Interview with Shawn Janas of TurnChannel
McMaster student Shawn Janas (@ShawnJanas) has built a music discovery web app called TurnChannel (@TurnChannel) which he demoed at DemoCampHamilton9. TurnChannel is off to a great start in terms of song plays and media coverage, so I’ve interviewed Shawn to give him a chance to explain what TurnChannel is all about:
Tell me about yourself.
I am a fourth year Business Informatics (Computer Science & Business) student at McMaster University with a passion towards online media/music. I attempted my first startup when I was 16 years old in the field of multiplayer casino games. Since then I have had a huge passion towards entrepreneurship and programming. In my freshman year, I built a ChatRoulette style application restricted towards McMaster students, called ChatBuzzed, which gained a lot of popularity. Since ChatBuzzed, I have been working with tech startups in the fields of online gaming, social media management platforms and YouTube management software learning the ins and outs of business and leadership in technology.
What is TurnChannel?
Everything we do at TurnChannel, we believe in challenging the standards set by most music streaming websites and labels. We do this by thinking differently. The way we challenge these standards is by strictly focusing on the discovery of underground Electronic Dance Music and by building meaningful, transparent relationships with our independent artists. This is done with a beautiful and intuitive interface where simplicity is our main priority and by providing a win-win scenario between TurnChannel and the artists we work with. We happen to have the best music, care to try it out?
Why did you decide to build TurnChannel?
There is a lot of skepticism in the music industry where typically deals between a record label/promotion company are interpreted as a win-loose scenario where the artist looses or feels the label/promotion company are taking advantage of them. TurnChannel’s main goal is to challenge this standard by providing a win-win scenario when working with our artists by building meaningful and transparent relationships. As a developer and entrepreneur, I am super passionate about innovation in the online media/music industry. With the growing popularity of EDM, there has been a huge rise in EDM artists producing great music but these artists are having a hard time getting their name out there. Also, finding new great music is not as easy as it should be so we are bridging this gap between the artists and fans.
How has it been received so far?
Within a month of being launched, we reached 80,000 track plays and have been featured on the front page of HackerNews. The artists we are promoting have been very appreciative over what were are doing and we are looking forward to building more relationships with upcoming artists in the near future.
What tools did you use to build TurnChannel?
TurnChannel is built using Ruby on Rails and Postgres hosted on Heroku. We use Resque as a queue for scheduling background jobs and unicorn as the web server. All of the mp3 are streamed off of SoundCloud via SoundCloud’s API.
What challenges have you faced?
The main challenge we have faced would be solving the chicken and egg problem. We were able to solve this by building an algorithm to pre populate TurnChannel with new trending music produced by independent EDM artists. Once we are able to build a user base off of this music, we are able to reach out to artists and start promoting their tracks on the TurnChannel.
Our future plans are to connect with more uprising artists as well keep improving the discovery aspect of the website by listening and interacting with our users. We are planning on launching a YouTube channel in the near future.
What advice would you give developers looking to build similar projects?
My main advise for programmers and entrepreneurs looking to build a product/startup is to build a product in an industry that you are truly passionate about. Once you have found the industry you are super passionate about, build the product because you want to solve a known problem in that industry and not strictly for making money. This is very important because if you build the product for the purpose of making money, that motivation will guild the product in the wrong direction where you will no longer be solving that original problem. This will lead to people not using or purchasing your product. If you are very passionate about solving a problem, the money will come later and you will end up building a quality product that people will want. Another advise would be to release the product to the public as soon as possible. Your product is originally an experiment where validating your idea and talking to your users is your main priority.