I recently got a ping from Bobby Stark letting me know that he’d launched LYRICSnMUSIC, a sort of one-stop-shop for people searching for lyrics, music, artist and tour information, etc. Never wanting to pass by an opportunity to try and break something, I checked it out. The shot above was a search I did by words from a relatively obscure Donnie Iris song. How often do you have lyrics etched into your brain, but can’t for the life of you recall the artist or song title? Well, if you do give this site a shot and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.
The site itself has a pretty streamlined, industrial looking design and is very functional and easy to figure out.
Since I’m addicted to the various blogs and podcasts where startup founders and entrepreneurs are interviewed, I thought I’d see if Bobby would be willing to bite and he agreed to answer a few questions on the genesis and future of LYRICSnMUSIC. So here’s our first ever web entrepreneur interview with Bobby (Bobby’s responses in a lovely blue color).
Interview with Bobby Stark – Founder of LYRICSnMUSIC
When did you launch the site?
We launched in open beta June 15th, 2011.
From idea to launch how long did it take to get the site up and running?
It took a little over 7 months.
What need did you see that LYRICSnMUSIC fulfills?
Since LYRICSnMUSIC has Song Lyrics, YouTube Videos, Images, Wikipedia entry, Tour Dates, iTunes/Amazon MP3 and even Guitar Tabs on one page, we eliminate the need of going to 3 or 4 different websites to find the info of a song/artist you like.
Did you get funding to build it or are you bootstrapping?
We are bootstrapping our project. Getting funding can be great but sometimes investors want to include things that don’t really make any sense. “Too many cooks spoil the soup.”
How long did it take you to build up the site?
The initial coding took a little over 5 months, but we are still improving the site. So it’s kind of an ongoing project.
Are the lyrics entirely community contributed?
It’s a combination of community and lyrics directly from the record companies.
If so was it tough building a large enough community to get critical mass of lyrics? I tried a few obscure songs and, sure enough, they were there.
Glad you found the song you where looking for. We have over 2 million song lyrics and that number literally grows everyday.
How is the site monetized? It looks like it may be a combination of affiliate links for music purchases and advertising. If that’s the case, where do you get the lion’s share of revenue?
The lion’s share of the revenue comes from banner advertising. The music purchase links are more of a convenience for visitors.
How have you been driving traffic to the site?
It’s a combination of social media, search engines and positive reviews from bloggers.
You make it clear that the lyrics are 100% legit and the artists are compensated. What kind of issues with licensing or IP did you encounter?
Getting legal lyrics can be a bit of a minefield. So we partnered with a lyric aggregator that takes care of all artist compensation and legal record keeping. It’s been a great partnership for us, because it allows us to focus on the user experience instead of dealing with lawyers.
How has the reception been since you launched?
It’s been great! We have had visitors from nearly every country on the planet and our traffic continues to grow.
What are your hopes for the future of LYRICSnMUSIC?
We have some BIG plans for the future, but we are still working on the on it, so I’d rather not say right now.
Now to the more techie questions…
I did a search for “the night winds stir the old ghosts” and the song I was thinking of was the first hit. Very impressive as it was a bit obscure. What do you use to power your search? Something like SOLR/Lucene?
It’s an algorithm that is continually being improved on. We should have an update in the next 30 days, so the search results should get even better.
What kind of datastore are you using?
Right now it’s Amazon S3.
What is the site built on (PHP, Django, Rails, .NET, etc)?
We use Ruby on Rails and really like the speed of how we can get new features online.
Did you build it yourself or outsource/offshore?
We have a team that we have been working with for 5 years.
Any thoughts on a mobile app to complement the web site?
Yes, that is one of the things we will be working on and hope to have it live in the next few months.
What do you host on? Dedicated servers, VPS, cloud services or all of the above?
Heroku cloud services.
Have you hit any scalability issues?
Not yet (knock on wood). Scalability is one of the things we love about cloud services. It’s really easy to add more resources when you start hitting your current limit.
I had heard about this on one of the Rails podcasts I listen to (probably Ruby5 from Envy Labs who produced Rails for Zombies). Rails for Zombies is a basic intro to Rails 3. More importantly, it’s Zombie themed and who doesn’t love Zombies? Since I’ve got about a year of Rails under my belt, it sounded a bit too basic but I decided to give it a whirl anyway. These guys did a nice job, even hitting some of the common questions about how to do certain things that most online tutorials don’t hit, such as passing parameters to controllers via the router. This doesn’t stand alone, but is a nice, quick, hands-on lab and it points you to other resources to dig deeper. One of those is Michael Hartl’s Rails 3 tutorial which I also highly recommend, largely because of it’s depth and focus on test-driven development using RSpec.
A while back I posted briefly about Michael Hart’s Ruby on Rails Tutorial. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was working on a couple of projects and it occurred to me that I’ve let my testing fall by the wayside. I remembered that that Michael hit testing pretty hard in his tutorial and used autotest, which I had never used, so I had a closer look at the tutorial for Rails 3.0. I’ve been doing a lot of continuous integration work at my day job with heavy duty stuff like Team Center, Hudson, Bamboo, etc. I wanted to see what the cool kids were doing for single developers in the area of continuous testing.
