I went to college at a strange time for the music industry. Napster had already come and gone, digital music stores like iTunes and Amazon Music were growing quickly, and the big streaming sites were just getting popular. While there were file sharing options out there for acquiring new music, there was one site that I turned to anytime I was looking for something new and interesting: Hype Machine. Unfortunately, the site recently announced that it’s turning to crowdfunding to survive, and is hoping that its users will chip in to keep the site running.
The late 2000s marked a time of trial and error for musicians trying to figure out how to market themselves in the digital age, and Hype Machine distinguished itself as a place to discover new music. Anthony Volodkin founded the site in 2005 after realizing that there was a space on the web to link the musical blogosphere together, becoming an early streaming service in its own right. Visitors could search for specific artists or tracks, or simply push play on the site’s music player and listen to the wide range of songs writers were excited about. While sites like Pandora and Spotify later capitalized on streaming music, Hype Machine was a bit more scattershot: it didn’t provide the songs, but instead linked out to sites that were posting MP3s, making the site a great place to discover artists who were on the verge of breaking out.
While Hype Machine is still around, it’s been left behind by the streaming age. In recent weeks, the team posted a plea to the site: their advertising revenue has dried up, and because it’s an independent company without outside investors, it won’t be able to operate. They explained that they’re looking for donations to keep the lights on, hoping that a crowdfunding model will help sustain the site. Their first goal is to get a thousand supporters on the books.
I hope that it works. I visit the site every now and again, usually while I’m in a musical rut, and almost always end up discovering some new artists to throw into my music library. What I’ve always appreciated about the site is that it doesn’t conform to my music tastes. It helps expand them by introducing me to new and exciting bands that I otherwise would have never come across. If Hype Machine shuts down, it’ll be a bit like a local indie record store going out of business: it leaves a hole in a larger community of music lovers, who’ll reluctantly go elsewhere to discover their next favorite band.