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Tell us about your startup journey

We had been playing around with the idea of a music streaming website for Nepali Music for quite some time. We were four Computer Engineers, Aayush Shrestha, Ashok Basnet, Bibek Subedi and Dinesh Subedi, who had worked on multiple class projects together and had always had fun doing so. Back then, when we were first entertaining ourselves with the concept of a startup based on music industry, we had no idea how it would work technically. We spent a couple of months slowly and passively researching and studying about how to build such system.

On September of 2014, we came to know about Startup Weekend that was happening. We decided to participate in the event with the idea of a music streaming app. In the event, we teamed with another friend, Surit Bhattarai, and worked for 3 days to build an MVP and crafted a business model to go with it. We were able to bag the first runner-up position in that event.

After that, we decided to take this project further. So, we took a couple of months to sort things out and rented out a place where we could work at nights (since we all had day jobs that paid our bills) and we started working on a stable build of the app. By this time, two of our friends, Dinesh and Surit, had decided to pursue other aims and had left the team. The remaining 3 of us worked for a few months and released the web app on the 1st of Baisakh 2072 (12 days before the massive earthquake – just our luck 😀 )

We started with around 25 artists and 125 songs. Since then, lishn, now, has more than 350 songs from 70+ artists in total, and people have lishnd more than 16000 times in total.

Right now, we are working hard to build our android app and release it. The app is close to completion, and we are hoping to release the app some time this month.

Where did your vision came from for starting to build Lishn?

Streaming music has been a big part of our daily routine. We use foreign music streaming services all the time to find and listen to music. But finding nepali music was still a challenge and we definitely felt the need. But the moment we felt that there was real business value to this problem and we could build a company around it came during our conversations with a few friends of ours who happened to be musicians. During those conversations, these friends constantly told us that – since physical sales of music was almost obsolete at this time and since online distribution channels (like youtube and soundcloud) are easy but do not really provide any way of earning for the artist (at least not easily), it was getting harder for them to survive. It was then when the idea of building a platform where the users could get free music and the artists still got paid for their creations sparked.

Lishn is going to be a catalyst to bring about the much needed change in the way music industry works in Nepal.

How has the music ecosystem behaved over the years in Nepal?

The exponential rise of technology, access to internet and increasing use of mobile devices has made a significant effect in the music industry. The Nepali music industry has not been able to address it properly. The increasing number of independent artists making music independently and relying on online media like youtube for distribution proves the point. Online media has been an integral part of music industry today. But since online media does not provide a rigid way of earning, the artists have been forced to distribute their music for free. The music industry needs to adapt to the changing times. Lishn is going to be a catalyst to bring about the much needed change in the way music industry works in Nepal.

What are your views on ‘music streaming’ and its future?

As we see it, physical sales of music in the form of cassettes and CDs are being obsolete. Due to lack of a proper channel that benefits both the audience and the artists, the audience is opting more towards online services where they can find music easily and for free, while the artists are forced to distribute their music on these platforms expecting nothing in return. Not to mention, piracy of music is in all time high because of lack of regulations regarding online distribution. If the music industry wants to survive at all, it needs to resort to online distribution in a well regulated manner so that it can make monetary gain from it. So, online streaming is definitely the future of music industry, there is no alternative to it. Sooner we realize this and start building infrastructures to support it, the better.

Tell us about the revenue model for Lishn?

Lishn will be a freemium service. The users will get to lishn to music for free but with some limitations. Free users will have to cope through advertisements and a few limitations on user experience on web and mobile apps. Also, we will be introducing audio advertisements on our system so that businesses can directly reach to the ears of our users to brand their products.

Alternatively, users will have the option to purchase premium accounts that will give them an ad-less and limitless music streaming experience.

What is in the pipeline at Lishn?

Mobile apps are definitely the future. Music needs to be portable and accessible. We will be releasing android app very soon and even though we haven’t started working on iOS app, we will start it soon as well. Also, we will be building a better portal for artists to monitor and analyze the performance of their songs on lishn.

What was the most challenging part?

What we are trying to build, adds a totally new horizon to an existing industry. The lack of enthusiasm to accept and adapt to the change lead be existing music industry is definitely going to be a big challenge that we need to tackle. There is also a lack of infrastructure and eco-system for this kind of company to exist and run smoothly. The cost of data is still very high in Nepal and is not yet suitable enough for streaming music anywhere. We hope that things will get better very soon though.

Who are your target audience and how you reach out to them?

Music does not really have a target audience group because almost everyone listens to music. We will, however, segment our users according to age group and the kind of music they listen to. We will try to reach out to them in an orderly fashion seperately focussing on one segment at a time. Lishn values local artists, local music and local products. So, we will focus more on local tastes of music that everyone can enjoy.

What is the biggest hurdle that you faced or are still facing?

The biggest hurdle for us, and any startup today in Nepal, is the lack of a startup-friendly environment in the country. The infrastructures are a bit too outdated. The laws are too unclear and rigid. The public mindset still resists new tech and processes and has yet to discover the power technology has to increase their own business. All of these issues can not be solved immediately, and improvements can be seen happening every day. So we are hopeful, but right now, the environment that does not support a startup seems to be the biggest hurdle for us.

Ask yourself if you can describe the problem in one sentence. If you can’t, you do not understand what you’re trying to get into.

Any word or advice for all the startups out there who are trying to make it go viral like your apps?

Focus on the problem that you are trying to solve. Recognizing the problem is half the solution. Ask yourself if you can describe the problem in one sentence. If you can’t, you do not understand what you’re trying to get into. Respect other businesses and try to create a healthy and mutually beneficial business relations with other entities. We all need a healthy and a strong eco system of startups and businesses that solve real issues of the populous. And finally, go with your guts.

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