In entrepreneurship, timing is everything. Launch too early and the market or underlying tech may not be ready to support your idea. Launch too late and the opportunity may have already been conceded to competitors. For Endlesss, the music-making app from Tim Exile, the timing feels just right.
Launched on March 31st, just as the U.K. and many other countries around the world entered lockdown, the iOS app's collaborative approach to music making proved to be an overnight hit. It seems that many people not only had time to fill, but craved the kinds of social and creative interactions that Endlesss was conceived to facilitate.
More broadly, Exile tells me the app and cloud-service is based on the premise that music has always been about performance and social interactions. However, as the recording industry developed, the tools for making music developed with it. This saw the onus put squarely on producing a final product -- music-making as a means to an end rather than a means in itself -- and along the way the spontaneity or "in the moment" element of music has been lost.
A vision years in the making (see this video interview with Exile conducted by TechCrunch's Mike Butcher in 2016), the resulting Endlesss app combines software recreations of drum machines, samplers, synths and FX, with a "tap to loop" workflow that should be familiar to anyone who has used a looper pedal or loop-based sequencer. The app also accepts live audio for use with guitars, mics and other external instruments. However, the clever part is the way these loops or riffs can be shared or remixed by others participating in your jam -- essentially sending musical messages back and forth as if it were a chatroom. Or at least that's one analogy Exile is fond of using.
"Endlesss started life as an instrument I developed to allow me to take a spontaneous performative approach to improvising electronic music," explains Exile in a Medium post. "I wanted to liberate myself from the perfectionism that I fell into in long solitary hours in my studio. The workflow evolved over a decade of regular touring at a time when process-based music was an arty experimental niche. At first I wanted to build a career for myself as an improvising musician but I soon realised there was much greater potential in what this workflow could do for others."
Now, via a Kickstarter campaign launching today, the Endlesss team is aiming to bring an even more ambitious version to desktop Macs and Windows machines, including VST/AU compatibility for integration with your favourite DAW. Dubbed Endlesss Studio, the idea is to retain the accessibility and sense of play that the iOS app delivers, but couple it with a more involved studio setup so the music-making possibilities really are endless.
With that said, a few Kickstarter caveats. Endlesss Studio isn't planned to ship fully until next year, with backers given access to an alpha version in December 2020 at the earliest and a beta release scheduled for February 2021. However, the team already has a track record shipping software, including the iOS app and accompanying cloud-based back end, so hopefully the release dates won't slip too much, if at all.
Exile has also thought long and hard about how to create a sustainable business model that will support an even more ambitious roadmap into the future. Early Kickstarter backers can grab lifetime access to Endlesss Studio for a one-off fee, but the longer-term model is a monthly subscription of $12 per month -- jamming as a service, if you will. This includes HD audio-quality jams and archives, an option that should prove popular for users who want to use Endlesss as a jumping off place for more polished tracks. In fact, Exile has already launched a record label dedicated to Endlesss-enabled releases.
Meanwhile, Endlesss isn't entirely self-funded. The startup disclosed its first funding round in July last year. Backers include Tim Clark (co-founder, IE:Music), Mathew Daniel (VP International, NetEase Cloud Music), Dhiraj Mukherjee (co-founder, Shazam), Richard Jones (manager, Pixies) and Paul Kempe (Tileyard), along with a number of unnamed but "well-known" artists. In addition to equity funding, Endlesss has also received a grant from Innovate UK.
The company’s advisory board includes Stephen O’Reilly (IE:Music, Topspin), Cliff Fluet (Eleven Advisory) and Will Mills (Shazam, LyricFind).