Economics of a Self-Published Pay What You Want eBook - A Philosophical Study

Last year, I self-published an ebook on the lessons I learnt while running a startup. There were two main motives in writing that book:

  • I wanted to record the lessons I learnt for posterity
  • I hoped to help people learn from my success and failures

I chose to self-publish the book because I enjoy the idea of independence and self-sufficiency. It helped me develop skills like working on a big project under a self-imposed deadline. I also used my freshly learnt designing skills to create the book cover. Overall, it was a great personal growth experience.

The book's minimum price was set as 0, but you could choose to Pay What You Want (PWYW). Money was never my primary concern and I believed that keeping it PWYW would make it accessible to more people. 

Below you'll find some interesting data from the sales and the key insights I derive from them. Please note that my book was available on Amazon Kindle Store as well at a fixed price of INR 190. The numbers below do not take that into account.

1. Overall Sales

  • Total Downloads - 269 (INR 8413)
  • Paid - 34, Free - 235
  • Avg. Sale Value (paid only) - INR 247
  • Avg. Sale Value (all) - INR 31

Key Insights

  • 13% of the people who downloaded the book, chose to pay for it. If we are to go by The Pareto Principle (20-80 rule), this is to be expected. Although, it could be argued that in creative industries, the ratio of people who pay is much lesser.
  • The avg. sale value (paid only) is quite high. If I were to set a fixed price for the book, I would have set it much lower.

2. Downloads as a function of time

Click on the image to view an enlarged version

Key Insights

  • The two public announcements drove the most amount of paid sales
  • Free Downloads were a constant occurrence (probably driven by word of mouth and randomness)
  • Most downloads happened in a burst together. These could be attributed to the promotional activities I undertook - like publishing a sample chapter in a digital magazine
  • Pre-Orders accounted for only 18% of total downloads but 44% of the total revenue

3. Frequency of Sale Values


Key Insights

  • Minimum and Maximum amounts paid - INR 10 and INR 1001
  • Most common amount paid - INR 100
  • Interesting amounts - INR 101, 501, 1001 (I guess people chose this amount thinking that they are paying for a good cause)

What would be THE optimum price to MAXIMIZE revenue?

If I were to go back in the past, and instead of giving it away for PWYW, I wanted to assign a price to it, what should that number have been to maximise profit?

I'll save you the number crunching, this is what I derived from the data:

  • Best Price - INR 200
  • 2nd Best Price (if I go higher) - INR 300
  • 2nd Best Price (if I go lower) - INR 99

And of course, I'd make less money in either of these cases than what I did with PWYW. The assumption carried here is that anyone who is buying for say INR x, would also buy the book for INR x-y, where both x and y are positive numbers.

Philosophical MUSINGS ON PWYW

There used to be a hep cafe near where I lived. Although, in all honesty, it was less of a cafe and more of a place where people came to hang out, meet new people and discuss ideas. Among its regulars, it was the hub of cultural activities - poetry jam sessions, movie nights, book readings, gay pride events. It didn't serve much food - Tea and maybe some Momos.

There was no specified price to the items you bought. You could pay whatever you wanted. The cafe was surviving solely on the generosity of its patrons. Sadly, it shut down. It needed to raise a certain amount of money to pay the annual rent, but it could not.

The point of this story is that PWYW is a romantic idea which should work perfectly in an ideal world where we pay for a certain experience in proportion to the amount of value we stand to gain from it. 

An Ideal Transaction: Amount we are ready to pay for an experience/commodity ∝ Value we gain from it

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. We often pay more for a disproportionately low value experience and become miserly for high value products. But, why do we do this when clearly it's a suboptimal strategy to live a high quality life? 

The answer I believe is our unconscious biases:

1. Overvaluing a tangible commodity for its superficial nature - Think expensive clothing, eating out at that new fancy restaurant, or the shiny new gadget. I do not mean to discount the immediate value of any of those things. Nor do I mean to suggest that we buy only cheap stuff. Heck, I love a nice fancy meal once in a while myself. But, like on a hedonic treadmill, the more we engage in them, the lesser pleasure we derive each time. So having coffee in a good cafe once a fortnight gives more value than a daily visit.

