By Jake Cramer
About two years ago, I was watching one of The Needle Drop videos. Sometimes, Anthony Fantano starts his videos promoting Vinyl Me Please, a record giveaway or something else dealing with music. For this particular video, he was promoting a new social media app called Cymbal. As soon as he was done describing what the app was, I quickly went on to the App store on my iPhone, downloaded the app, and started enjoying the next great social media platform.
Cymbal is a social media app that is dedicated to music. You can share, listen and discuss your favorite songs using Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud. You can use it to express how you’re feeling, promote your own music or podcast or share a track with others to help spread the word. Since Cymbal’s start, its team has been dedicated to enhance its app to give their users the best experience listening to music. I chatted with Cymbal founder Gabe Jacobs to discuss its beginning, facts about the app and its new features.
What inspired you to think of Cymbal?
Jacobs: Cymbal originated from an old music blog I used to run called Lower Frequencies. I started it in high school as a personal project, but the idea was similar to Cymbal. I would put up one song a day that I really liked and thought that other people might like too. I wrote a little blurb about each song and that was it. No album reviews, no music news, no interviews — just one song a day. It stemmed from the idea that there was an overload of music content on the internet. There was too much for one person to digest on a day to day basis. Listening to music takes time and energy and most people are only willing to listen to a few new songs a day. So I thought, let’s make this simple, let’s make this about quality over quantity. I stopped writing for the blog in college because I didn’t love that it was all about me. The best part of music is the fact that we can share it with each other. A song from a person means so more than a song from an algorithm. That’s sort of our motto at Cymbal. We wanted to build something where everyone could share their song of the moment. Why should I be the only one with a music blog when there are so many people out there with unbelievable, unique tastes? They should be curators. They should be expressing themselves musically. They needed a tool that makes the process of sharing easy. That’s how Cymbal came about.
You guys are finally available for Android phones and also have Apple Music as a choice of where to post from. What’s your take on finally expanding to all devices and all streaming services?
Jacobs: Expanding to all streaming services is a big priority for us. One day, we hope Cymbal can be “streaming-agnostic”, which would mean that you can use Cymbal to find music no matter what streaming provider you have a premium subscription with. As for devices, we’re really happy that we are now on Android, and it has made a big difference for us. Cymbal is best when you have your friends on it, so we want everyone to be able to use it.
What did these streaming services think about Cymbal when you approached them? Were they hesitant at first or completely on board?
Jacobs: They love us! What we do is great for them because it encourages users to use their premium plan. Cymbal is much better when you can listen to full songs. If you don’t have a premium account, only SoundCloud songs will play all the way through. Often, we see Cymbal users buy premium accounts just to be able to use Cymbal with it!
What’s your take on competing with other social media apps? It seems like every time a new social media idea comes out, another bigger social media tries to copy that format to take their fan base. For example, Instagram now has stories similar to what Snapchat does.
Jacobs: I find that one app can only do so much. Otherwise, it becomes clunky and complicated. One of the reasons we created Cymbal is because there was no successful Social Media app for music. Some existed in the past, but unfortunately they died out (I used to love Turntable.fm, which did a lot of things right). I’m not so sure another big social media app would copy us because to do so would be to introduce a whole lot of complexity into their own app. For example, could you imagine Instagram or Facebook having a dedicated music player in the app? There is only so much screen space. Most likely that would hinder the experience of their existing features.
That being said, yes, it is indeed a rough world out there. Everyone is competing — always. It’s all about executing it better than the other guy. It’s not always about being faster. Usually, quality takes precedent over speed. We think Cymbal is doing it right. Hopefully, that will lead to success.
The new update has a lot of great new features. One of them, in which you the user will get a notification when an artist’s new song comes out. Can you explain the idea behind this cool feature?
Jacobs: We really want Cymbal to become the place on the internet to discover and talk about new music. We’ve found the best way to do that is to notify our users when the artists they love release a new song. That way all you have to do is swipe in order to listen and join the conversation. One of the coolest parts about this feature is how fast it works. It takes a matter of minutes before we notify you of a new song. It’s kind of a “magic moment” when you get one from a cool artist. Charlie actually wrote a lot about this here: https://medium.com/@Cymbal/kendrick-lamar-has-a-new-song-eb6a5948d3ce
In this day and age of music, streaming services are allowing blockbuster artists like Drake and Ed Sheeren to fill up Billboard Hits chart with their albums. How do Cymbal’s top posted songs differ from the Billboard charts?
Jacobs: The answer to this question gets at the core of what makes Cymbal special. There are two reasons our charts are so great and not bland like the billboard top 100. The first reason is that we have the best data. While other services base their charts on plays, downloads, or albums sold, we base ours on something more important — Cymbal posts! Posting a cymbal means that you are willing to call it your song of the moment. You like the song so much that you are willing to make it your “cover photo” so to speak. This is huge! It means that every data point we collect about a song is high quality. It gives our charts weight and meaning. The second reason is that we have a wonderful community. The people who use Cymbal are music fanatics. These are people who will hop on the app seconds after songs are released in order to share it with the world. These people live and die music and are constantly in search for that new great song. It makes sense then that our charts would be filled with the music that is most relevant on a day to day basis.
With this new Cymbal interface, there have been a lot of really cool ideas added that I don’t think anyone has expected, any chance you can you tell us what’s next for Cymbal?
Jacobs: I can say that we’re working hard to try to simplify things. It’s all about finding the best thing you do and putting all your energy towards that.
Weeks ago, Cymbal had an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop. Then most recently, I saw that Cymbal’s facebook page had scheduled more AMAs for the future. What type of guests are you trying to get for these AMAs and what are you hoping they will achieve?
Jacobs: We’re really excited about our AMA series! It’s really cool to have artists and influencers communicate directly with the community. We’ve always wanted that to happen on Cymbal, but we found the AMA format to be the best way of doing it. We’re looking mostly for artists that our community loves. The goal is to bring relevant artists onto the app so that not only can users talk about their songs, but they can also talk directly to the artist. We think that would be incredible!
How would you convince someone to download and use cymbal if they don’t have one?
Jacobs: The answer has changed over time. Today, I would say it’s the easiest way on the internet to find the most relevant songs in music on a daily basis. We do lots of things of course, but that’s the hook.
What are some of your favorite new releases of 2017 so far?
Check out the video below to see Cymbal’s latest layout. Once you have created a Cymbal account, be sure to follow me at “MorrisChoice”. In order to gain more followers, keep posting songs so that Cymbal can recommend you and other users who to follow based off of the songs you post.