May 15, 2018

Ask IH: No traction post launch, next step?

Hello indie hackers!

A few days ago, I launched www.niche.fm.

It's a web app that lets people create playlists together around hashtags or for other people. I launched on HN, PH (not that one, the other one), Reddit, Twitter, and IH, but didn't get any traction.

My initial intentions were to adapt based on feedback, but if I'm not getting any feedback, what would some possible next steps be?

  • Do I drop the idea completely? (i.e. idea not worth pursuing)

  • Do I market harder? (i.e. marketing takes time)

  • Do I keep tweaking things until it works? (i.e. i've got something but i need to figure out what)

Any feedback would be helpful, be it on the product, launch strategy, or anything!

Launch links:


  1. 8

    I like the idea and I think it has some potential. What I would do before dropping it:

    • Build a beautiful landing page to explain what it is about, how it works

    • Build a good user experience. That includes a good design because right now, it does not look really good.

    • I see the playlists are on Spotify. Therefore I would make the user connect with Spotify and not with a home made registration form. That would make the registration easier/faster and that would make sense. That would also allow you to control the playback of your playlists on the user devices through the Spotify API.

    • Add more content. The playlists listed on your site only have one or two tracks. That does not make me want to listen to it or try your app.

    • Display the playlist in a better way than just the Spotify widget.

    • The playlists should be created on a niche.fm Spotify account, not on what seems to be your personal account. Or created on the user account.

    • The description of the playlist should also be used, maybe to give credits to the contributors?

    • Get the audiofeatures for each track in the playlist and display some graphs to show what kind of mood it is?

    Also some questions:

    • Can anyone update each playlist without any restriction? Or can I create a playlist that will only be editable by me and my group of friends?

    • How would you compare your app to the "collaborative playlist" Spotify already offers?

    • Do you promote the Spotify playlists that were created in some way? If I spent time curating a playlist for free, maybe I would at least make sure this playlist is listened by people and I did not do it for nothing.

    These are the ideas that came to my mind in just a few minutes, I hope that will help. I build tools for the music industry and I have worked a lot with the Spotify API so I know you can offer a better experience than this, don't give up.

    Just out of curiosity what is the technical stack you used?

    1. 1

      Thanks for the suggestions! This makes sense.

      • As of now anyone can update any playlist, but I'll add permissions if this goes anywhere.

      • Niche.fm is supposed to provide a social platform around playlists, which collaborative playlists on Spotify lack.

      • I currently pick a few playlists to promote around, mostly to get more users to use the app

      The front-end is React hosted on AWS S3 and served through CloudFront (for SSL), and the back-end is Python/Django hosted on a hobby Heroku dyno, with a free postgreSQL database.

      1. 2

        if collaborative playlists on Spotify lack it and Spotify has access to all of Spotify's customers to talk to and analytics around what users are interested in... wouldn't Spotify have done it that way if that's what the market wanted? Now, that's not necessarily the case but it's food for thought...

  2. 4

    I echo the sentiments here on talking to users, but I also believe you need to test some hypotheses on use cases rather than just asking for feedback on the product.

    Even though it's a toy, as a user I still need to know if this toy is for me and how I should/can play with it. Is it for an office to democratize music selection? Is it a digital mixtape? Should I hope to discover new music or listen to music I love with my friends? If you're asking me for feedback, you need to have a few answers to those questions for me to even having something to engage with and give feedback on.

    In addition, it's worth taking a look at previous projects in the space to understand user behavior a bit more. Turntable.fm (RIP) was this idea on steroids, in realtime, and cost a lot of people too many hours of summer 2011 because of how engaging it was. On the flipside, Songza did all of the curation for me.

    In any case, you have to remember the 90/9/1 rule: 90% of users will consume, 9% of users will contribute, and 1% of users will create. In the beginning you need to both impersonate that 1% and attract more of them if you want to build a community. You need to do a lot more work (building playlists) to give me a reason to stay beyond casually checking it out. I want to see that there's value to adding some songs to a playlist, and when there's only 1-2, I have nothing to listen to and I don't believe anyone else will listen without me putting in a ton of work. What do I get for that work?

