Two Fabulous Music Tech Companies. Both Dead on the Same Day.

Ricall and have gone the way of the dodo.

UK-based platform Ricall offered music pre-licensed for use in advertising, film, and TV. brought special effects that magically inserted users into their favorite viral and music videos.

What do both companies have in common?  Both promising music tech companies have closed their doors.  They also apparently did so the same day.

Someone with the right amount of programming knowledge (and a lot of money) could re-purpose Ricall’s technology.

Launched in 1998, Ricall worked with both UK and international brands, including Fiat 500 and The Body Shop.  The company provided a marketplace platform where artists and right-holders could set prices for content.

Metis Partners will handle the liquidation of Ricall.  They noted that assets of Ricall are of “notable interest to the music licensing and digital music download sectors, as well as e-commerce retailers and software developers.”

In a statement, the company said,

The software behind Ricall’s innovative music licensing cost circa £6 million ($8.1 million) to develop, and was created internally, using the agile development approach.

Metis Partners also notified developers of the build process.

The platform was designed with a high degree of configurability, and can be reconfigured for a variety of different purposes.  All development was written in Java, and recorded using Jira, with comprehensive bug documents.

Speaking on the sale of Ricall, Morven Fraser of Metis Partners said,

This sale is certain to attract a high degree of interest from those with a foothold, or looking to establish a foothold, in the music licensing industry.  The software developed by Ricall allows a significant degree of flexibility in the user and right-holder online experience.  It will be an excellent asset for any market players considering e-commerce development as part of their online profile.”’s lesson for all music start-ups: remember retention rates.

In the first few months following the app’s launch, had over a million downloads.

The app first launched as Chosen three years ago.  Chosen attempted to gamify the performance competition space, like a mobile American Idol platform.  The big difference is that the user got to be the judge.

The app became so popular that it earned a spot on Ellen.  She would later partner with the app.

Soon thereafter, though, the app struggled to compete against  Once it figured out how to survive, app developers would pivot Chosen’s course.

Earlier this year, Chosen re-launched as  Using green screen technology built into the app, users could insert themselves into popular music videos.  The app used AR technology that allowed it to work with non-stabilized moving cameras.

Sounds amazing, except that users didn’t quite agree.  To earn desperately needed retention metrics, partnered with  The move initially proved successful, and the company had over one million installs (at less than $0.10 each).

While people downloaded and used the app, the company simply didn’t have the money to keep going.  They needed much higher retention metrics.  Thanks to less-than-stellar quality videos and potentially bad management,’s retention rate hovered around 25%.

To survive, developers set up meetings with eighteen different investors.  Yet, they couldn’t answer the burning question on investors’ minds: ‘For every tool that becomes a platform, most don’t. How will yours?’

On a Medium blog post, CEO David Hyman explained his rather simple response (or lack thereof.)

“We didn’t have a compelling answer.”

The company had pinned its hope on one final potential investor.  A week after’s pitch, however, the investor pulled out.

Hyman explained,

A week later, a casual email is sent saying they’re passing.  No reason given.  Now, we’ve got two weeks left of cash in the bank.  Enough to lay off staff and-pay severance.  Game over.

You can check out David Hyman’s blog post, aptly titled, ‘My Mobile AR Start-Up Died So Yours Doesn’t Have Tohere.



Image by kickize (CC by 2.0)

2 Responses

  1. abcd

    Reading this it makes the record business look pretty good..

    Our software is the songs..

    Songs are quite similar to writing code for software.. the recording production
    is like the hardware… (if you get what I mean.. trying to draw parallels…)

    The great thing about songs is of course Cover Versions.. it doesn’t matter if you haven’t written a hit,.., you can always ride on the coat-tails of someone else’s hit and enjoy success that way..

    The recorded music business is still the best and most fun entertainment business to be in and with the very real potential to make money from it.

    Independent movies have a hopeless distribution and success chance

    Independent book publishing is pretty well dead.. the odd e-book might sell a few but really books are an almost dead beast

    Software creation and code building – it’s laborious, complicated and takes ages and can cost a fortune if you’re employing code writers.. plus you need the right ideas…

    The recorded music business is still the greatest.. imagine if there was a Spotify or Apple Music for movies where you can stream for a low monthly fee all the movies you want… There isn’t… Movies are all tightly held in over-priced digital silos and it’s a real mess.. and independent movies are dying because there’s not a proper e-business.

    Music on the other hand is great.. All the content you’re likely to ever want is pretty well available on the streamer of your choice.. and the content owners
    can make money if what you make is popular.

    What more could you want…

  2. Realist

    Ricall died when the founder sadly passed away in 2011. It has been a zombie company for the past 6 six years. The ‘marketplace’ was only ever an aspiration. The reality was neither music publishers nor labels were ever inclined to set prices to their music for any synch usage. Nothing has shifted that mindset. A cautionary tale of overreach without leverage.