?
We’re definitely fanboys, but you could say that about every band we’ve featured to some extent. Polyvinyl Records, who have release a lot of SSLYBY’s albums, were the first label that wanted to work with Soundsupply and they’ve been amazing partners in developing our platform. Their willingness to experiment with new ideas and technology is one of the reasons why I think they’re the best independent record label in the world. They want what’s best for their artists and they’re not afraid to try new things.
In my mind, your desk has a giant stack of CDs labeled “Just waiting for the right Drop.” Does that stack exist in some form, and if so, how big is it?
There definitely is the stack, but luckily it is digital because it is HUGE. We’re super fortunate to have a ton of great bands reach out to us wanting to be involved with Soundsupply and we listen to everything that gets submitted.
Tour Drops. Vinyl Drops. Drops curated by famous artists. An eBook Drop. What else do you have up your sleeve?
We’ve got a few things in different stages of development, but nothing I can tease quite yet! We definitely like a good surprise. The response to a lot of the new things like Vinyl and Guest Curated Drops has been awesome, so you’ll be seeing more of those, for sure. We’re trying to work on some backend stuff, which isn’t as exciting, but is going to lead to a better experience browsing and downloading the site on all devices.
Luckily, Into It. Over It. is a ridiculous enough name that I don’t think there’s been any mistakes. If kids are showing up for Into It. Over It. shows thinking it’s supposed to be a different band then they must be super polite about it. (Thanks for not demanding your money back, confused kids!)