    To answer your question directly, you should continue if a) you're really excited about the idea, building a community, and figuring out the challenges above and/or b) you really enjoy using it yourself and don't care about other users.

    1. 1

      Even though it's a toy, as a user I still need to know if this toy is for me and how I should/can play with it.

      That's very accurate. I actually don't even know what I'm trying to offer here, and I'm basically trying to figure it out based on feedback.

      I've never used turntable.fm but from looking at screenshots of it, it looked huge and lots of fun!

      In the beginning you need to both impersonate that 1%

      That's the feeling I had, but as you can see from the minimal amount of content I initially curated, I'm very lazy. I like building but I don't like selling and I wish I could just build something and put it out there and see what happens, but I guess that's not how business work. I'll put more effort into that, thanks!

      you're really excited about the idea, building a community, and figuring out the challenges above

      I'm excited about it, but not really excited. Maybe that's the issue here, I need to find a problem I truly care about. :/

      you really enjoy using it yourself and don't care about other users.

      I unfortunately don't. At least not yet. I can use Spotify for my own usage, but Niche.fm is for crowds.

      1. 3

        Sounds like you know the answer deep down.

        Pat yourself on the back! You shipped a side project and put it out into the world—I'd hardly call that lazy. Keep doing this sort of thing for other problems you find, and you might encounter one that you're excited enough about to grind on some of the work you don't like doing.

        The other option is to join up with someone who really likes the work you don't, but that definitely adds complication.

        1. 1

          Thanks for the nice words! I couldn't feel much satisfaction due to the lack of feedback, but you're really helping! I'll keep grinding then, and when it works out, I'll say "JDR made me do it"! :)

  3. 3

    I redesigned your homepage. Not saying this is perfect, but it's at least a little better than what you have now: https://codepen.io/zvphy/pen/zjJdyQ

    Should be pretty easy to turn into React components.

    I think you should stop marketing for now. Spend a week or two polishing the design, and then try relaunching to music communities. I can see this being big in the college playlist space (like fratmusic.com).

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      This is much better than the original web app :)

      Personally, I don't like to try things that doesn't seem finished. Maybe @Hery needs to raise the bar on the definition of MVP.

      1. 1

        Thanks Antonio!

        The market for most webapps is so saturated at this point that you really need a polished design/onboarding process to stand a chance. (Even as an MVP.)

        It also seems like people are making purchasing decisions based on design. I know I do – even for important decisions like where to invest money, where to host projects, and so on.

        I guess I can't be surprised. There has always been a market for well-designed items, even before digital products became a thing.

    2. 1

      Wow, premium service! Thanks for going out of your way to give me hand!

      I like your redesign, it's definitely clearer than what I have.

      I think what you said made sense, and I'll work on a redesign based on yours. Watch for the v2! ;)

      1. 2

        Happy to help! Definitely let me know about V2 when it comes out :)

        1. 1

          Will do! Keep up the good vibes ;)

  4. 3

    nice site, but its not immediately obvious for me to determine that this site is about on just the landing page. Just know about it from reading your description. Also would be good to have option to play around more without signing up.

    1. 1

      Thank you! That make sense, I should make it prettier and add a landing page. I'll keep that in mind for the unauthenticated features.

  5. 2

    Music curation is fun. I think your project has potential before you decide to scrap it. Some thoughts:

    -Your website should communicate at least a one-liner on what is does for people. I just got there a saw a bunch of hashtags. Ok curated music. By who? Why trust this over just searching on Spotify?

    -You site should provide some value up front to a first time visitor. I clicked on '#Mondaymorning' and saw one song shown. This provided me with no value or interest to me whatsoever and so I left your site. Maybe hand curate some awesome playlists with some clever hashtags and share that on other communities who might enjoy it? Maybe #IndieHackingBeats for the people here? Point is to create something people would enjoy first and then get them to create, post, collaborate..etc

  6. 2

    I feel like you might have launched to the wrong crowd. Why did you post in /r/entrepreneurship, for example? Would it not be a better fit for /r/music?

