Snapchat helped pioneer the use of lenses on faces in photos and videos to turn ordinary picture messages into fantastical creations where humans can look like, say, cats, and even cats can wear festival-chic flower crowns. Now it sounds like the company might be turning its attention... to sound.
The company appears to have acquired Voisey, a U.K. startup that features instrumentals that you overlay with your own voice to create short music tracks (and videos), and also lets musicians upload instrumentals that become the basis for those tracks. Users can apply audio filters (like auto-tune, automated harmonies and some funny twists like a Billie-Eilish-ish effect) to their voices; and they can browse and view other people's Voisey tracks.
The deal was first reported by Business Insider, which noted Voisey had changed its company address in London to that of Snap's. In addition to that, we have seen that filings in Companies House indicate that the the four people who co-founded the startup -- Dag Langfoss-Håland, Pal Wagtskjold-Myran, Erlend Drevdal Hausken and Oliver Barnes -- as well as the startup's first two investors -- Terry Steven Fisher and Jason Lee Brook -- all resigned as directors of the company on October 21. At the same time, two employees at Snap -- Atul Manilal Porwal on the legal team and international controller Amanda Louise Reid -- were assigned directorship roles.
Snap's London spokesperson Tanya Ridd said Snap declined to comment for this story. Voisey did not respond to our email.
Voisey had raised only $1.88 million to date (per PitchBook data), and it's ranked at 143 in iOS in Music in the U.S. currently, according to AppAnnie stats. It's not clear how much Snap would have paid for the startup, but the news comes on the heels of a Snap filing earlier this month that indicated that the U.K. entity, which is still loss-making, is poised to borrow up to $500 million, so there is possibly some cash for acquisitions reserved as part of that.
Voisey has been described in the past as a "TikTok for music creation". And it does look a little like the popular video app, which like Voisey is also focused around user-generated content. Voisey has a distinctly stronger creator feel to it, and there has even been at least one singer discovered on the platform. The Billie Eilish-esque Olivia Knight, who goes by "poutyface," signed with Island Records/Warner Chappell earlier this year.
On the other hand, TikTok -- at least for now -- is less about music creation and more about people creating other kinds of content -- dancing, written messages, chitchat -- set to music. We write "for now" because TikTok's parent ByteDance has also quietly acquired assets for music creation, so maybe we should watch this space.
It's not clear whether Snap would look to integrate some or all of Voisey's features into its flagship app Snapchat to create new music services, or run Voisey as a separate app (with easy hooks into Snapchat), or a combination of the two. Based on experience it could be any of these.
Snap has been slowly building up its music cred, but up to now that has felt more like work to clone TikTok: last month, it launched Sounds on Snapchat, a feature to let people add tunes to their Stories, to make them, well, more like TikTok videos. That has come with a growing trove of licensing deals with big publishers.
Even before it launched that, Snap hadn't ignored the power of sound completely. It has been offering voice filters, to give your videos a more comedic twist, for years already. But with music being one of the most engaging of formats on social media, Voisey could potentially give Snap, and Snapchat, a leg up in the feature race with a platform to build original content.
What's interesting is the timing of this deal.
It was just last week that we revealed another voice-focused acquisition of Snap's, the Israeli startup Voca.ai, which it acquired for $70 million (although a close source disputed that and said it's $120 million...).
As with Voisey, no word on where Voca.ai tech will be used, but Voca.ai is an AI-based startup that lets companies create interactive voice-based chatbots for customer service interactions. That could see Snap expanding the kinds of services it provides to businesses, or expanding how people can interact using voice on its existing services, specifically its Spectacles, or both (or, again, something completely different).
Put together with the Voisey deal, it's a sign of the company doing a lot more than just snapping pictures.