Long story short, I took my leisure time over the holiday and walked through the entire tutorial. I’m now officially upgrading my assessment from “worth a look” to “everyone starting to learn Rails should go through this tutorial first.” Aside from one very minor error which I’ll send to the author soon, the tutorial not only is very complete, but gives detailed explanations on why things are done in certain ways. The tutorial also has a “Rails Flavored Ruby” chapter which is a great overview of Ruby, including it’s oddities, which is great for beginners. I’ve been doing Rails for about a year and going through the tutorial re-grounded me in the basics, gave me a flavor for how automated continuous testing with RSpec should be put together and was a great introduction to Rails 3.0.
The official RoR documentation says that it will be difficult to use Rails before learning Ruby. I have always disagreed with this, although you certainly won’t become a Rails ninja without Ruby proficiency. Michael apparently holds this view too and focuses on the aspects of Ruby that are used in Rails.
So, if you’re new to Rails, here’s what I recommend to ramp up:
- Go through the Ruby on Rails Tutorial in it’s entirety. I haven’t seen any of the accompanying screencasts, but the sample looks very good so check those out as well.
- Pick a project and build it, and rebuild it, over and over again in Rails until you get it right. Use Ryan Bate’s outstanding Railscasts to dig deeper into specific topics.
- Check out aRailsDemo to see how a Rails site was built by a developer relatively new to Rails.
- Go through some of the Teach Me to Code screencasts…the one on building a Twitter clone is great. It’s not as rehearsed as Railscasts which makes it a nice insight into day to day Rails development. There’s some good testing stuff there too.
- Do lots of coding…that’s the only way to learn.
The Ruby on Rails Tutorial book is available free on the web or you can buy it and all the screencasts on the site.
I’m, like most Rails developers, am guilty of bashing Windows as a development environment for Rails. Most Rails folks also aren’t proponents of big IDE’s, but in Windows those, or packages such as Instant Rails, are often the least painful ways to go because they take care of much of the environmental setup that needs to be done.
A while back I tried to get Aptana Studio to work and was unable to do so. I failed miserably as you can see. That frustration drove me back to my Mac’s loving embrace. Today I noticed that Aptana had released a beta of Aptana Studio 3, so I decided to give it a shot since I have a Windows machine at work and need Rails and a variety of other frameworks on it for my daily activities. Installation of Aptana went without a hitch. I fired it up, and was greeted with a pleasant looking, unix style terminal window! I was able to create an application with a simple New->Project->Rails (Aptana supports a ton of development languages and frameworks). My only hitch was the installation of sqlite3 on Windows (always a pain in the rear). In the end, I wound up copying the *.exe, *.dll and *.def files into EVERY bin directory for installed Ruby versions. Apparently having the Windows path pointing to it isn’t enough.
But I digress, once the sqlite3 installation was working, I returned to Aptana. I was able to install gems through bundler or the command line with no problem. Aptana provides menu options for all of the common Rails commands (script generate, etc.) but I find those slower than the command line if you know what you’re doing. Still, it’s nice to see all the options there in case you forget.
I added a few models with scaffolding to my new app and everything worked beautifully.
The Aptana Studio 3 beta looks awesome so far. If you’re trapped on Windows it looks like a great solution and compared to some other IDE’s (I’m looking at you Eclipse and Netbeans), Aptana studio is fast, intuitive and easy to use. Here’s the intro video for Aptana Studio 3…definitely check it out.
I heard about this on Ruby5 and checked it out. I cut my teeth in the day where your web app started with very tedious and boring data modeling, ER diagrams, etc. I’ve been deep into modeling for a new Rails app and have lost track of what’s going on with the database. I gave this little Sinatra app Alan deLevie posted on his blog and it does a nice job…check it out here: http://www.alandelevie.com/2010/10/26/database-documentation-in-50-lines-of-sinatra/
We submitted an article to Rails Magazine recently which was published in Issue 7. It’s the first of a tutorial on Hobo. I had been exploring Hobo and posted on it here in the distant past. I also posted here on how easy it was to deploy on Heroku. Hobo is an application development framework on top of rails. It’s half framework, half starter-app and worth a look.
Big news…the Diaspora “Anti-Facebook” project released their first code drop yesterday. The item of interest here is that it was built on the Rails stack. According to the Diaspora blog, it’s made up of a variety of interesting pieces, including Ruby, Rails, MongoDB, and…sadly…Imagemagick. Not sure it will succeed but I plan on taking it apart and seeing how it’s been implemented.
There’s yet another source of some good information for Ruby on Rails developers. Rails Magazine offers a full magazine publication available free for download at http://railsmagazine.com/. They’re up to issue 6 and have some interesting articles including interviews with DHH and Matz. It may not be as real-time as the numerous Rails blogs, but it goes a lot deeper in most cases.
I learn things, particularly programming, almost entirely by example and digging through other people’s code. I stumbled upon this site looking for some examples and had a look. Michael Hartl has two complete books (one for Rails 2.3, the other for Rails 3.0) on learning Rails by example. I had a quick look, but it seems he’s covered all the bases including adding navigation and structure to your site. It looks like he’s planning to put up some other content as well, such as screencasts, etc. so I’m looking forward to seeing more.
The books are available online for free and for $39 you can get the PDF. I hear a print version is on it’s way too. Check it out.
Check out DHH’s post on Rails 3 going RC! Big news, but is anyone else worried about the refactoring necessary for “…making sure we get performance of Active Record back to at least 2.3 levels before release…”? Is it really a release candidate if you’re planning semi-major changes? I think some better configuration management hygiene is in order.