Today’s streaming services offer access to every song ever recorded at the click of a button, which has changed the way we listen, but in choosing to focus almost entirely on playlists and recommendations, music has become more about discovery algorithms and less about the artists that make it. Not ...
What would a streaming service look like, if hard-nosed but optimistic professional musicians built it? It would look like URSA, a platform that weds artist-focused engagement, commerce, and context with an intuitive, high-quality listener experience.
URSA is the only streaming service that features rich artist-controlled profiles, including music, photos, videos, tour dates, bios and more, all in one place. Fans can explore content related to the song they’re currently listening to, including additional artwork and liner notes. URSA's also the first streaming service to bring music professionals to the forefront with linked credits, offering an exciting new approach to music discovery. Using URSA, producers, mixers, engineers, songwriters, instrumentalists, and other music makers can create a profile, build their discographies and get the acknowledgement they deserve.
This is by design. “We aren’t just delivering music,” says Chris Jones, long-time singer songwriter and URSA founder. “We’re solving problems for artists, which creates a deeper experience for fans.”
Current streaming platforms were designed to ease listeners away from P2P file sharing, and thus focused almost exclusively on listeners’ ease. They packed the world’s music into one place, at one price, with just the basics. Other aspects crucial to artists--meaningful contact with fans, lyrics, liner notes, and other assets, revenue from sources beyond recorded music--were afterthoughts, add-ons, or absent altogether.
This was glaringly apparent to Jones and URSA co-founder, producer, songwriter, and drummer Chad Royce. Both had cut their teeth in the New York rock scene and gone on to professional careers playing in touring bands, signing deals with major labels, and working as sidemen and hit makers.
“If I produced a track or had a writing credit, there was no record of that contribution, even if the song was reasonably successful. It was almost impossible to trace,” Royce reflects, who has worked as a producer with the likes of Me'shell Ndegecello. “Recently some streaming services have added limited credits like songwriter and producer, but on URSA artists can add as many different credits as they’d like. We’ve also made these credits link to actual profiles so when a user taps on one of these profiles they can view their whole discography, which is an exciting and powerful way to discover new music. For instance, if you like the production on a track, chances are you’ll like other music that producer has worked on.”
“Over the years, when I was touring or at home trying to promote shows and engage fans, everything was so dispersed and focused on one aspect of my music. It was time consuming and incredibly frustrating,” Jones notes. “You want to present a complete picture of who you are to your fans. The task of endless link sharing dilutes the impact of your content and creates needless work for fans. Ultimately, it felt like a huge missed opportunity.”
Jones decided a better way was possible. He began poring over ideas for a platform that would unite music streaming and the many ways fans and artists interact, in a user-friendly, artist-centered experience. He met up with Royce over a drink one evening, and they both saw the potential. They decided they had to build it, since no one else had.
One of URSA’s key features, in addition to its wealth of assets and its in-app commerce, is its social aspect. Social music may be an Everest of sorts for music tech, a mountainside often attempted but littered with past hopefuls and contenders. However, URSA takes the artist view of feature design, putting the focus squarely on engagement with the music and its contextual assets, not just on sharing tracks and playlists.
That means the interactions on URSA aim to be more authentic, not algorithm driven and not buried in the feed or populated with marketing speak. “Most of the social music services have been fan oriented, about sharing with your friends in various ways,” Royce explains. “No one has done something completely artist-centric. On URSA, artists are the center. The artist has to be on there and participating to make the social features impactful and successful.”
“The social features all revolve around the artist profile, which includes songwriters and producers,” says Jones. “These profiles are hubs for features, places the fan can explore from. We’ve reimagined it creating a space where features many users already know and like can all coexist harmoniously. We wouldn’t label ourselves solely as a social platform, but we made it a focus, because interaction and direct engagement is crucial for artists and fans. In fact, we see it being an essential part of the evolution of streaming.”
This approach mirrors the platform’s overarching vision for empowering artists first, and letting that empowerment lead organically to substantial engagement with a community of music lovers. This is a lean-in, not a lean-back space, where artists’ ideas can rule and define how their music is presented and savored.
“We’re bringing everything into one space where artists can add context to their music, speak directly to their fans, publish a broader array of content than ever before, while giving fans a more personal and complete listening and engagement experience,” Jones says. “Musicians have an entrepreneurial spirit, whether they know it or not. They are making something from nothing. There’s a boldness there, and this demands a platform that’s equally bold.”