APEXvj started off as Simo Santavirta's side project late last autumn. Being a lead web developer by profession at FWD Helsinki, Simo does realtime graphic coding as a passion. Experimenting once with sound spectrum data and Pixel Blender, he ended up creating the first prototype of APEXvj, a tool that visualizes music online. After connecting the service to SoundCloud through their API, Simo thought he's onto something and decided to develop the application further. With the help of a colleague and an Art Director Jani Länsimäki, the concept was clarified and the application got a visual identity. APEXvj was launched in December 2010.
The service received a few thousand visitors in the first months after launching through personal networks of the founders. In February this year a link to APEXvj was posted on StumbleUpon and the service's audience exploded - it got 350 000 visits that month alone and received Site Of the Day award from FWA.
By now 1.5 million people visited the site (mostly from US), all that without any advertising from the creators. Right now the service only works with SoundCloud: Top 50 songs list is played by default but if you connect APEXvj to SoundCloud you can play your own and favourite tunes.
There are 12 different visuals to choose from and users can even turn their iPhones into a mobile remote to control the music and the visuals. Using all of these features is free of charge.
When it turned out that many people seriously liked the service (some songs were visualized 328 000 times), the team raised some funding from their boss at FWD Helsinki, Imran Ahmed, and decided to concentrate on the project full-time.
The first goal is to release APEXvjDesktop that will allow users to play music from hard drive, YouTube and Audiotool. More visuals would be added, together with the ability to control them in real time. Users would also be able to create their own visual combinations from a pile of different effects and play music files of different formats.
While being a side-project and not yet a real company, APEXvj has a great potential to become a cool music visualization tool used by many. Attracting so much traffic upon initial release confirms that. Naturally, the hype might slow down or die out altogether. But now that the founders are working on APEXvj full-time, they have a good chance to ride the wave and convert it into a permanent userbase. In the end, great things can come out of side-projects!