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The Secret to New Music Friday: Meet HotDrop, the Underground App Powering Millions of Song Discovery Moments


New app for music discovery and sharing, HotDrop, is gathering support among Gen Z users with over 3 million songs discovered in its first year. 

There’s a secret app thousands of Gen Z music fans have discovered to help them get out of a musical rut. HotDrop, the social music discovery app, has taken off on college campuses, among young listeners and music junkies, tired of listening to the same songs on repeat. Armed with a feed of undiscovered music and 30-second song highlights, users can scroll through new music like they would a social feed. Now, HotDrop is launching HotDrop Studio for indie artists in response to the flood of requests the app received from creators. 

HotDrop Studio for indie artists streamlines early-stage music distribution and analytic capabilities, reaching an engaged audience of superfans ready to discover what’s next in music. Artists upload their music to HotDrop at any stage, while retaining complete ownership of songs, and can work on songs and replace or delete them at any time. Artists who join HotDrop early can be the first to take advantage of additional features coming soon to the app, including version control and specialized links to eliminate potential music leaks. HotDrop will also offer a home for unreleased music; indies will find unlimited storage in the cloud to create their own vault of music.

The indie music sector has grown significantly, yet templated mainstream songs, likely created by the same artists backed by billions of dollars and management teams are the songs crowding out playlists across each DSP. These are the songs heard on the radio, at sports games, on social media platforms, etc. – the top 1% of artists account for 99% of total listening time (by streams). The reason isn’t a lack of quality of lesser-known music; indie artists face a discovery nightmare.

Indie artists are left with no platforms that truly vouch for their interests and help them create and maintain relationships with their fans. Truly democratizing music curation of new music, HotDrop’s listeners are curators and aren’t stuck hearing the same songs, unsure of where to turn to find new music across genres. Curators don’t just turn on a playlist of “new music” and listen passively as background noise. They want to get to know an artist, they want their feedback and influence to be heard, enabling them to have a say in what is considered popular. 

With each 30-second snippet of a song, a listener can choose to like, dislike, favorite, or share a particular song. Fans can find and enjoy full versions of the songs they discover, found under the “Liked Songs” section of a listener’s profile. Some of these songs may not yet be available on other platforms. They can swipe right to read an artist’s bio and connect on socials. In the coming weeks, “Activity” and “Trending” feeds will be added, so listeners can see what their friends are listening to, and watch as popularity builds around an indie artist.

Indie artists have much more flexibility and creativity around classifying their music with HotDrop. They can upload their stems, share cover art, and select their favorite part of songs for listeners to hear in their feed. Artists also classify their own music, choosing up to 3 genres and unlimited subgenres from a provided list, which correlates directly with genre stacks listeners can choose from.

Founders Max Goldberg and Steven Segel know this generation well, as HotDrop was founded in a dorm room at Indiana University, home to the best music school in the U.S., the Jacobs School of Music, and a large underground music presence. “From the start, we were creating an app for ourselves, because we thought listening to shorter snippets of songs was a cool concept and would allow us to reliably listen to more music, faster, in a sitting. Quickly, it became a really engaging way for our friends and other students to discover music,” says HotDrop Founder and CEO Max Goldberg. “It became the go-to app for people who really love discovering new music, because everyone's sick and tired of listening to the same mainstream music heard all the time on Spotify and Apple Music.”

Max and Steven had an early interest in entrepreneurship, beginning their ventures as sneakerheads – buying and selling limited edition sneakers in middle school. Soon after, Max learned to code in Apple’s Swift programming language, and he and Steven released video games and apps together throughout high school and early college. Max sold a utility-app business during his final exam week of 10th grade, after amassing over 150,000 downloads in 140 countries in a matter of weeks, without any marketing budget. HotDrop is the culmination of everything they’ve learned, building, scaling, and selling these various ventures.

“Max and I first met around the time when Snapchat and Instagram were popping up. We watched our friends become addicted to their cell phones, constantly consuming content and connecting through all these different social media apps,” says HotDrop Founder and COO Steven Segel. “There was something about the content discovery that intrigued us, watching a video or picture find its way through our friend group. With HotDrop, we now watch music shared and discovered the same way.”

HotDrop plans to deliver a full suite of tools, designed specifically by artists for artists to further the indie artist’s journey. Once reserved only for label-backed artists, indie artists can access all the tools they need, at a price well under what they’d pay for other platforms. At launch, they are offering a deal for artists interested in uploading their music for discovery by new superfans, and opening public beta for listeners by invite only. Indie artists who upload three songs to HotDrop before the end of December receive 6 months of HotDrop Studio for free. Interested artists can sign up for early access to HotDrop Studio here, and listeners can sign up for the HotDrop Mobile release in beta here.

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