Story posted April 23, 2012
Like other developers of social media sites, Alexi Robbins' goal is to connect people online. In his case, he wants to foster those ties through music, connecting friends, fans and artists around the music they make and the music they love.
Robbins '14 is close to launching a beta site for an online start-up he says will improve on other music sharing sites, including Pandora, Onesheet, Myspace and YouTube. He’s calling his site Tamber, tambermusic.com, partially because the word rolls pleasingly off the tongue and partially because it's the phonetic spelling of timbre.
“Timbre is a musical term that refers to the difference in tonal qualities between instruments and people’s voices,” Robbins explains. “Why I like the name Tamber is it sounds nice, it’s easy to remember and it’s about individual’s musical tastes, which can change. Your Tamber is different than my Tamber.”
Tamber is set up to create a personalized “perusal experience” that will lead users, based on their preferences, to new music suggestions, from Coldplay to “that garage band down the street,” Robbins says. By clicking on an artist’s page, users will also be able to check out musicians similar to that artist.
Every musician will have a page that he or she can design. For those musicians who don’t create a page, Tamber will automatically generate one that will include information such as concert dates and album reviews. The site will also enable fans to follow artists and receive updates on new songs, videos, tour dates or messages.
To help the musicians on Tamber earn money, Robbins says the site will feature a merchandise store, allowing fans to buy everything from MP3s to concert tickets and band paraphernalia. “My generation illegally downloads a lot of albums,” Robbins says. “If you want to support a musician, you can give them money by buying T-shirts, stickers, posters, vinyl records or CDs.”
Tamber will make money through its commissions on sales, Robbins explains.
Robbins is working with several other students, including Bowdoin student Mikala Cooper ‘14, as well as Geoffrey Lee from Harvard University and Evan Cohen from the University of Washington. Together they're working around their classes to code, build and launch Tamber. This summer, Robbins, Lee and Cohen will work in San Francisco in office space donated by a family friend. Robbins grew up in the Bay area, the son of two pediatricians.
To raise investment capital, Robbins says he’ll start by asking for promissory notes from friends and family. He chuckles a little after using the phrase “promissory note.” “This is one of the start-up words I’ve been discovering,” he says. Growing up, he “hated the idea of business. I grew up in Berkeley!” he adds, in way of explanation.
But these days, his thoughts about business have changed. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned [about running a start-up] is the idea that you can affect things and create something that changes the world around you,” he says. “Business is where the doing gets done. If you’re interested in progress, business is a good thing to get into.”