Furthermore, the value given by products of this nature is often fleeting. Often, our perceived expected value of the experience is less than the actual value. (Example: The movie 'Deadpool'. I am going to go out on a limb and say that I derived more pleasure from the expectation of the awesomeness of the movie than the final product itself). 

Expected Value (EV) > Actual Value (AV) 

This is in part due to the subtle FOMO (fear of missing out) induced by peer pressure we face when everyone around is talking about it. The perceived value automatically becomes much higher than the AV.


2. Undervaluing an intangible benefit/experience - Think a good book, a music album which you'd play over and over again, software, a functional yet expensive piece of household accessory that is going to make your life exponentially better (an ergonomic chair, a standing desk, etc.) We forget that, in the long run, the value we get from these things is so much more than the cost we put into it. The over and over usage of their functionalities pays itself off and then some. In these cases:


I speculate that the reason we harbor biases against paying for such cases could be due to our latent (or in some cases, pronounced) desire to feel validated for our choices. We don't get that validation from buying an original copy of a software or a better chair for our back or buying an album. No one commends an item for its functional superiority, it is quite often the decorative qualities that attract attention. In fact, you could even be ridiculed for overspending or paying for something that could be pirated for free. But, if we recognize that this particular item is going to inspire us to be a better version of ourselves, the issue of cost would become much smaller.

Secondly, maybe the constant desire of novelty via external stimuli causes us to spend our budgets on EV>AV cases. So, we still torrent stuff which we could have acquired in an overarching package (e.g. at Netflix, Apple Music, Kindle Unlimited), costing less than one decent meal in a restaurant. But, we fail to understand that this is an insatiable desire - there will always be a new pub to try.

Coming back to PWYW, there are some positives of the concept. The freedom to choose how much you think something is worth makes your product accessible to so many more people. Think all those bands whose music we pirated and would now happily pay for one of their concerts. The question then becomes, how to make a living out of it.

With PWYW, there are always 3 categories of people:

  • Free loaders / hoarders - It is a gross generalization on my part, but most of these folks who don't pay are much less likely to actually consume your art. At my last company, Musicfellas, there were customers who downloaded only the albums which were PWYW for 0 bucks. I seriously doubt if any of them ever got played.
  • The Nice Guys - They are driven by a righteous sense of how an interaction with an artist in the modern world should look like. They pay an average amount and feel content with supporting the artists. You could expect them to listen/read/watch your work with a decent level of interest.
  • The 1000 True Fans - Below is a quote straight from the article linked here. These are the people who will be the highest payers and your most generous patrons. They will write back to you giving detailed, insightful feedback on your work.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

So, the answer to making a living out of PWYW format could be to build and engage with this community of 1000 true fans. I would love to hear success stories around you which hold true to this rule.

Philosophical musings on Self-Publishing

The numbers for my book, as you can see, aren't great. Even though people liked the book, the number of people to whom it has reached is quite less. I could ascertain a few possible reasons:

  1. My book was crappy
  2. My marketing strategy was crappy
  3. Both of the above
  4. Both the book and marketing strategy were average
  5. This is the nature of self-publishing

I am confident enough to discount #1 and thus #3. There was praise from my friends and strangers alike. But, that is not what convinced me. There were two instances which gave me confidence in my work. Both times, after a few rounds of drinks, a friend grabbed my kindle to check out the book, and they put it down only after finishing it.

I am pretty sure #2 was the major reason. Although I don't completely discount #4. The major motivation behind writing the book was to push myself to complete a big project. Promoting it wasn't much of a priority. I did do something about it but it was executed half assedly. 

On #5, this is a reality but with a caveat. Most of the success stories of today who have made self-publishing work for themselves have one thing in common. They all ventured into independence and self-publishing with already having their 1000 true fans(think Nine Inch Nails, Amanda Palmer). This is not to say that artists with virgin fan bases do not exist. But, intuitively, I would say they are a minority among the self-publishing success stories. I would love to be proven wrong, so hit me up with examples.

