Mining music connections from the web to offer fans a new set of features


START-UP NATION : Seevl: Having launched Seevl in January this year, it is now all systems go after a recent tweak and relaunch

IF INTERNET-based music search and discovery start-up Seevl could realise its dream of signing a deal with YouTube over the next few months, the Galway-based company would be singing all the way to the bank.

Seevl is the creation of Dr Alexandre Passant who moved to Ireland from France four years ago to work at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway.

Passant, whose background is in developing Semantic Web technologies to connect social enterprise data, is an avid music buff and a frequent visitor to YouTube in search of new bands.

What drove him nuts was having to flick back and forth between different sites to find new artists and to get biographical and background information about the music and the musicians he was listening to. He felt there had to be a better way to integrate the whole music discovery experience and set about making it happen.

The result is a music search and discovery service that he says is head and shoulders above the other search services currently on the market because it lets people find everything they want to know about music within YouTube.

“Basically we are better at digging out more detailed and less obvious connections between artists than other search services,” Passant adds.

“This means we can offer users suggestions about new music options that would not necessarily spring immediately to mind. For example, suggesting that people listen to the bands that influenced the bands they are listening to or telling them about other bands who recorded on the same niche record label.

“The estimated volume of committed music fans regularly going on YouTube to listen to music is more than 30 million,” he says, “but from personal experience and from interviewing music lovers and surveying this segment, I know how frustrating it is to have so little context around it.

“You want to know who’s that band? Who are its members? When did they start to play together? Seevl provides an integrated view combining biographies, fact-sheets and recommendations together with advanced search and playlisting features, all within YouTube.”

Passant says Seevl is designed to recreate online the sort of music discovery experience people used to have when browsing record sleeves. “We do this by bringing together data from many sources and building consolidated artist profiles so we can then enable our smart search and recommendations features.

“For instance, if you like the Beatles, we will tell you that you may also like the Quarrymen as it used to be the former band of most of their members,” he says.

In a nutshell, Seevl mines music connections from across the web to offer a new set of features for music fans such as liner (sleeve) notes, advanced search and playlisting and a social dashboard with personal recommendations.

Seevl is aimed at music consumers (its main target audience is those in their 30s) and its novel search system has received important peer recognition from the influential Semantic Web community. “Most of the technological advantage of our product resides in the way we process the data and how we deliver it into our interfaces,” Passant says.

The main challenge was to transform complex algorithms into a smart product while hiding its complexity and providing what he describes as “a clear and compelling value proposition”.

Having quietly soft-launched Seevl in January 2012 and built up a base of over 1,000 users by word of mouth, the service has been tweaked and recently relaunched following user feedback. Now Passant says it is all systems go to build the user base to 50,000 people by the end of the year.

Seevl is free to users (and will remain so) and the company is currently deciding which revenue-generating model it will go with. Getting a cut from selling digital downloads, concert tickets and merchandise online is one option. So too is forging a formal relationship with YouTube.

“YouTube is happy for people to build their own applications using their videos, providing they adhere to certain terms of service, but this is a casual arrangement. We would be very happy to have a formal working relationship with YouTube,” Passant says.

It has taken Passant about 18 months to bring Seevl from the research lab to full-scale commercialisation and he has now left the Digital Enterprise Research Institute with co-founder Julie Letierce to focus full-time on building the business. The firm is about to start recruiting staff and Passant says it will be generating revenue within six months.

“Our earning potential is linked to user numbers so we will soon start a marketing drive to let people know we are out there,” he says.

The company has been supported by Enterprise Ireland and by the research institute and NUI Galway. It has also recently been successful in getting assistance from the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund.

Publication Date

July 19th 2012


The Irish Times