Steal This Idea – Silent Disco DJ App

“If you get confused, listen to the music play.” – The Grateful Dead

I was on a run the other day and came up with this idea, one that I believe would be a million dollar app if done correctly, so please steal this as soon as possible, go make it, and become a millionaire. Then invite me to your party.

Imagine “Draw Something” for music, but way more fun and engagement.

A bit of background regarding my music experience – I was a DJ in high school and loved every minute of it. I would DJ lots of the school dances and got hired to do private parties. For the past three years, I've had a music blog that sends out songs every Friday morning to loyal followers and I LOVE doing it. All the freshest new tracks from blogs around the web served right to your inbox. The creativity fuels me, the beats drive me.

In 2006, I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the Bonnaroo Music Festival and build a sculpture with John Bisbee, a genius of which I can only describe as a real life magician. I slept in a tent for a few weeks and drank bourbon as freely as bottled water, surrounded by creativity, blazing sun, and music. Oh man, so much music.

When the festival started and I was able to step away from my projects, my buddy and I ended up in Center-Roo, or the main area where the concerts and activities happened. It was about 9pm and we strolled by a tent that glowed with life and pulsed with a strange, yet hypnotic energy. As we walked closer we saw something completely out of this world – 500 people wearing Bose noise cancelling headphones rocking out…

…to no music.

And I mean full on dance party. People going absolutely nuts – sweating, eyes closed, the whole deal. Everyone was woven together by some intangible silk, a pulsing, yet hidden force. Then I saw it – the DJ.

He towered above everyone else, wearing the same headphones, and commanded this army of freedom seekers. His entire system was not plugged into an obtuse sound system, but a low output FM transmitter. He was a live radio station with a listener base of 500.

And I couldn't hear a thing.

DJ

Literally hundreds of people glued to their headphones, waiting on every track that was going to come on next. The dancers were in their own world, engaging for hours with whatever the DJ served up.

Naturally, I made my way through the line of people waiting to get involved and was handed a pair of the forbidden headphones. I put them on and felt an electricity run through me. I once was blind and now I see.

Everything seemed to now make sense. Everyone who saw me gave me a look of “Yes – you understand now. You're part of our community. You belong here.” It was awesome. SO awesome. Every once in a while I would remove the headphones and see the audacity of what we were doing. It felt like nothing I'd ever been a part of.

I've since re-lived that disco memory with my buddy and talked to a few others who have experienced similar musical journeys. There is something so special about combining music, dancing, and a feeling of camaraderie. Conversations have come up that talk about how great it would be to re-create that experience, but it always falls short because of logistics, cost, or equipment.

More importantly, being able to feel like we were all a part of something that was special – an exclusivity that was anything but exclusive. It all seemed impossible to re-create.

That is, until now.

Transmitting Love – The Power Of The Collective Community

Before I get into this, a few AWESOME resources to check out that have provided plenty of inspiration behind this.

Turntable.fm – probably the closest working model to what I'm talking about. They have a great iPhone app already and a growing community. Basically you select a “room” and DJs (users) select music to play. If they play great music, people give them props and they get popular. Kind of an organic DJ showcase.

Songza – Songza is the brainchild of some musical geniuses, one of which I went to Bowdoin College with. It's like Pandora but built on   playlists generated by real people who have awesome taste in music. It will put your Pandora listening to shame, and is one of my most used iPhone apps.

So, back to the subject at hand.

Imagine an iPhone app that doesn't necessarily cater to the users as much as it caters to the DJs or the people making the music. Instead of trying to get lots of downloads and make your money on the oceans of people loading your app and displaying ads, you create the most epic way for a DJ to send an invite to their 250 followers with the subject line “Want to be a part of my silent disco?”

As a marketer, the most important and gorgeous asset in business is leverage. The ability to turn 1 into 100 without all the leg work is a dream come true. This is why having 500 semi-popular DJs, in my opinion, makes this app more valuable than the 50,000 regular users they will bring you. Those DJs have armies of followers and they will market this app like you never could.