This is a genuine problem with self-publishing a piece of art. I saw this happening with our artists at Musicfellas and now first hand myself. Some of those musicians had really good music but just couldn’t let many people know about them. A possible way could be to, if possible, launch yourself with a major publishing house/art gallery/music label etc. In this vast mass of new content everyday, it has become a monstrous task to get yourself known - more so because artists cringe at the thought of self promotion. The seasoned biggies can take the burden of promotion off of your shoulders. And later, if you crave for independence, you could break away after a hit under your belt and take your fans with you.

End Notes

If you ask me whether I would choose self publishing again, I would probably say that not this time but maybe the next. Where PWYW is concerned, I haven't lost faith in that. As a consumer, I support creators on Kickstarter and Patreon where they allow me to choose my contribution amount. Not only do I get a high quality product, I also feel good about myself having made a small change in a creator's life - a win-win for both parties. I would highly recommend you to try it.

When I was read the final version of this post, I felt that it could come across as self-righteous to some. If that's the case, I assure you it was not my intention. It's just that this topic excites me a lot and I sometimes overdo myself. In any case, I would love to hear what you have to say on this. Leave a comment below or drop me an email at mj {at}

Enjoyed the post? Please consider sharing. And if you are not on the mailing list yet, leave your email address on the right. Mails go out at most once a fortnight.


Further Reading

  1. A Primer on Minimalism
  2. What Makes Us a Pirate
  3. The Art of Showing Your Creativity

Restart - Lessons from one startup for another

One year of writing and 2 and half years of living before that culminates into this post, as I press the launch button for my first book.

Restart - Lessons from one startup for another, an ebook, is out now. 

Available on Instamojo (Pay What You Want)
Amazon Kindle ($1.99)

I love books. As a kid, I spent most of my time at home either playing video games or reading books. Without a computer, books were my way of learning about the world around me. Early on, most of what I read were quiz books bought for 5 bucks from vendors on train journeys. It graduated to volumes of Children's Knowledge Bank which my Dad bought for me from railway platform book stalls. From my school library, I picked Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, Aesop's Fables and similar other short stories. Gradually, it came to reading Sherlock Holmes and George Orwell. And I have never looked back since. 

People say that once you read a lot, it becomes easier to write. I guess it is fairly true. Although, I would also say that once you start writing, it becomes easier to read. Now, when I read something, I notice patterns, usage of words and style of language which I would have otherwise overlooked. I place myself in the author's seat and think how she would have thought of this word or that. It is a more absorbed and engaging experience.

The first memory I have of writing is as a small kid when I started maintaining a dairy. As I grew up, I made poems as a leisure activity. In school, I wrote essays and participated in debates which I drafted on my own.

After all those years, Restart is my first book. In recent past, I have written haikus, poems, articles of all lengths and even some fiction. And, finishing up a whole book is one of my proudest achievements. 

But, this book is not literature. It is not a story in the regular sense of the word. There are no fancy phrases to describe a setting and no elaborate character descriptions. Instead, there is a simple, boiled down narrative of what happened at Musicfellas and what I learnt out of it. 
If you like my writing style, I'd be happy. But, it's going to change significantly as I write more fiction or even non-fiction and I hope to keep your interest alive. If you don't like it, well, it's going to change anyways. So, stick around.

The book is priced as Pay What You Want. This was a payment mode we had at Musicfellas and we were pleasantly surprised not just by the transactions but by the generosity of people as well. Thus, I am happy to use it here.

stats from Pre-Order of the book to help you decide how much to pay:

Average Price (Including the free downloads): Rs. 95
Average Price (Excluding the free downloads): Rs. 273

I hope you read the book. It is a short, crisp read (according to others). If you enjoy it, please consider sharing it with your friends, enemies, loved ones, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends and anyone else you think might find it useful. 

Please consider reviewing the book on Amazon: (Link to be updated)

This labor of love is the first book in what I hope to be many to come. Thank you for being a part of this. I hope you enjoy it. 

First drafts are always crappy

Recently, some of my friends were fretting about the brand new redesign of their website. They were comparing it to Musicfellas and thought that theirs wasn’t good (which in opinion was actually way too good for the first version). It caused them grief and a little sadness. They were anxious. What they had forgotten was that they were comparing something which was a result of over 6 months of painstakingly discussing and sometimes even fighting over the minutest of details with something which was put out in a few days.

