April 8, 2013

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Article

Speakerfy Makes Music Social Again

Devin Felix

April 8, 2013

For most of history, music has been a social experience, but in the past few years earbuds and iPods became ubiquitous, and for many people music became something to enjoy in private.

But now a startup company based in Provo has created a mobile app that makes music social again but lets people keep their earbuds. Speakerfy is a mobile app that lets users listen to the same audio simultaneously on different mobile devices, and in its short life it has already earned the attention and acclaim of some big names, including one of the NBA’s biggest-ever stars.

Speakerfy is the first product offered by a Provo company called Optini, a family company that includes President John Wright and his son, Vice President Brady Wright. It uses a platform developed by Intel, which syncs the audio of smart phones or other devices that are connected to the same wifi network. Only one of the synced devices needs to have the song on file, and the others can stream it.

The Wrights went to the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas last month to promote Speakerfy. They were one of hundreds of products, presenters, performers and artists who would be vying for the public’s attention, and they planned to lay low, gauge the public’s reaction to their app and use what they learned to help them plan what they’d like to do next.

They were surprised to find that lots of people were interested in their product, John Wright said. Most notable was Shaquille O’Neal, the 15-time NBA All-Star, TV basketball commentator and former rapper and movie star. O’Neal was at the conference holding a “Pitch Shaq” competition, in which developers would pitch their ideas and he would select his two favorites to promote and help develop. He visited the Speakerfy booth, where the Wrights demonstrated the app’s capabilities by playing one of O’Neal’s rap albums on multiple devices at once. He was impressed with the app and eventually selected it as one of the two winners.     

SXSW attendees provided a lot of ideas for potential uses for Speakerfy, John Wright said. Among them:

  • “Silent discos,” in which multiple people can listen to the same music in a public place, and maybe dance at least a little, without disturbing others.
  • Use in classrooms or lecture hall settings to allow students to access audio.
  • Exercise. Workout partners can listen to the same music while lifting weights or running on the treadmill.  

Because South by Southwest is also a music festival, many musicians also stopped by the Speakerfy booth. Most were excited about the opportunities the app could provide for letting their fans experience their music socially in a new way.

“This really resonates with my generation,” said Brady Wright, a 24-year-old college student. “They want to get back to being social, and music’s a great way to be social.”

The app is currently available on Apple devices, and will be available on Android devices soon. Within just a few days of the festival ending, Speakerfy had been downloaded about 1,000 times, John Wright said. Those downloads all happened despite the fact that the company hadn’t done any advertising other than its booth at SXSW. An ad-supported version of the app is currently available for free, and an ad-free version is available for $1.

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