What is Sedge?
In the fall of 2019, I set out to build Sedge, a project management and file-sharing tool to help music producers collaborate more effectively with their clients. While the big picture of the company is to become the Slack/Asana of the music production world, the initial MVP will target the file-sharing/music review process and how to make it more hassle-free.
With Sedge, listeners can comment on tracks without having to make an account, while users can review those comments directly from within their preferred digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Ableton and Bitwig.
Sedge’s Version Control also helps users to keep track of multiple versions of a song, which makes it much more convenient considering the iterative nature of music production.
As a music producer myself, I've always found it difficult to keep track of all my ongoing projects, especially when I was working with multiple clients at once. More specifically, sharing edits with clients and getting their feedback has always been a hassle, given how most music streaming platforms are not exactly designed for feedback collection and producer-artist collaboration.
For example, when my clients leave their feedback as comments on the SoundCloud track that I send them, I have to switch back and forth between Ableton and SoundCloud to incorporate those changes. This gets even more tedious and challenging given that there are no timestamps inside Ableton, only beat counts.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also problems like unclear feedback, lack of a holistic project management system that allows for version control and deadline management, as well as a general disconnect between artists and producers in terms of their workflow. After speaking with a couple of fellow producers, I realized that I wasn't the only one who had these problems - a lot of them told me that this is a huge gap in the world of music production that is in desperate need of a solution. And that's how I came up with Sedge.
Currently, there are a few companies that are doing something similar in the music industry, the most notable of which is Splice - a platform that offers a wide selection of royalty-free samples, loops, and presets for producers to use in their projects. While they do offer a solution for producers to share edits with one another, it is highly technical and sophisticated as it mainly focuses on producer-producer collaboration instead of the more general producer-artist dynamic. To provide an analogy, Splice is to music producers what Github is to programmers, while Sedge aims to bridge the gap between producers and artists the same way Slack and Asana did with programmers and designers.
Therefore, while other companies focus more on file-sharing and simple commenting features, Sedge aims to stand out by drilling down on two very important aspects of the collaborative music production process:
- Effective feedback collection
- Collaborative project management
At the end of the day, the big picture is for Sedge to become the go-to solution for music producers when they are working with clients/artists.
The Design Process
The design process can be broken down into two components - journey mapping and prototyping.
To better understand the various key moments in the Sedge user experience, I synthesized the whole process of sharing an edit, collecting feedback, and building on that feedback in a user journey map with LucidChart. The journey map details the different stages in the process as well as the user actions, tools used, user emotions and user pain points during each of those stages.
To flesh out the impact the Sedge that is creating on the user, I created two journey maps - the first represents the scenario where the user doesn’t have access to Sedge, while the second one shows the user journey with Sedge in the picture. Below are the diagrams:
User Journey Map of Music Producers Without Sedge
User Journey Map of Music Producers With Sedge
As you can see, the first journey map is rather disjointed, with the workflow split between different file-sharing and communication tools. This inefficient workflow limits the music producer's bandwidth, which reduces the number of projects that they can take on at a given time. This translates to lower profits, which is not ideal especially if the user is a burgeoning producer trying to make ends meet.
On the other hand, the second journey map is much more streamlined, with Sedge acting as the single one-stop platform for producers to get the quality feedback that they need. With Sedge, there is no need for the producer to switch back and forth between SoundCloud and their preferred DAW to incorporate the changes specified by their clients.
I started out by prototyping with pen and paper, since it is evident that by visualizing our thoughts on paper, we are able to free up a sizeable amount of mental space that will allow us to “evaluate variations and further develop our ideas” (Xu, 2017). By starting with the lowest-fidelity wireframes, I was able to identify the most important information that had to be conveyed - something that might not be easy to achieve at a higher level.
Then, I used Sketch to translate my pen-and-paper sketches into graphic designs. Once again, I started from a lower-fidelity sketch and gradually iterated until I reached a higher fidelity one. For example, here’s the initial sketch that I had for the beat-level commenting feature for Sedge:
And here’s the final sketch:
As you can see from the two screenshots above, the design sketches progressed from a lower fidelity version that had minimal features into a higher fidelity one that had all the features identified in the user journey map earlier.
Then, I used Origami Studio to translate my mockup into a live prototype, which is shown in the video below. This video is also live on Sedge’s website.
I then tested out the prototype with 15 beta testers - all of whom are music producers from different backgrounds and locations. All the tests were conducted over the span of 30 minutes, and below are some of the most common responses/observations that I received from the tests:
- “The product looks very polished and efficient, but is it scalable? Like if I upload more and more projects to the platform, will it become slower?.”
- “There is no integration with (insert preferred DAW here). I will only use it if there is an integration with (insert preferred DAW here).”
- “Love the product but I’m not sure if I will become a paid user - what value am I getting out of this?”
- Users also tend to click on buttons that are yet to be functional on the app, which is a sign that I need to build out the full set of functionalities in order to present the complete user experience to my users.
Every time I conducted these user tests, I also made sure to emphasize the importance of them providing an unbiased and honest opinion about the product and not sugarcoat things simply because they knew me in person.
I also made sure not to ask any leading questions that might bias their train of thought to go down a particular rabbit hole. For example, instead of asking “do you think this feature will help improve feedback quality”, I would ask “what do you think is the purpose of this feature”. This way, the interviewee is presented with an open-ended question, which they would then be able to answer with no preconceptions.
I would also write down each of their comments on a Trello board and assign different priority levels to them. Based on those priority levels, I would then work on integrating those feedback into the prototype that I created.
For example, one of the feedback that I received is to add a line that spans the whole audio player bar that would show the exact position for the comment’s timestamp - which would help increase clarity. After incorporating that feedback, my prototype went from looking like this:
This might be a subtle change, but there was a substantial amount of work that went into the backend. To provide some context, below is an illustration of all the connections going on in the backend of the prototype:
Also, based on the feedback that I received, the biggest concern that I am facing is Sedge’s value proposition and how to make it more concrete.
To do that, I decided to show my users the value that they are getting out of Sedge by creating a calculator on the website that shows my users that by using Sedge, they could reduce the average project turnaround time by 10 mins, which translates to an extra $72 profit per month - a 720% return on investment.
You can also play with the calculator yourself on Sedge's website to see how much more you stand to earn by using Sedge.
Now that the website is complete, I will be focusing all my time and effort on building out the product while getting more people to sign up for the waitlist - which you can sign up here if you are interested. Alternatively, you can also keep up with our latest developments by following our blog here.
Disclaimer: Due to various personal reasons, I have made the tough decision to hand over the reigns to Sedge to Alex Wu and relieve myself of my founder duties as of late-April 2020.