How to build a passion project

Turning your dream into reality is no easy feat. But when a person truly believes in something it’s remarkable how far they can take it. Even in the uncertain world of music streaming.

That’s because, for founder Michael Pasternak, Stationdose isn’t something he eventually wants to sell to the highest bidder. It’s a passion project.

Going Mainstream

At a time when streaming revenue is topping $2-billion a year and 37 million people around the world are paying for music streaming services, it might seem like a good time to get into the business.

But there are still many questions surrounding the nascent industry. The rise of streaming is gutting the download market, causing many musicians to worry about how the shift will impact their royalties. Others in the business—like record executives—see the sea change as inevitable, but worry about losing control of the industry to services like Apple Music and Spotify.

This uncertainty has had some predictable effects. There is often a perception—whether it’s true or not—that streaming services cater to more mainstream audiences. These are people who would have been fans of Top 40 radio under the old paradigm. Underground music fans can feel left out in the cold.

Planting The Seed

That’s where Stationdose comes in.

The seed of the idea was planted while founder Michael Pasternak was working at F#, a boutique ad agency that specialized in combining brands and music.

Pasternak helped build sponsored playlists that were powered by Spotify. The ads they built would ask users a series of questions and then deliver the playlist within three or four clicks.

By many standards, a few clicks would be considered a quick turnaround. But it wasn’t enough for Pasternak. He wanted to hand over a playlist with as little interaction with the platform as possible. And—perhaps more importantly—he wanted to make sure the music offered something deeper than what’s playing in the Top 40.

Finding Your Niche

That’s why Pasternak isn’t necessarily interested in bringing Stationdose to a wider market. People looking for Beyoncé and Rihanna can find that anywhere, he says. Stationdose is for people who want to discover new music and find new artists outside the mainstream.

“It’s more for people to take music a little bit more seriously and [people who] are interested in maybe learning a little something or having well-curated content.”

He says he’s fine with making a niche product because he’s building something that makes him happy. He just hopes other like-minded people will find it.

“It’s an idea that I’ve had for a long time and I finally just decided I had some time. So I decided to pursue it with a friend of mine and invested some money into it.”

Working With Friends

After coming up with the idea, Pasternak approached his friend Vaughan Kelly Guy to help build the back end of the platform.

This relationship is in keeping with the spirit of Stationdose: Find something you’re passionate about and work with people you enjoy. It’s a model that’s served Pasternak well over the years.

“Working with friends of mine and working with people that I’ve enjoyed working with in the past, that’s how I always try to do business,” he says.

“I haven’t had a resumé in the last eight years because I just end up working with friends. I work with someone and then meet people through people and end up working that way.”

That ethic extends beyond just the programming. Many of the playlists Stationdose features are curated by friends and acquaintances.

How It Works

There are three ways users can interact with Stationdose, which powers its playlists through an API with Spotify. First, there’s a sponsored static playlist at the top of the page that could be curated by a DJ.

Below that are a small number of static featured playlists. Currently, Pasternak’s team are building these themselves. But the eventual goal is to have DJs, influencers, and musicians program them. That way Stationdose can have different options that rotate each day.

“The goal is to really limit the number of things you can listen to with the static playlist because you kind of get bogged down with the paradox of choice,” says Pasternak.

“When you have too many choices you don’t know what to do. So the goal is to limit it to three or four a day; and hopefully one appeals to you and it’s all content that is curated by amazing people.”

The third section functions more like a radio station, building playlists from catalogues the team has put together. Stationdose has built what Pasternak calls a “massive catalogue” for each station. The stations are largely genre-based, and this is the section where music nerds can really dig in.

Finding The Groove

Pasternak says each station’s catalogue has been categorized with an “undergroundness number”: a number assigned based on how mainstream or underground a track is.

“All of these stations are being sequenced based on algorithms that . . . we’ve written and [are] constantly tweaking. And so it’s selecting a playlist profile. When you tap into a station we’re looking at your local time, day of the week, and weather, and selecting a playlist profile for you.”

The playlist will be designed to deliver a certain energy level. If it’s a rainy Monday morning, the playlist will have mellow music. If it’s a sunny Friday in summer, the playlist will be upbeat. But if the selection doesn’t fit your mood—if it’s a rainy Monday, but you’re heading to the gym—you can always switch to another playlist more energetic, playlist profile.

Each list is also sequenced to create a certain mood to avoid giving the impression that it was compiled by an algorithm. Pasternak says humans have built the track sequence, so what users get in the end is a combination of human and digital curation.

Up Next

A service like Stationdose does have the potential to bring further change to an already tumultuous industry. For one, it could offer new revenue streams for more underground—and usually the most struggling—artists. It could also help casual listeners develop a more sophisticated sonic palate.

But when it comes down to it, right now Pasternak is just happy Stationdose exists.

If you’ve got a passion project of your own but don’t know how to get it made, Gigster can help.

Tyler Trumbull

Ty splits his time between Canada and Mexico. He’s been writing for Gigster since early 2016 where he really enjoys learning and sharing clients’ stories. He plays banjo in one of Mexico’s only country bands, wishes he could write like Thomas Pynchon, and is generally a fan of the Oxford comma.