This app would be created for a DJ in order to give them a tool that they could use to throw a party at a fraction of the cost of a sound system. The possibilities are endless:

  • An on-site silent disco – Djs work with an event space to be live and in person while everyone jams on their iPhone headphones. Cool, creative, and a PR dream.
  • A virtual dance party – the DJ spins from his condo at 11pm PST and everyone who wants to be a part can plug in from anywhere they want, worldwide. You could probably even charge for entry using in-app purchases.
  • A marketing tool – push notifications, emails, and text messages about new tracks/events/remixes.
  • Buying band merchandise on your phone – Similar to how MerchBar is totally killing this, integrating something that uses their app or service.

You're selling DJs a marketing AND a distribution channel via the #1 engagement platform out there. That is unprecedented. Never been done.

And is worth more money than I can imagine. Here's why:

Prove Engagement and You Have A Blank Check

There might be some ways to make money here and there in an app like this – selling features, “leasing” air time, charging admissions, etc, but it's not going to be a million bucks, at least not any time soon.The overhead alone is going to be pretty steep with hosting and database bandwidth, most likely coming off of an Amazon S3 rack somewhere.

The value is in the engagement.

I'm working with a few companies that are big event promoters – thousands of events every year. The budgets for these campaigns can exceed $300M. You know what the biggest question is?

How do they KNOW that they're reaching consumers at the events?

When people are milling around at these events, how does a brand know that they're seeing their liquor bottle or banner at the wall? What sort of music is being played? Answer is: they don't know…and they spend millions of dollars on it.

There is this big hole in the market which spans every industry…including the music industry. These guys are like everyone else, looking for the next way to engage users and get their brands into the heads (and ears) of the right people.

Now imagine you have this Silent Disco app that's being used by hundreds, if not thousands of DJs (and others) around the world who have the ability to market and broadcast to their customer base. You actually have a few hundred thousand users by now because all those DJs told everyone they knew to download it so that they could join in on this awesome platform.

You see where this is going?

Licensing, white-labeling, or outright selling this app to a DJ equipment company or record label would probably take less than 20 minutes. The app could feature a brand's products, record labels could send out “Recommended by you favorite DJ” push notifications that give free downloads of new bands they're trying to promote, sponsored parties that require “checking in” with your app to turn the music on.

My point is that the money is in the engagement, not necessarily in the app. You don't have to have a million SALES to make a million, you just need to prove a million dollars' worth of value to someone who can buy it.

I'll Come To Your Silent Disco If You Steal My Idea

Not even kidding. I'll plug in and tune out if anyone out there wants to get serious about this. Any takers? Maybe Trey Smith? Ha.

Catch you later,

Carter

How to Make An App
 

COMMENTS

  • Benison Lee May 15, 2012

    Hello,
    I was wondering if it is difficult to learn app development? My friend knows how to design, but we do not have anyone to develop the app. Do you know any programs online that teach you how to develop an app for free? Your response would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Ben

  • kevin May 15, 2012

    @Benison,
    There are a plethora of free tutorials out there that teach app development. Visiting sites like this is a great first start for pointers , guidance and resource information. You can visit educational sites like http://www.udemy.com for some excellent lessons and video based instructions. Here is a list of app building
    sites/services-
    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/13_tools_for_building_your_own_iphone_app.php

  • Carter Thomas Carter May 16, 2012

    Hey Ben,

    Kevin has some good tips and there are many ways to go through the process. I’m working closely with a few guys right now to launch a program that may be exactly what you’re looking for – It will teach you to develop apps in a way that is easy to learn and understand and then show you how to make a TON of money with it. I’m not usually into selling stuff, but I spent a few days taking some of the pilot courses and it’s the best I’ve seen.

    I’ll be emailing everyone on my list about it when it goes live. There’s only a two week opt in period and it should be up next week.

    In the meantime, check out http://www.raywenderlich.com/ as well – he’s got some really slick tutorials. A great place to start might be to sign up as a developer with Apple and go through their basic Xcode tutorials. That will give you a good framework and they have good documentation.

    Catch you soon and good luck!

    Carter

  • Lee May 18, 2012

    Hi Carter,

    I disagree with your idea for this app, I think you may be overlooking several potential issues;

    First and foremost all the devices would need to be hearing the audio at the exact same time or the effect of a combined experience would be lost. We all know streaming audio is not delivered at the same time via the internet and can be several seconds out.

    Silent disco’s tend to be pretty large and to be commercially viable I suspect a gathering would need a few thousand. The data network would need to be very robust to handle the number of connections and the amount of data.

