Thong (Tum) Nguyen

Chief Technology Officer at Digital Distribution Networks (@mflow)

@tumtumtum is in a nutshell:

Today we have an exclusive interview with one of the brain trust of the new site mFlow. If you have not heard of this UK based site then let me fill you in. The site lets you listen to music without paying monthly subscription fees and without advertisements. The hope is you find a song you like, then buy in DRM free format.

The Social aspect of the site and what is a site with out social now a days. The way this site uses social is pretty straight forward and has more pow than Ping. You can share what you are listening to via mflow, Facebook, twitter and buzz.

The reward for this sharing and recommending is in the form of credits; 20% to be exact.  That is how much the person that recommended music to you gets if you buy what was recommended.  So basically you’re getting paid for your opinions.   If you are an artist you can also join the fun and have your music added to the flow so to speak by contacting Tony Byrne, Director of Music.

The Q & A

Can you give me a brief introduction – Name, Job Title, The time you’ve been with mflow?

My name is Thong (pronounced Tum) Nguyen.  I grew up in New Zealand and moved to London to help found mflow.  My job title is CTO and I’ve been with mflow since mid 2008.

What date did mFlow go beta?

We did an initial launch of our beta desktop application in April of 2010.  We decided to change direction and concentrate on social networking on the web.  We started development of the web product in August and launched the web beta at the start of December.

Where did the name mFlow (music flow come from?)

Was a name that popped into the head of one of the team.  In fact, the concept of flows came after the name!  The original idea we had been a P2P network where users earn credit for re-distributing music they legally own.

How long did it take to go from the original concept to going live?

About 14 months.  Naturally the ideas changed significantly over the course of this so  development changed in many directions.

What were some of the obstacles?

Music licensing was a huge obstacle as negotiations can take much, much longer than anyone would like.

Adjusting to the changing market we another difficulty.  When we started, music was not DRM free (being DRM free was one of our main USPs).  Streaming services were also very limited compared to what they are today so the competition was greater than we expected (though in hindsight it was obvious).

Was there anything that was easier than expected?

I think when you’re in a start-up, almost everything in harder than you expect!  Personally, I found pulling together a great development team in London in many ways easier than I had feared (even though it was obviously very tough work and required constant refining). My team is fantastic J

What partners are you working with in the music industry?

We obviously have licensing deals with most of the major labels as well as independent ones.  We’ve had partnerships with many others in the music industry including NME, Clash, Cut La Roc, Robbie Williams (ie music), Pop Justice and Radio One DJs like Zane Lowe.  The best partnerships tend to have been the partners that approach us and genuinely want to work with us to create a better product.

Are there any plans to launched stations specific tagets wheere the music would be curated by mFlow?

We have no shortage of ideas and this is one option we have considered.  We actually have some mflow specific users such as mflowalternative and mflowelectronica.

What sets your service apart from say Slaker, Pandora, and the like?

I think many of the online music streaming services are lots in common.  We started by concentrating on the social aspect of music and are meeting in the middle by providing streaming as a “background” to the socializing and recommendation experience.

We also have an integrated music store where we provide the music directly (rather than as an affiliate to other stores like iTunes) which I think is unique amongst streaming services (it provides us with a source of revenue not available to other services).  We still believe there is a large market for ownership of digital music but understand the advantages streaming can have for many people.  We want to encourage music sales via one-click buys direct from a flow/recommendation.  Many people are willing to pay for music if it’s fairly priced and very easy to do so – many will buy in the first few minutes of streaming the music.

Another thing we have is our 20% recommendation credits.  We want people to treat these as a “thank you” to the user who recommended the music they’ve bought.  We hope this will encourage more music recommendations and more legal music sales.

I believe that online music services are developing and innovating at a great rate thanks to the competition of ideas that exists.  Technology is fundamentally here to solve human problems and make existing solutions more efficient.  The existence of services like, Pandora, Spotify and mflow all contribute to create a better music industry that benefits artists and consumers alike.

What happened at 11:30AM EST. The system was giving an “HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.”

We were performing an update to support commenting on flows and for some reason you got a 503 instead of this:

I think we’ve fixed that problem 🙂

Do you have any plans to make a mobile app?

Yes definitely.  Mobile is a very important platform. In fact, we already have a prototype Android application.  I think the first stage of a mobile release will probably be a customised version of the website for mobile devices.

What’s next for mFlow?

More features, a more engaging product.  For example, we would like to product functionality to allow independent artists to use mflow to sell and promote their music.  We believe it will allow lots of garage bands to quickly become popular by recruiting their friends as sales people (recommenders) on mflow.

We want to be the best place on the Internet for listening, sharing, selling, buying, talking about and promoting music.  Obviously we’re under no illusions of the size of that goal but that’s what drives us to doing better J.  The other thing we’re very aware of is that the industry changes so fast that we could be doing something completely different in 2 years!

We at wanted to thank  and Mr. Thong Nguyen very much for you the interview.

I @Saintel would like to personally thank Mr. Thong Nguyen for taking the time to interview with us.

By Rubens Saintel

Proud father, #Haitian, photographer, consultant, writer & entrepreneur. I love video games, movies, plays, technology (surprise), beta testing apps and all things sci-fi. | |