iLike steers customers to tunes they're likely to like

Ali Partovi is CEO of iLike, the music-recommendation website that has quietly attracted 13 million users since starting in October 2006. Fans use iLike to recommend new music to friends, find out which concerts are coming to town and nab free songs of artists who sound "similar" to their favorites.

USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham spoke with Partovi about iLike's exploding growth.

Q: Tell us how iLike works.

A: You sign in and note which artists and songs you like. You then see other artists and songs that might be of interest, recommended by both us and your friends. You can listen to song samples, or sometimes the whole version of the song.

We give you links to buy the song and (listen to) … songs submitted by the artists themselves. Recently, the Eagles, Faith Hill and Brooks & Dunn have submitted music for their artist pages.

Q: What was the original idea behind iLike?

A: The idea that the computer will tell you what music you're going to like has been around for a while. Our vision is that people are more inclined to listen to music based on what their friends tell them. I call it social music.

Q: So you decided to start a word-of-mouth business?

A: We built software that connects iTunes and Windows Media Player to a social network, ours, iLike.com. We started from scratch and got 4 million users in less than a year.

In May, we realized we could build it on top of an existing social network, Facebook, and take advantage of the immense connections between friends. The types of volume we see now are amazing. We have 9 million users on Facebook. Every day, over 1 million of our users send music to friends, and we're gaining about 500,000 new users per week.

Q: Why do you think you struck such a chord?

A: It's a combination of being first to market and embracing the Facebook platform tightly. So we got found quickly.

Additionally, there's been no great service for following what your friends are listening to, or what concerts are coming to town.

Most people I know miss concerts by their favorite artists, because they didn't know they were coming to town. That's a failure for the artist, fan and venue. Services like Pandora do a great job of matching music to your tastes, if you have hours to spend there listening. Our approach was to create a service not for music consumption, but a place to communicate, discover and learn.

Q: So what happens next? Will fans find out about music online and less from radio?

A: That's a fact. Music (on radio) has been decimated in recent years.

Music stations are routinely switching formats to talk and sports because there aren't enough listeners to go around. The iPod and cellphones are eating into radio usage.

But there's a new golden age ahead of us, where people can still engage in music as they get older, thanks to tools like iLike that help them keep in touch with friends and artists.

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