When you were growing up, did you plunk a guitar or tinkle the ivory keys? For many of us, music is a part of our everyday lives…and for Matthew Sutton, a serial entrepreneur based in Seattle, music is a joy and a business. His startup, iSheetMusic, is changing the way musicians read, store and share sheet music. By using the free iSheetMusic application, musicians can take purchased and downloaded sheet music anywhere — the beach or the recording studio, for example. And it’s hands free – the pages are turned based on a pre-set tempo.
As part of our continuing series of interviews with entrepreneurs, we asked Matthew to share his thoughts on iSheetMusic, monetizing a mobile application and juggling multiple startups.
Question: We’re always interested in learning more about serial entrepreneurs. iSheetMusic isn’t your first startup — tell us a little about it and how you’re juggling your time between iSheetMusic and HyBlue. How do you resolve the need to be 100 percent engaged with a startup to get it off the ground when you’ve got multiple companies in-house?
Answer: HyBlue has transitioned into a company that licenses existing technology and makes incremental improvements on that tech. Laplink has just released PC Lock, which is based on our technology, as a matter of fact. So the time required to keep that going is far less than if I was running a company engaging directly in sales and support. Besides, I really do love working on stuff like this so its easy to spend the time. I figure I do about 50-60 hours a week on iSheetMusic and 20 or so on HyBlue.
Question: According to the International Music Products Association, slightly more than half of U.S. households have a member who plays a musical instrument. Roughly speaking, that translates to 57 million potential customers for iSheetMusic, just in the U.S. Sounds good…except that the digital market for music is pretty fragmented. Savvy musicians are selling their sheet music directly to consumers, bypassing traditional publishers. How does iSheetMusic plan to deal with this? Will you just become a licensed reseller for traditional publishers, or are you looking to tap into the indie music market as well? What will you need to do to get national visibility with musicians?
Answer: Big question, big answer. First, we are transforming sheet music by making it an interactive process on portable devices. We will launch with iPhone/iPad support and follow that with Android support. So we’ll be on all platforms with our interactive app. As a musician, would you rather have your sheet music on a web browser on your computer or on your iPad? Would you like to be able to size the music dynamically so it looks good and keeps the beat and turns pages for you or carry around pieces of paper in a notebook? We offer a very new approach to sheet music and believe that sets us apart.
We are indeed reselling sheet music from traditional publishers, our two largest publishers are Hal Leonard Company and Alfred Music Publishing. Between the two of them, we have access to the vast majority of printed music available in the world.
It gets really interesting for indie music. We can publish sheet music at a fraction of the cost of traditional print publishers and we will soon offer a service where independent musicians can publish on iSheetMusic.
iSheetMusic has worldwide rights to songs and we will be promoting globally very quickly.
Question: How will you reach the younger market (ages 5-11) which represent the biggest segment of musicians…through parents? Will social media such as Facebook figure heavily into your marketing strategy? What kind of partnerships do you envision needing to help propel iSheetMusic forward?
Answer: I’m not sure I agree with that statistic, indeed, we’ve found people actively playing music at all ages. Social media allows us to quickly get in front of a subsection of our broad demographic and begin to educate them about the value iSheetMusic offers. A great thing about playing music is that people who like to play music like to share; not only their music but things about playing that music that they like. We hope to become a subject of many conversations across generations and playing styles.