Jamil Bonnick Senior Designer / Developer

As for the language being spoken in this culture by young America today, I think that Mike Bentley had it right when he talked about the evolution of urban culture into a digital culture. - Steve Stoute

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Grando:
The Wave Maker

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Grando.

My Role

For this entrepreneurial venture, I led the research, user testing, wireframing, visual design, and prototyping. I worked closely with a single developer to bring the product from concept to fruition.

Process

Problem Discovery > Research > Personas > Userflows > Lo-Fi Sketches > Wireframes > High Fidelity > Prototyping > Usability Testing > Alpha & Beta Launch

Goal

Discover new rap artist and make it easier for them to get their music heard by connecting them with influencers in the rap/hip-hop space.

Challenge

It all started on some random Wednesday when my friend Naim and I were searching for new music on HotNewHipHop. For some reason unbeknownst to me, we decided to check out their “Heatseekers” section buried in the shadows below the fold of their website. We just so happened to run across an rapper by the name of Martin $ky. To our astonishment, this particular rap artist made some of the greatest music we’ve ever heard. We couldn’t believe how amazing his entire body of work was. He instantly earned a spot as one of our new favorite rappers. 

After this discovery, it became apparent to us that we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world’s most skilled rappers. We became obsessed with the idea of discovering new undiscovered rap artist and making it easier for them to get their music heard.

Problem Discovery

We attended events in the city where we could go and talk to rappers to better understand their points of view. Throughout our many conversations we discovered things like:

  1. A

    Many rappers felt like they were better than the artist they hear on the radio

  2. B

    They found it difficult to market outside of their circles of influence

  3. C

    They felt that they were surrounded by too many “yes-men”

  4. D

    They felt like they were one major push away from success

We also spent countless days scouring through sites like Soundcloud and Youtube in search of anyone remotely as good as Martin $ky. From time to time we found songs that were actually good but the vast majority of music we came across was garbage. The manual search for new dope music was tedious and migraine-inducing. We knew there had to be a better way.

This led to us researching influencers who were known for their great taste in rap music. Many of them already had a steady stream of Soundcloud links from rappers being posted in their comments and DMs. We felt that they would be much more qualified than us when it came to discovering new dope rap music.



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Invitation by Martin $ky
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Personas

First we wanted to designate our target audience. We began to personify and differentiate between our core customer types. Based on our research, we identified and developed our three primary customer types:



  • Type 1: Artist

    Reggie, is an upcoming Rap Artist from Atlanta that has been rapping for over 3 years. He has invested thousands into his career but really hasn't been getting the recognition he feels he deserves for his skill level, especially in comparison to the artist on the radio. He posts his music on forums and send tracks to influencers on social media but rarely gets a response.



  • Type 2: Curator

    Gary is a hiphop music enthusiast from New York City. He has a large social media following, and is known for his dedication to rap culture and interest in exposing underrated talents. Gary regularly gets requested feedback from artists who want him to listen and review his music. Due to lack of incentive, he rarely follows through with each request. Overall, Gary is enthusiastic about rap music and is actively in search of creative ways to expand his brand and monetize his platform’s focus on sharing good music with his following.



  • Type 3: Listener

    Brandon loves rap music but has grown tired of how the same mainstream music from the same mainstream artists are distributed repetitively over the radio. He doesn’t understand why rap music has been so limited, when he personally knows several competitive rap artists. He uses social media to search for undiscovered new artists, but wishes he had something that could make the search easier. He finds that platforms like Soundcloud are over-saturated with subpar music.



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Initial Sketches

We challenged ourselves to design a music submission platform where rappers could pay reputable industry experts, influencers, and DJ's to listen to, review, and share the rapper's music with their followers. This helps the rap artist ensure that they get their music in front the right people that can provide proper critique and exposure. 

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Alpha Phase

After brainstorming and consulting back-and-forth with our rap industry connections, we came up with a way to test if rappers would pay curators for feedback. We wanted to make this test extremely agile so we decided to approach this sprint like a 24 hour hackathon.

We successfully onboarded our first curator, MyRappersReallyRap (MRRR). MRRR is an Instagram influencer from New York that discusses rap music with his 12K+ followers. With him aboard, we were able to create a basic website that allowed rap artist to pay MRRR to listen to and review their music.

The process from discovery to aquisition goes as follows:

  1. 1

    Step 1: MRRR posts a Grando branded graphic which let's his followers know that he is now taking music submissions

  2. 2

    Step 2: An interested rap artist see's the post and clicks on the link which takes them to MRRR's Grando profile page

  3. 3

    Step 3: The rapper purchases an option (ex. Listen + Review + Post) then pastes in his song's Soundcloud link

  4. 4

    Step 4: Once payment is received from the artist we dispatch that artist's information and song URL to MRRR

  5. 5

    Step 5: MRRR has 48 hrs to review, rate, and post the rapper's song on his IG for his followers to see

  6. 6

    Step 6: Once completed, we send MRRR's rating and review, back to the rap artist for them to see their results


The experiment lasted for 2 weeks, MRRR received over 20 submissions and made close to $1000.

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Grando Social Post
24 hr Sprint Results
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Grando landing page


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MRRR's Grando profile page


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Different options for rappers to choose from


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Submission Purchase Page


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Our analytics right after launch


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Some of MRRR's feedback to a song submission


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MRRR's IG Profile


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MRRR's Grando post on IG


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Some reactions from MRRR's Grando post on IG


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Beta Phase

In this phase we’re looking bring on up to 5 curators. We'll need to build off our findings from the previous round and deliver something much more polished for the beta stage. Some of the biggest issues we faced in the alpha stage include:

  1. A

    Majority of the music submitted to us was still far below the standards that we set for the platform

  2. B

    We could tell the curator was lowering his standards potentially because of the guilt or just wanting the money

  3. C

    Grando posts were not getting as much attention as curators other posts

  4. D

    We need to decide if we address music that is sent by people who aren’t the artist?

  5. E

    We need to decide what happens if a curator finds a dope artist that wasn’t submitted to them?

  6. F

    Our previous pricing structure didn't allow for MRRR to not post the song if he disliked it

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Conclusion

Moving forward, some things we would like to try out are:

  1. 1

    Video reviews which could potentially give more value and authenticity to the review vs a text review via email

  2. 2

    We want to introduce the notion of rap sub-genres, which could allow artist to get a better understanding of a curator's music-taste

  3. 3

    We’d like to create opportunities for the fans to donate money directly to the artist

  4. 4

    A more simplified payment structure that gives the curator the ability to still receive compensation even if they don't like the song



A lot of rap artists feel like they're one major push away from success and we want to give them the opportunity to validate those assumptions. If it’s true and they are actually good there should be an mechanism in place for them to get their music to the listeners who are most likely to enjoy it.

Jamil Bonnick Senior Designer / Developer
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Thank you for viewing!

Infinite blessings to you and everyone you love!