Learning to Code and Building an App That Generates $1,500/mo

Tell us about yourself and what you're working on.

Hi, I'm Jaskaran Rana, a 24 year old music enthusiast and coder from India. I've been working as a full-stack web developer and engineer for over 2 years now. I'm also the creator of EDM Hunters, a music discovery website for electronic music. I built it all by myself and currently continue to manage it on my own.

EDM Hunters helps you discover the top and latest songs of your favorite DJs and genres. You can browse through various music charts to discover top songs by artists, genre, month, or year, all compiled based on likes, play count, and downloads.

How'd you get started with EDM Hunters?

Though my major was computer science in college, I didn't know how to code until my final year. I had a 5.0 GPA (we have GPA on a scale of 10 here in India) and was barely passing my exams. The main reason for this was the way the course was taught. The education system here focuses more on rote learning than practical learning. I just couldn't pay attention or focus in class.

I decided to give online courses a shot. Codecademy helped me immensely in the initial stages. It helped me clear out my basics and get over my inhibition that I couldn't code. I learned Python, JavaScript, jQuery, and HTML/CSS in a span of 6 months. Following that I decided to learn Django, a web framework based on Python.

My motivation for building EDM Hunters was to consolidate my learning of Django into a real life project, while at the same time building a product that I would personally love to use myself. Back in college I started listening to electronic music, and I was instantly hooked. EDM had just started becoming popular and had started to enter the mainstream music scene. A problem I faced as a fan was that I knew of a couple of popular songs from some DJs, but if I wanted to listen to more of their songs I had to search across various music blogs or browse through a couple of YouTube playlists to find what I wanted. There wasn't a one-stop solution to help me discover all of this in one place. EDM Hunters was thus born to solve this problem.

What did it take to get the product off the ground?

I started building EDM Hunters in my final year at college. I used to work on it after class and over the weekends. I was really passionate about building it, so I didn't mind working on it until the wee hours of the night. I was done with a basic prototype in around 3 months, and I launched the initial version in January 2014.

Post-launch I kept on iterating with the design and features of the website. It didn't take a lot of money to launch the site. Primarily, the only cost was of hosting the website and since I decided to use a VPS, that turned out to be pretty cheap.

After college I've been working full-time as a full stack web developer and engineer. For the past couple of months the website has been running pretty much on autopilot. However, whenever I get new design or feature ideas, I try to get them implemented as soon as possible in my spare time.

How have you attracted users and grown your business?

The growth of the traffic has been pretty phenomenal. To be honest, when I first launched EDM Hunters, I didn't expect it to grow as big as it is right now. For the first 6 months, the traffic was pretty much non existent with fewer than 1000 visitors/month.

However, after I got my first job, I started learning new things everyday. As soon as I learned something new that I thought was of value and could be integrated into my own site, I did so the same night. I saw major improvements in the traffic, and that rekindled my itch to work on it again.

EDM Hunters Sessions

I started doing a lot of research on SEO. Currently 85% of the traffic is organic and it's increasing at rate of 20% month-on-month. I focused a lot on optimizing my website for speed and content. I also tried to get the word out for EDM Hunters by attempting to get it covered by various blogs. I was lucky enough to get featured in some of the prominent blogs in India like YourStory, Homegrown, and MyVenture.

How does EDM Hunters make money?

I didn't start EDM Hunters with a "business model" in mind. I started it because of my passion and love for electronic music.

Currently the only source of income is advertising. Initially the only ad network I was using was Google AdSense. After using it for a period of time, I realized that it didn't really have a lot of potential to offer substantial revenue, because the ads were not very relevant to my users. I then decided to integrate a few niche ad networks that primarily focussed on music. These offer value to the users and are now a major chunk of my ad revenue.

However, I have some other plans for revenue in the pipeline that I shall be implementing and rolling out in the coming months.

UPDATE: November 2016: I've been working on my advertising spots over the past month, and I completely removed Google AdSense and doubled the ad spots for the music ad network I'm using. This has increased my revenue to approximately $1500 per month. Feel free to update that as well if you wish.

