COG1′s own creation appeared on the front page of the Technology section of the San Francisco Chronicle in October 22, 2007. Here we remember those moments, by posting the article on our blog, and paying homage to the SF Chronicle gods of newsprint.
Mixtapes date back to the days of music on Memorex.
People would put their favorite tunes on a cassette tape and give it to a friend or a significant other. Then they’d pass it along, and next thing you know, “Al’s party mix” would be all the rage in the neighborhood. (Remember drawing cool stuff on the tape covers? Remember tape covers?)
In a weird way, mixtapes were a prehistoric form of social networking – an organic marketing method that would spread music virally. Underground movements like hip-hop and indie rock were born thus.
So, it’s not too surprising to see a tech startup in San Francisco taking those mixtape memories, sprinkling a little Web 2.0 pixie dust on them and launching a product today that could change the way people listen to music online. And could give this startup a good little dose of giddy-up.
Fuzz.com, a music label cum social networking site cum band management Web site, is trying to apply the 2.0 ideals of networking and community to the beleaguered music biz.
The product it’s launching is called – you guessed it – the Fuzz Digital Mixtape. It’s a cool little widget. Artists, labels and fans can all go the Fuzz site and customize their own digital mixtapes, using some pretty slick flash technology. Users can pick from the free music provided by bands on the Fuzz site or upload their own MP3s.
And, just like in the good ol’ days, you can customize the cassette box.
Once you have it all set up, you can grab the embed code from Fuzz and put it up on your own site or your MySpace page, or send it along to your buddies or bandmates.
“This is a different kind of music discovery tool,” said Jeff Yasuda, Fuzz’s founder and CEO. “Here’s an opportunity to put your tape up on any social network.”
From a technical standpoint, the Fuzz mixtape idea is not revolutionary. It’s basically a flash player spinning naked MP3s. But the care Yasuda’s development team took in developing the flash animation and customization tools differentiates it from your average playlist generators.
One also can assume the musically savvy techies who will be playing with this thing will be taking it in even other, more interesting, directions. In other words, it’s customizable.
From a business standpoint, Fuzz’s play here also is fairly interesting. As a whole, the company sees itself stepping into the breach left by a disintegrating music industry business model rocked by new technology. In a post-Napster world, no one has really figured it out yet.
Fuzz’s site allows band members, fans and casual listeners to interact in a variety of ways, mostly based on social networking models. Fuzz also is acting as a label, signing Bay Area bands like the Lovemakers and Maldroid, and says it is splitting revenues in a much more band-friendly way than the traditional music industry ever did.
By positioning it in the middle of the game like that, Yasuda and the Fuzz gang hope to foster community and leverage that into real dollars.
The mixtape idea should work as a “Trojan horse” to get that going.
Mixtape “is geared to introduce people to Fuzz,” said Yasuda, a musician who quit his life as a venture capitalist to give the music business a whirl. “Down the road, we’d like to build out a network of folks using it to do an adshare with them.”
Yasuda stressed that plans on that end weren’t finalized, but did say that a number of labels already have expressed interest in using the Fuzz Mixtape platform to distribute music virally, including Modular and Touch and Go.
Other logical partners for Fuzz are the myriad “MP3 bloggers” out there, a loose network of music lovers and critics who spend their time finding new music and writing about it.
Mike Sherrill is one of the more popular bloggers in that space, running a site called missingtoof.com. He got a chance to demo the Fuzz widget last week and sounded enthusiastic, on both the content side and the business side.
“The look and feel of the widget should fit perfectly into the hip little niche music bloggers have created for themselves,” wrote Sherrill in an e-mail exchange. “Toss in the added incentive of a revenue share of ads displayed on the widget and I think they may have a seriously viral product on their hands.”
E-mail Alan T. Saracevic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle (Monday, October 22, 2007)