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Entrepreneurship in Music: Hum

hum app

       Entrepreneurship in Music Series: 003       
Hum
Co-founder and Designer Aaron Shekey

Hum is the simple-to-use, intuitive, and aesthetically brilliant app that is currently taking the entire songwriting (or “song-jotting”) world by storm. If you’re an urban-dwelling songwriter, perpetually on the go, and can’t sit still on your commute without those inspiration butterflies flying around, this app is essential. It logs your lyrics and melodies, keeps you in key, in time, and in tune, and organizes your songs better than that college-ruled notebook you’ve had since, well, college.

In the glorious light of #SongwritingWeek, we wanted to check in with designer Aaron Shekey to get the inside story on the contemporary songwriter’s most powerful pocket-tool.

Aaron Shekey

What is the essential problem that you have set out to solve with this app?

Inspiration is fleeting. Ideas are often lost as easily as they appear. The best camera you own is the one you have with you. The best audio recorder is the one you have with you. The best notepad is the one you have with you. You have Hum with you.

How has the app grown since it launched?

Since our release in January 2014, we’ve slowly added features from a long list of ideas on our roadmap. We’re a small team, but we’ve got thousands of users and a strong community of people writing all their songs with Hum. It’s incredibly inspiring. I can’t wait to see how people use what we’ve got in the hopper!

This anthem is so great, it’s really inspiring. Who wrote this spoken word piece and how did the video come about?

Thank you! Hum started with the anthem, oddly enough. I wrote “You’re the living room’s rock god…” and the rest just poured out. I used this as a tool to help recruit my cofounder Joseph. We knew that if we figured out how we wanted to talk about artists and our tiny little brand, the rest would follow. Hum is for the aspiring musician as much as it’s for Beyoncé.

You and Joseph are both musicians, yet were working in design, software engineering, and marketing. I obviously see the connection with your backgrounds and Hum but how do you think your musicianship affects the way you run your company?

In the software industry, there’s a term called dog-fooding. The idea is that if you eat your own dog food, you’ll want to make it taste great. I think the best software is designed by people who are actively using it themselves. The best products are scratching the same itch of those who are building it. We’re both musicians and songwriters, not staunch business people. Like great musicians, we want to first make a great product, and then hope the money follows.

Musician entrepreneurs tend to talk a lot about their networks helping to kickstart the venture, since being a musician means being part of such a social and trusting community, I’m wondering if this has helped Hum get off the ground? Did you user-test with your friends?

We absolutely tested with our friends. Before we built anything, we asked if other songwriters had the same frustrations that we did. These songwriters just happened to be our friends, bandmates, fellow players. It quickly moved beyond our personal networks very quickly, I’m happy to say!

Has being in Minneapolis had an affect on the company?

Minneapolis is an incredible underdog city that no one has been to. Its music scene is world-class. My girlfriend and I effortlessly see music every night in August. We’ve done so for a couple of years. It keeps us inspired and in touch with our city’s scene. It’s tiring, but oh so worth it. We’re a music city that’s seemed to have escaped the traps of the music industry. These are artists writing and performing because they have to, not because they’re looking for a split of the next country hit.

hum layout

Which feature was the hardest to build, or to get right ?

Every feature is hard to build. Hum is an incredibly simple app. To add a feature without careful consideration can ruin that.

What is The Liner Notes?

The Liner Notes is a series of vignettes about songwriters and their craft. We sit down with an artist and let them wax poetic about their songwriting process — their inspiration, their challenges, their triumphs. We film the whole thing, add a score, and cut it to video of them in their creative spaces. They end up being about 2 minutes a pop. They’re so much fun!

Is the app only for iOS at this point?

Yep. We’d love to be on Android, but don’t have any concrete plans at the moment. If you’re an Android developer and would love to help, contact us!

What’s your advice for young aspiring songwriters these days?

The best way to write a great song is to write 100 terrible ones.

Click here for the full Entrepreneurship in Music series!

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic "concrète" music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.