It’s not just them. I had been procrastinating on writing a short article for a friend’s blog for quite some time myself. I had a fear of imperfection. I didn’t realise one key point - first drafts are always crappy.

Things improve over time:

We don’t see how many pages a writer has torn apart to produce that great novel.

We don’t see the many erroneous brush strokes behind that final masterpiece.

We don’t see the multiple wrong notes before that final perfect one which makes a genius piece of music.

We don’t see the many changes in the color, size or placement of a button on a website before the final version.

And this can be overwhelming, depressing and a lot of times demotivating.  

Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder, once famously said: “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success." Overnight success stories and get famous/rich/better quick is what we want. But, we forget that the people who seem be able to do that, have achieved it over a period of time. 

At Musicfellas, we didn’t get great (that’s what people have said) at design from the day one. Our first versions were almost embarrassing. It took us time, patience and constant perseverance to achieve what we did.

So, if you feel like you are creating less than awesome stuff to start with, realise that it is natural. You are already way ahead of so many people who haven’t even started something. You are in the top 1% of creators (completely made up stat). For you to achieve perfection, it is completely OK to take time.

Be aware that beautiful things, and the best ones at that, emerge incrementally.

Added bonus: Have a look at some of the earliest versions of the most popular websites in the world and see how they have evolved and gotten better with time: Wayback Machine.

Did you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week. 
Appreciate your time. Thanks!

How an acquisition feels like

The story of your life is covered in the many books that stand upon the bookshelf of a beautiful young woman. She has read some, some she wants to but hasn’t found the right moment to. And then there are some which are still to come to her but she doesn’t know it yet.

She has read many books in her life, mostly the classics or the popular ones which everyone should read, as she has been told. And she enjoyed them but nothing touched her, nothing called out to her soul. Maybe it was because they’ve been read and recommended by everyone around her. The novelty in those novels is lost on her. 

Then one mysterious night, when the creatures of the dark come out, she finds a book which she finds calls out to her. It is a rare one which she hasn’t seen too many people reading. She doesn’t know how this is going to turn out because she hasn’t heard too many of her friends telling her how it goes. It is one which she knows a little about but she couldn’t help but open and start reading it, one page at a time.

She takes her time to read through every single page. Every single page is a different story. It feels to her as if each page was written just for her. That if there was any life she wanted to live, that story would be it. And it happens again and again, at every single page, every sentence, even every word. Every grammatical error adds to the beauty of the book. Every misprint feels like it was meant to be that way. 

The books goes on and she finds herself engrossed in it. Detached from her world which she thought she belonged to until then and attached to the new one she has discovered, but always longed for, in the book. She feels different emotions - love, surprise, disgust, delight.  

And then it ends.

When the book ends, she reminisces about how the book was. She, like most other people, has a bias of remembering only good things about the past and even the bad bits with a fondness. She has forgotten the agony of some really painful chapters in the book. There is only the lingering on sensation of a story well told.

She doesn’t know what comes next. She wonders if anything she picks up again is going to be as beautiful, as amazing. She doesn’t know yet. 

She has too many options from which to pick the next one up.

Reaching the end feels like an accomplishment. There is a sense of closure. She wants to tell her friends how the book was because she loved it so much. But, she’s not sure about it because not a lot of her friends would connect to it, atleast she feels that way.

There is a sense of ending to it. A relief comes over her which engulfs her almost ready to perish her. Fulfillment. Satisfaction. Completeness. 

That’s how I feel. Reference

As a sidenote: What if, the story was about you. How would you like it to be? If you could watch your whole life unfold from a distance afar, would you prefer it to end quickly so that you could find out what happens at the end or would you prefer to savor each and every moment slowly in the constant fear that the story might end too soon.

Did you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week. 
Appreciate your time. Thanks!

Discouragement for future entrepreneurs

For those of you who are thinking of starting up your own company, know one thing — startups are incredibly difficult. Entrepreneurship is not exactly as romantic as it looks from the outside. Here are some of the things I have learnt from experiences of my own and of my entrepreneur friends.

