Chordify: Everyone can become a musician

Jamming along with the latest Adele song, the second it comes out? Or that one song by the local band you’ve just discovered? Not a problem with Chordify. The startup from Groningen is getting more and more international acclaim with their music service, based on an algorithm that automatically recognizes the chords of any song, along with an intuitive player for guitar, piano and ukulele. Last week, Chordify officially launched their iOS app during the Reeperbahn Music Festival in Hamburg, Germany.

Chordify was founded three years ago and currently has more than 1.5 million monthly visitors and 500,000 registered users. In its three years the startup received much national and international acclaim, winning the Dutch Pitch Session at the Northside Festival in New York in 2014 and the San Francisco MusicTech Summit Startup competition in 2015. They were also selected to pitch during The Next Web Conference in New York, and were showcased during the SXSW Festival in Austin Texas, as well as the ALPHA Startup Showcase during the Web Summit in Dublin.

Made for and by musicians

“Chordify is the result of co-founder Baas de Haas’ PhD thesis on music information retrieval”, says Gijs Bekenkamp, one of the other founders. “He saw the commercial potential of chord recognition and the five of us created a service for musicians around it. We used to be in a band together, and it’s really great to still be involved in music in some way.

“With Chordify, we want to lower the bar to pick up and learn how to play an instrument”, Gijs continues. “Everyone should be able to become a musician, regardless of your background. That’s always been our philosophy and the reason behind our partnership with the Little Kids Rock Foundation, a US charity organization that offers free instruments and music lessons to kids in underprivileged public schools.”

“The great thing about technology is that it doesn’t only make the world a smaller place, but also makes the world a little bit better, more equal and more accessible. Technology starts with science, so that’s why we still have intensive ties with the academic community. Bas for example, is still involved in the same scientific research group where tech startups like Shazam and Last.fm also sprung from.”

The Netherlands as a testing ground

In terms of the number of Chordify users, the Netherlands is ranked 8th worldwide. By far, the majority of people using the music service are located in the US (25%), so moving to Silicon Valley would be a very logical next step. But according to co-founder Dion ten Heggeler, there are no plans of emigrating to the US: “We’re also popular in countries like Germany and Great Britain, and really, Groningen is pretty much the music capital of Europe, with the Eurosonic/Noorderslag Festival. So we’re still pretty close to the fire.”

“But of course the US is our biggest market, so that’s why we’re working with Marcus Henderson from the popular video game Guitar Hero, who’s in charge of our business development there”, Dion continues. “We visited him in San Francisco a year ago and had a few meetings with companies like Google and Apple. That was really an incredible experience!”

“Even though, relatively speaking, we don’t have that many Dutch users, we consider the Netherlands as our primary testing ground and jumping off point. We’ll test updates and new features here first, so we can see if people like it and everything works as it should, before we roll things out worldwide.”

A Chordify embedded player and an iOS app

One of those new developments is the Chordify Now Embedded Player, which is kind of comparable to the Pinterest button, allowing users to get chords and play along with a song on any website or music platform, without leaving the page.

“We launched the embedded player a few months back, working with the Welcome to the Village Festival”, Dion explains. “It’s just so cool that, while you’re checking out the artist line-up on the festival website, you can instantly play along with the songs. It’s also a great way to introduce an entire new audience to Chordify and online music education, and maybe inspire a few people to pick up an instrument.”

Eventually, we want our embedded player to be available on every music platform imaginable, whether it’s artist or festival websites, music blogs and services like Apple Music, YouTube and Spotify. And of course we’ve also just launched our iOS app during the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg last week. So there’s still lots of cool stuff on the horizon!

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