LOS ANGELES - A new smartphone app is being viewed as a possible game-changer for videographers and musicians, who can gain real traction when they team up—although digital rights management often puts them at odds.
When creating video content, the use of copyrighted music has always been a tricky issue. But a social media application called Flipagram allows users to create content with free music from the biggest stars on major record labels. The app is also a place where up-and-coming musicians, such as the PinkFurs, are getting noticed by users.
”When we started using it as a band it was way better," said 15-year-old band member Kierstin Kehoe. "We started getting more fans, more action on our videos.”
A trio of teenage sisters whose music is a mixture of pop, punk and rock, the band prefers Flipagram over other forms of social media to promote their sound, because they say it can make them famous more easily and quickly.
“It’s really hard to blow up on YouTube and Facebook and Instagram because they’re all big apps, but Flipagram is gradually getting there, and it was cool because we started it right when the app was blowing up,” said 13-year-old PinkFurs member Kami Kehoe.
The Flipagram app allows users to create a short video clip by mixing their own photos and videos with up to one minute of music for free. It’s the music selection that makes Flipagram unique, says the company’s chief executive officer, Iranian-American Farhad Mohit.
“Our biggest differentiating factor is that we have over 50 million songs licensed from all the music labels, so when you want to mix music with your photos and videos, you have an incredible selection,” Mohit said.
He negotiated deals with all the big record labels by pitching the idea that social media is a great way to promote music, either by big-name musicians or artists new to the industry.
“The group of influencers who dive into this head-first fastest are the emerging music artists, because they were like, 'We already have some fans but we want more fans,'" said Mohit. "By creating Flipagrams of their own and also encouraging their fans to create Flipagrams, they just created word-of-mouth promotion for their music.”
Users can purchase the entire music track to create longer content. Or if they are watching a video and like the music, they can just click and buy.
Silicon Valley ties
Launched three years ago, Flipagram now has users in 150 countries, and the app has been translated into 37 languages. Even though it has yet to turn a profit, the startup is backed by Silicon Valley investors, with board members that include prominent venture capitalists John Doerr and Michael Moritz.
With such close ties to Silicon Valley, Mohit has been asked why not move the company there. His answer: because his family lives in Los Angeles.
Mohit, who has been successful with other startups such as BizRate.com and Shopzilla, attributes much of his drive and accomplishments to his immigrant background.
“I think [when] the group of Iranians who have emigrated, or immigrants in general, come to a new culture, they have to be OK with the unknown—they have to make for themselves," he said. "There’s a little bit of an urgency, in that you don’t have a legacy here. I think the combination of those things: a good education, support from the parents were all helpful and they help immigrant people of all types start businesses.”
What makes a success?
To make a startup successful, Mohit added, specific elements need to be present.
“You should pick a very large market that’s growing, because that leaves a lot of room for winners ... and not be too early but not be too late," he said.
Then, he added, you should be prepared to spend at least 10 years of your life "grueling it out."
"Persistence is the number-one attribute of a successful entrepreneur," he said. "If you can get these things right—the timing, a good market that’s exploding and growing, [and] put about 10 years of work to it with a great team—you’ll be successful.”
In Flipagram, Mohit sees the market growing in both video content on mobile devices and advertisers who are looking to promote their products. When the two are combined, he said, musicians such as the PinkFurs and other content creators will be in high demand.