Earbits has been around for about two years, running a nice site full of curated music channels where independent artists can strut their stuff. Nothing earth shattering about this; we’ve been reviewing indie oriented streaming sites for years. But then someone got an idea. Why not reward the network’s listeners for extolling Earbit artist selections on Facebook and Twitter?
And so it has been done. As of this post, just mosey over to Earbits.com, log into your Facebook account, Facebook or Tweet about your favorite tunes, and you not only become a promoter of the music, you earn a newly minted currency: “Groovies.”
If you are my age, it’s a comfort to know that young people still appreciate this term. Nostalgia aside, Groovies allow you to “purchase” more music on Earbits. Rather than just listening to the site’s curated channels, you can now buy on-demand access to songs.
How do you get these Groovies? “Basically any time you take an action that benefits the artists or a label or our platform, if you share a track with friends, or join a Facebook fan page or mailing list, or do anything that is a measurable creation of value for the artist, you earn Groovies,” Joey Flores, CEO of Earbits explained to us earlier this week.
The Groovies earning rate can range from 15 to several hundred pieces of the currency, “depending on the action that you are taking,” Flores notes. At this point, you accumulate 500 Groovies by opening an account, then 100 for each music recommendation you make on Facebook and Twitter, and 50 Groovies when you “like” an artists’ official Facebook fan pages or subscribe to an e-mailing list. Then you can cash in on the Groovies at the rate of 10 Groovies for each on-demand song.
Bottom line: the curated channels are free. “So if you want to come and spend your time listening to a curated channel that we’ve created, you don’t have to participate with Groovies,” Flores explains. “But if you say, ‘Wow. These guys are really good. I’d like to hear five more songs by this band,’ then you need to spend Groovies to access those tracks.”
Users also earn “Karma” on top of Groovies. Karma is more complicated. It tracks artist loyalty and allows bands to reward the Most Faithful with swag, or Google hangout time, or similar goodies. In any event, I asked Flores why he thought that consumers would choose Earbits over Spotify.
“The majority of Spotify users are not paying, which means that they have restrictions on how much listening they are allowed to do for free,” he pointed out. “They have to endure commercials and ads. At Earbits is it much cleaner; there are no ads; there are no commercials.”
The potential genius of this service is that all it does is ask listeners to do what many of them already do: plug their favorite bands on Facebook and Twitter. In exchange they get a free and ad-free curated channels plus on-demand tunes, with no restrictions on how much they can listen.
In a sense, Earbits combines the energies of a music promotion company with a social networking site. Last word goes to Flores:
“We are trying to build a direct-to-fan platform for artists and labels to reach new audiences. But we believe that the best way to make those tools more powerful is by putting them on top of a really engaging consumer experience. So you have a lot of artist-marketing companies that are building tools for bands and labels to use to maximize the value of their existing audience. And then you have all these streaming sites where consumers are spending a lot of time. But those things are typically not generating a lot of value for artists. We are trying to merge the best aspects of both of those things.”
Mobile applications are on the way. The Android app should arrive in April; the iPhone version will be “coming out later this year,” we were told.