    I think you're going into this thinking from your point of view. You look at yourself as an entrepreneur, so the entrepreneurship subreddit feels natural to you. But who's the likely user of your product -- entrepreneurs or music lovers? Go to where your users are.

    Everything others said here also makes a lot of sense, I just wanted to drop this thought since you asked specifically about launching.

    1. 1

      I hear you, thanks! I initially launched on /r/InternetIsBeautiful as well, but the post was flagged/removed for self-promotion.

      Launching the next iteration in /r/music makes sense.

  7. 2

    You probably need to do things that don't scale[0]. Get feedback by seeking out and talking to individual users, then make changes based on trends you see in their responses to your product.

    If you talk to a diverse set of 50-100 users and nobody cares, then yes, you might want to drop the idea. More than likely you'll see patterns in what they say, though, and that will point you in the right direction.

    [0] http://paulgraham.com/ds.html

    1. 1

      The hard part of indie hacking!

      Thanks for the link, I love pg's essays!

      I'll definitely try something along that road.

  8. 1

    @Hery The possible reasons that you didnt get traction is are: (1) You haven't been able to reach the right kind of prospects, or (2) Prospects who you have reached do not have a pain point that you are trying to solve through this idea, or (3) The current offering is not adequate for the prospects to get excited about investing time into your idea. What possibly you need is a focused work for a few weeks on customer development and customer discovery. You do have an option to drop the project without doing customer discovery, but then in that case you may miss some opportunity that could be worth engaging with. And on the other hand, you may have an option to engage into "blind" mass-marketing, but that will not be productive spending until you are clear on who you need to chase and what resonates with them.

  9. 1

    Hey, I didn't look at the site but straight off the bat I think the description of the site could be better. I am an idiot and therefore have no understanding of your site, even after reading, "It's a web app that lets people create playlists together around hashtags or for other people".

    When I then clicked the link to see if I could work out what your site actually does I'm just presented with a bunch of hash tags. No time to work it out, site closed.

    I'd create some sort of splash page that explains what your site does AND why it is useful to me in a punchy sentence that any idiot can understand. If you want to bounce the sentence off me I'm happy for you to reply and I'll tell you if it makes sense to me or not. If you can make me (and for me read all other idiots) understand it with a quick "elevator pitch" sentence, you'll get a lot more traction I think.

    This may actually not be your problem though, and I suggest you check the analytics on the page to see if you get tons of exits on the home screen. If so, I think my point above is correct.

  10. 1

    I actually really like the idea and it is definitely niche, but it's the kind of thing that can make collaboration really fun.

    I was thinking of something similar to this a little while back. One of the ideas that I had was that some of the playlists have fun rules whereby listeners can add/remove tracks based on some system. For example, the concrete example that I was thinking of was that each user could only add one track per week and provided that people were listening to the tracks that they added, they could then gain further privileges like being allowed to add more tracks per week, flagging suspect tracks or changing the images/colors used to show the playlist. You could then have a system where tracks that got fewer than x listens in 48 hours were automatically removed and that all tracks that had been live for 2 weeks/4 weeks and were in the bottom 10% of listens were automatically removed. Stuff like that. I never went any further as am busy building my own thing.

    Not sure how you would monetize something like this, but wonder whether there could be a fee for collaborating in more than a couple of playlists.

    When i went to your homepage, it was not at all clear what this was. Also when selecting a playlist there is no kind of genre or listing for the number of tracks or participants. I can see people being attracted to taking part in both playlists that have a large number of participants and also playlists that are very specialized with only a small number of participants. Or perhaps some playlists have really harsh rules such as one in/one out once a certain number of tracks is reached.

    Maybe, it's just me, but it does seem to be really exciting. I'd love to hang-out with a few people sharing our favourite tracks once a week and being part of this community that really explores an exciting way of exploring music in a very fun way. Seems like a cool way to make some friends :)