Way back in 1980, the Sony Walkman hit the U.S. The ubiquity of headphones and people listening to their favorite artists on the move quickly changed the way we consume music. Over the years our listening habits have migrated over to our smartphones, where it remains a relatively solitary experience. But are mobile apps changing that?

Smule is a social media platform where users can make music together. Smule's flagship app is Sing! Karaoke, a sing and share app with sophisticated underlying technologies that allow users to create music videos together and also use Instagram-style filtering effects for voice.

When singer Jessie J posted a performance of her song "Flashlight" on Smule, more than a million people embraced the concept to create duets with her performance. It even created a viral singing sensation in Smule user Tom Bleasby, who ended up singing the song with the pop star on the Ellen DeGeneres Show last year.

The Smule platform aims to provide everyday people with a virtual stage to easily express themselves and connect with others through music. Smule's CEO and co-founder says that Smule's 45 million monthly active users have performed up to around 16 million songs on any given day.

Many might remember Smule's first app called Sonic Lighter. The app allowed users to manipulate a virtual flame by blowing on it through the iPhone's microphone.

Ocarina soon followed and transformed the phone into a wind instrument, leveraging the iPhone microphone to blow into and multi-touch screen for fingering. Ocarina became one of the Top 20 downloaded apps of all time. But, it's Sing! Karaoke that is now bringing together the tools for anyone to record and edit vocal performances with people all over the world.

For those of you that have never heard of these social music apps, you might be surprised at the sheer volume of users across the platforms. Four percent of the world's population (350 million people) have used Smule products, including Sing! Karaoke, Magic Piano, AutoRap and Guitar!

Smith advised that entering an industry that primarily focused on marketing music as content to the passive listener rather than a form of active engagement indeed offered a few challenges in the early days. Music creation was traditionally controlled in the studio, but the team at Smule wanted everyone to record music together.

Smith believes that creating content to express yourself should be at the heart of all social media sharing platforms, whether the medium is written word, photos, or video. Music is a natural extension, and Smule intention is to play a major part in leading that effort.

Adding yourself to a photo of people you don't know could be weird and off-putting, but Smith insists that performing a song with strangers feels oddly unifying and challenges non-believers to give it a try.

After spending years attempting to understand the secrets to creating a collaborative community, Smith believes the secret sauce consists of expressive content that is authentic.

On my podcast, CEO and Co-Founder of SmuleJeffrey C. Smith talks about how he wants to move music away from being a solitary experience.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016