    Finally from a marketing point of view if you had a few thousand people dancing in an area using wired headphones, that poses a large health and safety risk not something marketers in my experience are keen on.

    I think your idea in theory is sensible but in practice it wouldnt work, lets just say I know a thing or two about silent discos, the system you propose is potentially very unreliable and therefore not a replacement for existing systems (outside of home use).

    Thanks

    Lee

  • Carter Thomas Carter May 18, 2012

    Hey Lee,

    These are awesome points and I REALLY appreciate your comments. You bring up some good insights that need to be addressed from the technical standpoint.

    In terms of the streaming sync – you’re right. The way streaming audio happens in the traditional sense can be patchy. I will say, however, that I’ve tested a few different radio station apps to see if this works and it did. All 4 phones played the radio station stream at the exact same time. I talked to a developer about that and there’s something about a real time match back you can add in so that every 5 seconds it will auto correct when the music is. Whether or not that’s feasible or realistic, I don’t know. But yes, this would need to be bulletproof, especially for something like techno.

    I think the silent disco needs a few thousand to be commercially viable in it’s current form, but I think this could change that. All equipment costs are gone so this could literally be done in a field (or something) if it had 4G access. I guess I had a vision for DJs that didn’t want to have huge raging parties, rather be able to create new types of parties.

    I’m also coming from the point of view that sponsors would pay for the event no matter what because of the engagement – my experience with the liquor brands was that they would pay a few thousand bucks per event for all the traditional stuff, yet they are willing to spend over $1M for an app that would engage users at the exact same event, making the per user value skyrocket.

    The health/safety concern is valid. I suppose a waiver or something would need to be in place, along with a bullet proof custom EULA for your iTunes account upload.

    I guess it sounds like the biggest problem would be bandwidth which causes the unreliability you mentioned. Maybe as 4G and nationwide wireless spread their tentacles, that would be the right time to execute on this.

    Again, thanks for writing.

    Carter

  • Lee May 18, 2012

    Hi Carter,

    I think the time syncing issue is beyond my programming skills and quite a complex issue, also I think it will be most noticeable when the crowd begins to sing.

    The data issue even with 4G in my experience just won’t give the bandwidth needed, one day for sure we will have data capabilities but not just yet.

    I think the interactive marketing element is interesting and I can imagine apps to allow communication with the DJ’s and various other things that could include this. However I see this as an ad on to dedicated systems provided high quality audio and a true experience.

    Another thought is the battery drain issue that will arise from hours of silent play.

    Thanks
    Lee

  • Ben May 21, 2012

    Carter, Thanks for your input. Looking forward to your program.

  • Andrew June 8, 2012

    Hi Carter,
    I’ve been enjoying your e-book. I’ve been inspired to get into the app business via young entrepreneurs such as Ferris and Mureta, as well as yourself. As a musician, I totally dug this post. I’m brainstorming a lot of ideas and interviewing developers online, and I’ve registered as a developer with Apple. The one issue I do not see many app men like yourself discussing is the actual formation of the business. Mureta created Empire Apps and you have your own company. When one signs up as a developer with Apple, he signs up under his own name. What is your advice for forming a company under an LLC or incorporating it? Appreciate the e-book. Thanks for the advice.
    All the best,
    Andrew

  • Carter Thomas Carter June 8, 2012

    Hey Andrew,

    Awesome question and definitely something that probably deserves an entire post. Here’s my two cents (this is NOT professional legal advice and anyone reading this should talk to a lawyer if they want to get started in business. This is purely my editorial opinion):

    The formation of the company (I’m assuming you mean creating an LLC or and S-Corp/Inc) should be done with the end game in mind. What I mean by that is that you want to create something that you can either:

    a. Sell
    b. Use for legal protection
    c. Tax purposes
    d. Partnerships/equity

    Let’s say it’s just you maybe eventually you’ll hire some people once you make money on your first few apps. Your goal is to create cool, fun music apps and eventually sell the company for $60 million. Nice!

    Important things to consider:

    1. Name – this name will be your website, your copywright on the iTunes page, your legal name, and your identity. I’m a huge fan of using short, simple words. I also really like using different languages. I almost named Bluecloud after a town in New Zealand I stayed in called Kaikoura (native Maori language). Having simple names gives you max flexibility later on. It also sounds way more legit (Rovio, Zynga, etc). Before you commit make sure you can get the URL too.

