I have the same problem doing things myself. I see the overlapping demographics too, I see the nebulous potential use cases too, I see the end products too, I finish them and then get saddened by the lack of polish or details I could put into it to match competitors.
After spending some time at big corps I came away with a realization: I needed a team to back me up.
Those guys that work at the fancy office parks with the free lunches and bus shuttles to everywhere, they don't work that hard! It's because they have the right amount of people to do the right amount of work on the right amount of things.
I also think of it as a fireteam from my Marine Corps training. When we engage in a firefight we utilize tactics of a lead, advance, backup with fire, lead, advance, backup with fire again, repeat.
You need backup.
The process you've established is correct, you just have to keep using that process to find the right product fit. Then you need to make a go at it, delegating work, polish, market, and sell.
I can work well with any number of people, but few understand the importance of things like audience building, using the product on a daily basis, etc., and even the ones that do might not act on that stuff. Overall passion for execution and moving the product forward are critical.
Maybe this is what you meant, but I wanted to add my 2 cents to clarify.
I'm curious if it usually happens naturally or if there's a lot of people that find cofounders after building the initial product.
Seriously. Post on HN with "Sideproject:HN:" and see if people are interested in joining you on github.
Use the first ten commits as a hiring test period - and if you like them they get partnership
Although promising in concept, I just could not polish it to a point where lots of people would be interested. Tried to bring in a co-founder later in the game, but its really difficult to find someone with the same amount of passion for your idea.
In hindsight, I should have just contracted out non-critical portions and maintained a more reasonable budget. I did learn a lot in the process though. So don't regret it as much.
It takes a lot of humility and courage to write such a candid post on something that was obviously the foundation of your hopes for two years. I have great respect for that.
Was it a complete failure? Absolutely not. You've picked up a great amount of technical expertise in the process. More importantly after all this is in the past you'll be able to reflect on it objectively and realise your mistakes and shortcomings - and you'll know, unemotionally, that they were to do on the marketing side.
Rob Walling said something once that stuck with me ever since. If you're looking to build something, approach it in order of "market, marketing, aesthetics, functionality." Not to paint with a broad brush, but it will at least help you realign your focus next time you jump into something like this.
Because you will jump into something like this again.
I would bet that if you really talked, like physically talked (phone, Skype) with your users, especially those who haven't been active for a while, you might start to learn more about what you need to do to gain more traction and develop the product further.
1) What was the feedback from your friends who were using it?
2) Did you try to talk to customers to see why they left? What did they say?
3) Sticking around for a month is pretty significant. Do you know what kept people were sticking around for that long?
I am happy to donate the domain startuptrader.com to the effort :)
I agree that Flippa buyers are mostly concerned with sites that are making a profit, and I'm not sure blaster.fm is a good fit for its market. Having said that, if it's only worth a couple hundred dollars, I'd rather just not sell it.
I'm not even sure it is a viable business itself. Aside from advertising, it has very few options as it stands. You would need to modify the platform in order to introduce other profit channels. But you already said you don't want any more of it.
I think I would put it under what pg called "a dangerous bad idea" (can't remember the exact wording) because it initially looks like a good idea - hey, a social network for music! I might use that - but turns out to be built on a false premise.
More importantly though, forget about the technology. After reading your post, it sounds like you're frustrated because you spent a ton of time implementing super hip technology and yet still nobody is coming.
People don't care about technology. They care about what your site does for them. You also didn't appear to talk to too many users to find out what it is they needed.
My advice is to follow the data. If your data shows that nobody needs your site, then shut it down. But don't shut it down because you built it and hoped they'd come without trying any marketing or customer research.
Good luck to you on your next project. Hope it does better.
Anyways, good luck!
The problem with saying "you're almost there, you need marketing" is that I am done. I don't have the effort for marketing. I started the site for fun, to scratch an itch, and that has passed. Maybe I'm close, but in all likelihood I could've done everything right and still got nowhere. I need to draw a line in the sand, and this is it.
However, it's nice to have people acknowledge that the problem is most likely marketing oriented, rather than a fault with the site.
It is a pretty nice site.
Not necessarily, this is just speculation.
While designing for profitability is definitely the better way to create a product, there are plenty of successes which have simply aimed for millions of users and figured out their monetisation strategy afterwards. This seems particularly true for "social" products. It may have worked for blaster.fm, it may not. We can't know.
But I'm not blaming or shaming you. Your project got further than most. It was very good learning experience which has give you a lot of tools you did not have before. Tools that will help you on uour future endeavors. Just make sure to starting charging from the start next time.
Or, what if you spent as much time on 'biz dev' as you spent on development. Perhaps talking to some music communities online and having them link to you guys in exchange for highlighting their music or providing some service to them.
I am not saying that the above would work. I likely would have had similar biases as you. But as I grow up as an entrepreneur I am beginning to realize all the hats that I need to wear (and that when I get lucky one of these hats makes a huge difference).
Will it ever go anywhere? Probably not, but that's not the point. If I can get it to the point where it pays for itself I will be happy to keep running it as my forever project. Of course, if someone wants to invest money in it and myself...
If you check the site only once a week, why should other users bother?
The site infrastructure is I believe valuable. One can pivot into a different idea using the same infrastructure and simply move on, re-using the code base.
Maybe you can get enough money from people who want feature improvements to keep the site up for a little longer. If you have some consistent users you must be doing something right, and it definitely looks like a well made website.
I also don't know if all those 'joiners' icons add much, especially since many of them a blank github images. Social proof is great, but I would put something else in there instead. Something more action-causing.
Just a thought.
I just deployed my first big project last week and my plan is to spend 80% of my time on marketing and the rest on fixing bugs. Maybe it will fail but I will make sure I do what most of us developers try to avoid like a disease.... Marketing!
 Probably just going to let it sit there if I do get to buy it. I buy abandoned side projects because I feel sad seeing web services becoming unavailable.
It's definitely possible, but you're always going to need a provider for song metadata (album art, album name, artist details etc). If you move from last.fm you'd have to find someone else to provide the corresponding data.
You need to focus on marketing the product you've made so well. Try it. I've signed up to this too.