1. Building a startup is a lot of hard work, much more than you would have ever imagined.

2. Your friends will get tired of asking you to come hang out with them and getting a ‘no’ all the time. Your ‘social’ circle will consist mostly of entrepreneurs.

3. Your conversations would revolve mostly around startups. Anything else would seem trivial to you. This will irritate you and your non-entrepreneur friends.

4. There’ll be times when you will feel lonely and disheartened. There’ll be days when it would get difficult for you to get out of bed. Here’s a great interview with AirBnB founder on this.

5. Your relationships with your loved ones will suffer. You will find much less time and put in much less effort to make them feel special.

6. Your parents won’t understand what you do. And when they ask you how much money you make or how much you save, you wouldn’t know what or how to answer it.

7. You will become very ambitious but you will get rejected over and over again.

8. After a point of time, your account balance will be low perennially.

9. Every press that your competitor gets will make you feel as if someone punched you in the stomach.

10. There’ll be doubters — a lot of them, even your friends, family and your loved ones.

11. At some point, the realities of life, like marriage, sickness, emergencies will come up and you will have to deal with it.

12. Your health and general fitness will deteriorate. You will stop taking care of yourself. You will eat shit food.

13. Those who believe in you will expect the world from you and when you fail, it is going to hurt.

14. You would wonder where the next month’s rent is going to come from. You will have to borrow money from friends and family.

15. You will go to a lot of meetings which you’d be excited about but they’d eventually come to nothing.

16. Your lifestyle will change - there’ll be much lesser drinking out or travelling out of station. Going out to watch movies would be a rare event.

17. You will spend your weekends at work.

18. You won’t get good sleep. Sometimes, you will lie awake in bed, thinking of all the stuff you have to do. One of my friends actually speaks Android code in his sleep.

19. There will be disputes between you and your co-founders, sometimes ugly ones.

I don’t want to tone down this post by saying that it is easy to handle these problems because these are very real things that might happen to you, so be prepared. This is not to discourage anyone but to warn people who are getting into it because they have a romantic notion of entrepreneurship in their head and are unaware of the challenges that come up.

Get into it only if you enjoy solving the problem you’ve taken up. Don’t do it unless you enjoy the whole drill, the extremes of emotions, the roller-coaster journey. Do it because you’d rather not do anything else.

I do it because this is what puts my heart at rest.

Additional reading:

The blood, sweat and tears of living the startup life

Romantic lies about passion and entrepreneurship

How we found our designer

And almost did not hire her:

One of my mentors once told me: “Good design is no longer a USP for internet products. It is table stakes”. We’ve believed in this all along and have wanted to build the best possible experience at Musicfellas. A major role in that has been of our designer, Sneha Patel. This is the story of how we found our designer and almost did not hire her.

It was a Saturday, the day of the monthly Startup Saturday meet. As a newly turned entrepreneur, I thought it would be wise to meet some of the people from the startup community. So, I went for what would be my first and only SS meet.

But before that, let’s turn the clock back a few hours: In the morning, I get a call from a newly opened Dentist chain called MyDentist. They offer me a free consultation. I decide to go because it happens to be close to the venue of the SS event as well. 

Back to the SS. I got late at the dentist’s and thus reached the event a little late. Sweating and panting, I signed up and paid the fees. Suddenly, someone asked for people who were going to make a presentation about their startups. I had no idea why, but I raised my hand.

The presentations began, and they were full blown powerpoint presentations. And I obviously didn’t have one. I just didn’t know that you were supposed to actually bring a proper presentation. So, I decided to just swing it.


I tore up two pieces of paper and wrote MUSICFELLAS across them. Holding it up in front of the audience, I spoke. I spoke about music. I spoke about the independent artists industry. And I spoke about design. I must have spoken a lot about design because at tea break, a girl I just said hello to said she was looking for me. I had no idea why. So, we just spoke a little bit about what we do, exchanged cards and bid goodbye. I did tell her that we were looking for a designer and she happened to be one. She was a self taught designer, who had just recently started out on her own and we would have probably been one of her first few clients.