    2. Type of business – LLC (Limited Liability Company) can provide great legal and tax benefits, but has to be divided up as equity. Meaning you have to slice up the company to bring in partners. S-Corps allow you to have “shares” of the company, so that you can issue 20,000 shares of your company, of which you own 10,000 and then you can divvy up the rest however you want. Employees, etc.

    3. Cost – it’s not super cheap. In Maine it was like $175 to apply and $50 for the expedited processing (otherwise it takes months). Every year I pay $85 and have to submit a “state of the business” type thing where I just make sure everything is going well.

    4. For Apple, you can’t switch apps from one account to another unless you delete it once and re-upload it somewhere else. You’ll lose all your users for updates. As an individual, you can “upgrade” to a company using the same account, which is why it makes more sense to start out as an individual in the store, then if you’re making money, initiate the upgrade. The reason this is important is because if you want to sell an app or your company, everything in that business account is there for good. If you sell your apps to someone as an individual, they could potentially just turn your account into theirs, switch the banking and tax info and that’s that.

    Once I get a chance to breathe, I’m planning on starting a new company exclusively for my apps called something like Bluecloud Mobile or whatever. The reason being once I can start building out all my own games (as opposed to licensing them), I’m going to want to be able to sell that company. If I roll it all under my umbrella that has 10 apps I can’t sell (non-exclusive license) and 10 apps I can sell, I’m kind of screwed and the deal is going to be complicated.

    I hope that helps! Again, please note that this is not legal advice and that if you decide to do anything you should talk to a lawyer.

    Good luck man, thanks for reading.

    Carter

  • Andrew June 9, 2012

    Yes! Thank you, Carter, for the prompt response. It is much clearer now. I was hitting a little roadblock because of this but you clarified it very nicely. I really appreciate it. The more I read about apps and use them the more creative I seem to get with these ideas. I’ll be sure to follow your posts as they come. Good luck with your app business.

    Andrew

  • Eugene June 16, 2012
  • Carter Thomas Carter June 17, 2012

    Yes! Awesome app, thanks for sending this along.

  • Felix Hoenikker August 2, 2012
  • Carter Thomas Carter August 6, 2012

    Haha this is awesome! Great idea.

  • Blaire September 20, 2012

    Sounds like a great experience. Thanks for sharing the websites, they are far better than Pandora!

  • efi October 10, 2012

    Hello Carter,
    My name is epic, I’m from Israel – Sorry for the language I used Google translation …
    I just now Recent searches if someone thought about it …
    Please note that silent disco application will air next month, it has already been sent to Apple, so do not send someone else …. Apple are only the first, they do not like imitations.
    My idea just hit it and I believe there would be a demand.

  • andy December 2, 2012

    Hi,
    I did something similar for Android, One player and several listeners listening in sync.
    This work via internet so if you share your music, anyone in the world can connect to you by means of a map showing where you are.
    A silent disco could bu using Music Pool with headset, nothing more.
    Up to know it not really thought for dj but just for playing a playlist, but I like your ideas here described… hope to have chance time and resource to invest on them.
    Here the link for anyone wanting to try it.
    Unfortunately I do not have a version for IOS but I am working on it.
    The app is free and is ad-free, because I am of the same opinion of Carter.
    Cheers
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=it.stepover.musicpool

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas December 3, 2012

    This is bad ass man. Good luck to you.

    Carter

  • efi February 13, 2013

    I am proud to present the application of silent Disco
    Search in your – smart phone party
    http://silent-disco.co.il

  • Darren October 29, 2013

    I have all the skills and I’m going to make this at some point. ta

  • Lysn in March 25, 2014

    Hello! We’d love for you to check out our silent disco app, Lysn in. It is currently free and includes additional features and functionality over other apps on the market. We will have two versions available, one which synchs over Wi-Fi and another that synchs over 3G/4G/LTE. The Wi-Fi version allows for a DJ to add music from SoundCloud, Spotify, Music Library or even connect an external audio source like DJ equipment. Android version is coming soon as well. The website is http://www.lysn.in — Thanks!

  • Siobhan May 25, 2017

    hi, was this ever developed for?

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