What are your goals for the future?

Creating mobile apps for EDM Hunters has been on my mind for quite some time now. Due to limited time availability I haven't been able to build them yet, but I have started reading about React Native and might consider using it to build the apps.

Up until now, my main focus has been on building the perfect website for users. I haven't really focused on the financial aspect of it. I would like to build a dedicated sponsored listing network which could help budding artists gain visibility alongside the mainstream artists. Also, I would like to work towards building a strong social presence alongside steady organic growth.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

I feel like I wasted a lot of time after the initial release fixing SEO-related issues like bad URL naming conventions, duplicate content, slow loading times, etc. Had I fixed these problems in the beginning then I would've had good, steady, organic growth from the start. But then again, learning is a part of the journey.

Besides that, I am pretty happy with the way things have turned out and how EDM Hunters has grown as a product.

What kinds of things have you found helpful on your journey?

I think the initial phase when I'd just started to learn to code was the toughest phase for me. Having decided to build an entire website on my own, from the front-end to the back-end and everything in between, being able to visualize how all the things connect and work together as a whole was quite challenging in the start. I had help from a couple of coder friends which was a big plus. For anything else, I always had the internet at my disposal.

With comprehensive documentation and a strong online community for both Python and Django, it was easy to get started with that. For HTML/CSS I found a lot of good articles and tutorials over at Smashing Magazine. When the time came to learn about hosting and web servers, I found detailed tutorials over at DigitalOcean that turned out to be helpful. And besides all that, whenever I got stuck, StackOverflow came to my rescue.

I also believe that working with startups has helped me immensely with regard to honing my technical skills and gaining insights into what goes behind building a product from scratch.

What advice would you share with aspiring indie hackers?

Don't be intimated by how complex things might seem in the beginning. Everyone started off at the same spot. Start with small projects and try to get your fundamentals clear. It does get intimidating at times, but the key is to not give up. There is nothing more satisfying that watching something you wanted to build come to life.

Also be prepared to fail. Not all business ideas turn into the next big thing. In order to succeed in business you must be prepared to fail. You can learn from these mistakes, and these experiences will build up your knowledge and understanding of how business works. To be successful you must be ready to never give up and just keep on trying.

Where can we learn more about you?

For anything related to EDM Hunters you can reach me at [email protected], and for everything else you can reach out to me at [email protected].

You can also follow EDM Hunters on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Feel free to leave a comment below, and I'll try to get back to you!

Jaskaran Rana , Creator of EDM Hunters

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  1. 3

    I kind of feel the same regarding the amount of work I put in each of my projects. The project is there, on its own, nothing really happening, and then boom! Something that you have done weeks ago suddenly starts to pay off (even if it's really small) and then you get the abandoned project and go back working on it again. =)

  2. 2

    Hey Jaskaran. What music based ad networks did you switch too?

    1. 1

      The music ad network I use is wavo.me

      1. 1

        Thanks for the reply. I actually checked out your website and figured it out. I even applied to be a publisher with them but they haven’t got back to me. Any advice on getting a response from them? I’ve got over 100k users/month on my music database/recommendation website.

        1. 1

          It took me a while to get a response from them initially as well. Your best bet is to keep following up every once in a while.

          1. 1

            Cool. Thanks for the advice

  3. 1

    Hey, how is your site doing now?

    1. 1

      Well the traffic isn't the same as before, but it's still doing ok.

  4. 1

    Hey Jaskaran, loved your interview. I only listen to edm on Soundcloud but my playlists get so stale. Most of the time the tracks they suggest do not adapt to my playlists. Anyhoo, I noticed you don't ask people to turn off their adblocker. You should though. As long as a site isn't going over the top and is providing value, I always turn mine off.

    1. 2

      I don't really think requesting people to unblock their AdBlock would really change things a lot, but I could give it a shot!

      1. 1

        Curious if you did request it and if it had any significant effect?

        1. 1

          Nope, I never ended up trying that.

  5. 1

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