ASU student creates popular music download website

STUDENT ENTREPRENEUR: Economics and finance senior Hasan Siddiqui created SongCatch.com, a site that has received more than 250,000 page views. (Photo by Sierra Smith)

An ASU senior who set out to create the “Google of music” might be close to achieving his dream.

Economics and finance major Hasan Siddiqui has created an online search engine that allows users to find music and other audio files by simply typing an artist’s name or a song title into a search box.

Once a user chooses a song or other audio file among the results, it automatically downloads to the user’s default music player at no cost.

SongCatch.com was officially launched in November, and Siddiqui hired attorneys as an extra precautionary step to ensure he has not violated copyright laws.

The site uses recognition technology, an aggregate search engine that scans multiple search engines at once to find the songs the user desires. The website’s programming code is similar to Google.

“It is like two people looking for one thing at the same time,” Siddiqui said.

Users never have to go to iTunes to purchase their music, Siddiqui said.

Siddiqui was inspired while working as an intern in New York last summer. He noticed a considerable amount of people listening to their mp3 players while riding the subway.

From that point, he began writing up a business plan that would create new opportunities for the music industry.

Siddiqui was equally inspired by several of today’s world business leaders, such as Bill Gates.

“The money part is not my main drive, but to be a person who is loved by the user,” Siddiqui said.

SongCatch.com has had more than 250,000 page views across 90 countries since its launch in November, he said. The site’s user return rate is 78 percent.

Siddiqui is able to see which users are on the site by viewing their IP addresses.

There are about 66 different university networks that are currently giving the site hits, he said.

Some critics of the site believe it is counterproductive to the music industry.

“It’s a negative aspect when up-and-coming artists are trying to get sales and can’t,” journalism freshman Thania Betancourt said.

The site is continually progressing and is expected to feature new elements on the website after receiving user feedback, Siddiqui said.

“It does not drive sales down … this helps people gain interest about music and artists out there,” he said.

Some additions in the works include audio advertising and the capability of “liking” a song — a feature similar to Facebook.

“This is a positive because it is more convenient and you don’t have to download it like Limewire, which causes viruses,” business sophomore Daniel Cano said.

Downloading the artists’ music is not going to devalue their success, Cano said.

Though the website presents opportunities for music buffs, Siddiqui’s creation does raise questions of legality, particularly copyright infringement.

ASU Law Professor Dennis Karjala said if the technology can be used to both infringe yet equally provide “non-infringing usage,” the creator of the technology is not liable as a contributor to infringement.

Karjala used Google as an example. A search on Google yields both copyrighted material and non-copyrighted material. Therefore, the company is not liable for infringement.

However, Karjala explained that the creator of such technology might still be liable for “inducement,” which means that the technology creator encourages others to use the technology to infringe on copyright.

An attorney for Siddiqui said in an email that SongCatch.com does not specifically encourage users to download music, but acts as a facilitator of the downloading process, similar to YouTube, which facilitates the uploading of music.

YouTube removes copyright material when a copyright holder informs the site that a user has uploaded their content.

Since SongCatch.com is a search engine that filters songs from sites including YouTube, the engine then cannot grab that copyrighted material when it no longer exists on YouTube.

Songcatch.com has received considerable recognition, not only among the student body but from faculty members as well.

“I am impressed that he took the idea and did something with it … it’s about executing the idea,” said Christopher Neck, management professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Siddiqui’s endeavor has been showcased in several of Neck’s class lectures, including the Management 300 course that he teaches. MGT 300 is an introductory management course that all business majors must complete.

“His website idea received several positive comments from the class,” Neck said. Siddiqui was a former student of Neck’s Management 300 course.

“Management is the process of achieving goals, and self-leadership is the process of leading yourself to overcome your goals,” Neck said.

He advised Siddiqui to spread the word about his website idea.

“Ignore the critics,” Neck said.

SongCatch.com doesn’t participate in file sharing, where users upload music, and not all music is available on the site, Siddiqui said.

Siddiqui hopes to one day speak at the World Economic Forum, an organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Another future goal includes expanding the website by gaining the interest of business investors across the country.

“The more people you can enable, the better value you are creating for yourself as a human being,” Siddiqui said.

Reach the reporter at cstarboa@asu.edu