Strong opinions, weakly held

How hard is it to build a lyrics site?

Song lyrics sites are universally terrible. They are a usability nightmare, with bad markup and tons of ads. Here are some examples:

The markup is bad, there are ads everywhere, and the usability generally sucks. Why? I understand that running such a site exposes you to legal risk, and I’ve always assumed that the outlaw foundation of such sites explains their awfulness. Even so, I’m wondering how difficult it would be to make a better attempt.

Any high quality site in this vein has to have some form of revenue, because it will attract a lot of traffic. The secret is to spend as little as possible on infrastructure. The other day, the NPR News Apps Blog had a post about building a high capacity, low cost site. That seems like a good starting point.

The other requirement is a big catalog of songs, organized by artist and album, and then the lyrics for all of them. I think building such a database with absolutely minimal human intervention would be fun.

Right now I’m just kicking this idea around. If I start working on it, I’ll post about my progress.


  1. Have you checked out Rap Genius? Great lyric site – both the ux experience and technology behind it seem strong. Have some big name investors behind them, though I’m forgetting the names at the moment. Maybe Andreesson?

  2. Here’s the best one I know of (and they cover quite a lot more than bluegrass):


  3. Music lyrics sites exist in the same space as travel spam sites that list hotels + car rentals for every airport in the US as well as the phone number sites (“who called me from 415 555 1034?” The web site is trivial to generate from scraped contente. Throw ads on it and presto, instant revenue. Bottom feeders.

    The interesting exception to this is Rap Genius, which built a pretty great collaborative annotation tool and community around discussing music lyrics and now famously has raised big $$ on the VC circuit to expand beyond lyrics.

  4. Suggestion: http://statamic.com. Keep it in version control, deploy through Beanstalk.

  5. Music lyrics are copyrighted. That’s why all the lyrics sites are sketchy, fly-by-night operations.

  6. http://songmeanings.net seems to strike a decent balance. A few ads, decent markup, and semi-useful user participation.

  7. I agree with Nelson. There may be a place on the internet for a quality, well curated lyrics site, but I’m not sure there will be the demand. It wasn’t always this way, but these days I’m perfectly content to use Google as a portal to whatever sleazy lyrics site has what I’m looking for. For my purposes, that gets the job done. In the old days, you had to worry about how well updated or tended-to a lyrics site was. You might even need to check multiple sites. The improvement of web search engines over the years, in my opinion, almost makes the “destination” lyrics site obsolete. Maybe one day, Google will take me to an impressive lyrics site which I actually feel compelled enough to return to the next time.

  8. Chris Sutton is correct. RapGenius is all you’ll ever need.

  9. This site has an interesting take http://www.lyricsnmusic.com/ they give other info about the band on the lyric page

  10. I plan on creating one but what of the law aspect of it what if i get sued for displaying artist lyrics

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