A few days later, I got an email from her saying she would like to discuss where we left off. I checked her portfolio and honestly, I wasn’t impressed with the website designs she had done. What we were looking for at the time was a website designer but her expertise seemed to be in identity design, which by the way was pretty damn good. So, I told her so. And, that was that. 

A few days later I got an email from her with an attachment — Musicfellas — website design. And I was completely blown away. 

Musicfellas - Original website proposal

The rest, as they say is history.

Key Takeaway: Never discount first timers. Never take things at their face value. And most importantly, talk about your startup. And I mean really talk, communicate. Let your passion reach out and touch others. Because the best people see a good fit when they see one. You are the biggest evangelist of your startup, behave like one.

Oh and why the dentist story, later I got to know, that our designer was also the identity designer for my Dentist chain. Happy coincidences.

The gates have opened - redBus acquired by Naspers

redBus acquisition by Naspers group feels almost like my own. It is so heartening to see a big success story come out of India.

It is a great milestone for the Indian startup ecosystem. Complaints about the lack of exits here both from entrepreneurs (that includes some of us) and investors are pretty common. We need more optimism in our system and this is just the perfect dose.

Congratulations redBus team and Thank You for opening the gates. To my fellow entrepreneurs, let’s roll! 

On Flyte Shutdown

This article was originally published as a guest post on YourStory

India’s biggest e-commerce player, Flipkart shutdown its digital music store Flyte. This comes as a surprise to me given the fact that Flipkart had invested so much in building it. They bought a company navigating a can of worms, built the technology, made licensing deals with the labels which can take ages to close and of course built a whole team to do that. Then why did this happen? 

As a digital music entrepreneur, here are my thoughts on this:

1. iTunes: This could be the single biggest reason on why Flyte didn’t work out. A lot of people I know preferred iTunes over Flyte, I do too. The ease of buying and having it downloaded automatically into your Apple devices is one of the biggest reason to do this. This convenience even overrides the lower costs that Flipkart had for some albums.

2. High content acquisition cost: The record label-online store partnerships work in a way where the store has to pay a minimum setup/guarantee fees at the beginning which could be in the tunes of crores depending upon the catalogue size. This is to hedge the label’s risk in case the store shuts down (like Flyte). After the minimum fees is recovered, revenue share on the sales begin. So, even if the store makes huge revenue, it might end up paying most of it to the labels.

3. Few paying users: India is among the countries which pirate the most and it is not without reason. There are just not enough people buying music here. The funny thing is that a lot of people who are just getting into the music scene don’t even know the concept of buying music. They think that torrents is a genuine way of doing it. That is tough to change. 

4. Changing patterns for paying music: World over, people are increasingly paying for access to music rather than for its ownership. Spotify, Rdio, Pandora give the users access to a huge library on the fingertips without giving them the ownership of the content. And users have responded fairly well to that. Thus, digital downloads are also probably going to become lesser as the cost of music access comes down.

What this means for the digital music scene in India:

From our experiments in the Indian market with Musicfellas, we’ve learnt that, there are just not enough paying users to make it a big sustainable business. Sure, you can probably make it a decent lifestyle business. But, that’s not what Flipkat would want, right? They would probably want to focus their efforts in some other directions instead - would say it was a commendable move. To build a big business solely on digital downloads in India is super difficult. At Musicfellas, we entered the business thinking of India as a test market and with plans to expand into international markets. Our assumptions that there are just not enough paying users was kind of validated.

Sure, there are some among us who would disagree with me and tell me that they pay so much for music. I know, I am one of you. But, there are very few of us - few enough to not make good business sense. 

What I see as the future:

The future of digital music according to me is going to be more and more about being able to listen to any song whenever you want at the exact moment. Not 5 minutes later after you download it but right when your heart desires it. So, models like Spotify, Rdio or in India - Gaana, Saavn and Dhingana are probably the way forward. But, then again, these services have to be careful as to what happens to them once Spotify comes to India (which should be sooner rather than later, given its entry into Asian markets via Singapore). Because honestly, these services are not even half as good as Spotify when it comes to the product. 

