The founders Musical.ly credit a simple design tweak — and a bit of luck — with rocketing their DIY music video app to the top of Apple’s App Store.
When the app first launched in July 2014, it wasn’t overnight success, Musical.ly’s co-founder and co-CEO Alex Zhu tells Business Insider.
The initial metrics looked good — around 500 people were downloading it a day, and, more importantly, they kept coming back. But the app was still growing too slowly over the next 10 months to save a company that had already failed at making a popular app before.
“We got nervous. What do we do? We didn’t have much cash left,” Zhu said.
The team realised that they had a design problem. People loved making Musical.ly videos, 15-second clips where “Musers” would lip sync or dance or do a comedy routine to a hit song. That was clear from how many people kept coming back to the app.
The team realised one big problem though: No one knew that these popular videos they were seeing on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook were made on Musical.ly. When people shared the music videos, the logo was cropped out.
So, in April 2015, the company repositioned the Musical.ly logo and put a person’s username into the videos. Now they were easy to see when someone shared a video with their friends. Suddenly, no one wanted to be left out of creating their own videos on the app.
That small tweak made the app explode.
Two months later, on July 6, 2015, it hit the No. 1 app in the Apple App Store. Since then, Musical.ly has never fallen out of the top 40 apps in the Apple App Store.
Today, more than 10 million people use the app daily and produce around the same number of videos every single day. All in, 80 million people have now registered as Musical.ly users, the company now claims.
“Now that I look back, I think the initial slow growth was actually a good thing. We got lucky because we had time to build the product, to make it ready, to build every feature around community,” Zhu said. “If the growth came too early, it would probably just stay as a fad.”