This LA Times profile on Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of meditation app Calm, is interesting on his career path – covering Moshi Monsters and explaining how he, as a Brit, established himself in California and helped create a company with a $1bn valuation.
There is plenty about culture clashes and square pegs in round holes, but where it gets interesting for Music Ally is where he starts talking about the musicians Calm has worked with recently and the symbiosis that can happen here. Moby, Sigur Rós and Sam Smith are among the artists who have used the app as part of their marketing and as a way to reach whole new audiences. Acton Smith also reveals that Keith Urban will be doing something with Calm next year.
And there is the small matter of it delivering 135m music streams – which might not seem a huge amount in the grand scheme of things but, given the nature of consumption on a meditation app, gets the kind of cut-through in user focus that seems next to impossible on a Spotify or an Apple Music.
“The music industry feels like it’s sort of [at] a really interesting point,” he says. “It’s a great time to come to artists with creative ideas.” What is also interesting is that the type of music one might associate with a meditation app – slow, soft, tranquil – is not where his company is going to pigeonhole itself. Country (with Keith Urban) is already on its way, but metal and hip-hop could soon be part and parcel of the app. They could also start to create tracks that run for hours instead of just licensing in existing three-minute songs. On the one hand, TikTok is attempting to cut songs down to brief hooks but the more reasoned response – the, if you will, calmer response – could turn all that on its head (or put it in a downward-facing dog).