As to what happens to services like us - we will continue serving niche yet large enough markets of independent content. We are not Gaana’s/Spotify’s competitor but are complementary to them. We are not fighting for the same listening time - we want to help you discover new independent music (which you probably don’t find on these services). We operate at lower content acquisition costs (since we don’t work with the major labels). And, our users are passionate music fans, usually willing to pay for the music they love. We will always find space in that hipster heart of yours wanting to find good new music and break the usual clutter of overplayed commercialised music. 

We are rolling out a mobile app pretty soon and would offer it on subscription only, hoping that a combination of downloads and subscription in the international markets should do it. 

Disclosure: Times Internet Limited, the parent company of is an investor in Musicfellas via TLabs. The opinions in this article are my own and do not represent TIL.

Observations from a post’s 2 minute stay on Hacker News

A few days back, one of my posts made it to the Hacker News front page. Here is a brief background to what had happened before that:

Behance tweeted about Musicfellas to its 500000+ followers but sent out a wrong link. I responded by tweeting them and writing a post on how it affected us and posted it on Hacker News. A lot of my friends retweeted, personally emailed Behance and some even raised a ticket. Behance responded, emailed us an apology, deleted the incorrect tweet and sent out a new tweet with the correct link.


The Hacker News post got a lot of hits. And based on Google Analytics, I was able to make some interesting observations. Also included are stats from the following 5 days:

  1. After direct traffic from HN, the top three sources were: Feedly, and Hckrnews.
  2. 80% of traffic was from US, India, Canada and UK.
  3. In US, San Francisco gave twice the traffic from New York. 
  4. Germans stayed on for more time than anyone else. 
  5. Chrome was the most popular browser at 70% .
  6. In the first hour, hits were way higher from Mac as compared to Windows. As time progressed, things got evened out and they are now almost equal.
  7. iPad brought more than 80% of the mobile traffic.

Quick Note: HN shows up as direct traffic on GA instead of referral. More on it here.

An Elegy To Storylane

This morning, I woke up to this email from Storylane’s CEO Jonathan Gheller which said:

Dear Mayank,

I am excited to inform you that the Storylane team will be joining forces with Facebook. You can read more about it in my story here.


First things first - What is Storylane?

Storylane is a place where you can share stories about your life that are more thoughtful and serious in tone. And of course it’s social to the core. Launched in October 2012, it falls in the same league of Tumblr, Blogger or even Quora. But, the difference is that Storylane focuses on more personal stories - it asks you questions like “What do you know now that you didn’t when you were 18?" and even casual writers share stories about their lives like this one or this. But, what really interested me was the fact that it is such a beautifully designed product. Every experience interacting with Storylane is so fresh yet comfortable. Everything, right from the beautiful animation while the page loads or the way an image moves  when you hover over a summary of the story is very well thought of. And their recently launched iOS app is also groundbreaking since it brings a very new interaction to reading apps. They truly delight their users with the experience.

What has happened?
Storylane is “now joining forces” with Facebook. What this means I do not know - but what I assume is that Storylane is acqui-hired to ramp up Facebook’s attempt to capture the longform writing market. So, it’s more about the team rather than the product. This has a weirdly same connotation to what happened with Posterous joining Twitter. The CEO had then mentioned that Posterous would continue running as an independent service but we all know how that turned out. I was a Posterous user back then but had a foresight to move to Tumblr. I have a bad feeling about Storylane too. Not that I am a heavy user but I do visit it quite often if only to check out the design and new stuff they’ve done. Heck, I have evangelised it to as many people as I could.

Why this rant?
It is because it hurts to see good products die. They add value to our lives and as someone really famous saidThey move the human race forward”. I don’t know what the future holds for Storylane (the product) but I just hope it’s not a bad one. We need good products in the system. Also, I am sure, there are many out there who have invested their time and energy into Storylane. Because of its serious nature, Storylane was never just a fad but an attempt from a lot of people to start sharing their feelings. Even at Musicfellas, we took inspiration from Storylane for some our features - most notably the bell icon and some other minute details. And always looked up to the Storylane team for doing such a great job.

Having said all this, I’d like to congratulate the Storylane team for joining Facebook and wish them luck. And here’s hoping (and requesting) that they keep the service up for many of us whose lives have been touched by them in some way or the other.