Once upon a time, there were some interesting startups whose business was based mainly on curated playlists. One of them, Tunigo, was bought by Spotify, and was an important driver for that company’s move into playlisting. Another of them, Songza, was bought by Google, and had an impact within that company’s music services too. But in 2019, is there mileage in a playlists-focused startup, when the big streaming services already do so much around this area? US startup Earbuds hopes so: it’s focusing on signing up sports stars, artists and other celebrities to share their playlists for fans to stream, with social elements (like listening to friends’ playlists) also in the mix.

“You have the power to share headphones with your closest friends, or today’s biggest stars,” as the blurb puts it. “Listen to music live with friends and celebrities. You can tune into your best friend’s study session or workout with your favourite athlete. Experience music together.”

Its founder is a former NFL player himself: Jason Fox, of the Detroit Lions, while Nelly is one of the musicians already signed up.

The company has raised just over $2.1m so far, and is seeking another $3m of funding according to TechCrunch.

The business model, as yet, is unclear: getting fans to pay seems a challenge, but perhaps there’s mileage in brand partnerships. That said, the ultimate challenge will be this: if there’s mileage in this idea, why wouldn’t Spotify, Apple Music and others build it themselves, in-house? Let’s see how Earbuds goes though: if it gets traction, it could make itself an appealing acquisition target for those companies, just like those original playlisting startups were…

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