Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Music-Discovery Service ExFM Pulls the Plug

cloud musicAfter a four-year-run, music startup ExFM is throwing in the towel.

The company, which operates a music-discovery website, as well as iPhone and Android apps, says it will shut down its apps, as well as the guts of its site, on Jan. 15. Hardcore users will still be able to access a bit of the service, via a Chrome browser extension; ExFm raised a reported $2.75 million from investors including Spark Capital.

Startups are hard, and music startups are much harder. And while there was a short window when digitally savvy music fans were quite interested in ExFM, the service was facing an uphill battle from the get-go: It started out as a Chrome extension, which limited its market to the relatively small group of people who knew what a Chrome extension was and how to use one.

Here’s ExFM’s summation of its problems:

After an amazing four years of sweat and tears, we’re ever-so-reluctantly accepting the reality of sustaining the Exfm platform as it exists today. The high costs of processing millions of new songs every month while attempting to keep that data relevant and useable is monumental. The technical challenges are compounded by the litigious nature of the music industry, which means every time we have any meaningful growth, it’s coupled with the immediate attention of the record labels in the form of takedowns and legal emails. Today, subscription services are gaining in popularity and enjoy the blessings of most major labels at a non trivial cost to those companies.

ExFM’s note to its users also insists that “this isn’t a full goodbye,” but there doesn’t seem to be any plan to keep the company going, either.

Back in 2010, when I interviewed ExFM co-founder Dan Kantor, I suggested that the most logical outcome for the company would be to sell to Google. At the time, he didn’t seem interested.


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