Dubseed: A music startup built from the ground up

Shortly after founding my stem marketplace for music producers in 2014 it received investment funding. This is the journey of growing my startup, Dubseed, over the span of four years until it was eventually acquired in 2018.

Role: Founder/Lead Product Designer

Research

Dubseed was started with little prior knowledge of our users or current climate of the stem space. For this reason our first objective was to learn more about our customers, the problems they faced when purchasing stems online, and the platform they envisioned that would help to solve these problems. We did so by conducting high level interviews with a handful of music producers, the results of which were documented in this affinity diagram:

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Next, we took a look at all of the collected interview data and began to group responses based on similarities (or themes). This was extremely helpful in understanding the core issues our customers faced, as well as the ‘low hanging fruit’ or problems that we could easily fix using minimal resources.

We then looked at our competitors to find out how/if they were addressing the issues we discovered through our research, and potential components of our business that could differentiate us from our competition. One key finding was that our competitors did not have an innovative way to demo and preview stems. We resolved this problem by creating a 'stem Player' that was unique to our site and attracted customers.

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Our research findings were compiled into an information deck that was shared with our internal team and key stakeholders. The deck contained user personas, key research findings, and most importantly the roadmap we would follow for the creation and development of version 1.0 of Dubseed.

View comparative and competitive analysis

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Evolution of the stem player

Our initial research into the stem space revealed that users faced a serious problem around the inability to preview the individual stems within a song prior to purchase. We took advantage of this pain point and decided to devise a solution in the form of a ‘stem player’, allowing them to not only preview individual stems, but also interact with music in a unique and progressive way. Below are various versions of the stem player along with the problems and solutions we faced with each iteration.

Version 1: The dropdown player

Our primary goal with the first iteration of our stem player was to create a MVP based off of our prior research in order to further validate whether users would interact with our stem player and eventually purchase content.

Solutions

  1. Allow users to preview and interact with stem packages in order to assist them in making purchase decisions. 

  2. Allow users to easily purchase content and/or become a vendor and sell content on Dubseed.

  3. Provide users the option to simultaneously preview stems whilst still exploring the Dubseed catalog.

Problems

  1. A majority of users were instantly closing the stem player.  

  2. Few users were not expanding the player in order to expose all stems within a track.

  3. There was a lack of new content being added to the site on a regular basis.

Version 2: The side bar player

Purchases were high however interaction with our stem player was not. Our goal for the second iteration was to improve engagement with the stem player as well as free up screen real estate in order to allow users to easily explore our catalog whilst simultaneously previewing stem content.

Solutions

  1. Minimize and move the stem player so that it is still inviting but not obstructing a users shopping experience.

  2. Allow users to easily access and interact with as many stems as possible without requiring additional clicks or actions.

  3. Begin working with Distributors to help us source content and ensure it was correctly formatted.

Problems

  1. Users were not interacting with less significant stems such as the backup vocals or effects.

  2. Artists were submitting stem tracks containing upwards of 50 stems that were not properly named or categorized.

  3. Unclear call to action pointing users to making a purchase.

Version 3: The bottom nav player

Solutions

  1. Adopt the Native Instruments stem format in order to increase the quality of our catalog and begin working with premium artists.

  2. Group and consolidate stem elements in order to simplify the listening experience and prevent choice paralysis.

  3. Declutter and minimize the stem player in order to provide space for a clear purchase call to action.

Our stem player became an unique and integral part of Dubseed, however we still wanted to challenge ourselves with the next (and final) iteration by further improving its functionality and increasing conversions.

Wireframes

For each iteration of Dubseed, wireframes were created based on our research findings for desktop, tablet, and mobile viewing. Below are a few key screens that were used to prototyping and user testing.

UI Design

Once the wireframes had been tested and refined they were then converted to UI designs. Additionally components were annotated in a style guide to assist engineers and to maintain an organized design library.

Repeat

The User Experience process was repeated for all four versions of Dubseed until we were acquired by the company Stemit in 2017. For more information on the main changes from each cycle, feel free to check out the research report from Version 2, Version 3, and Version 4.

Pitch Decks

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Partnership Deck

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Acquisition Deck 

In The News

Dubseed Concept Video