Muzooka, the latest start-up to tackle the crowded market for digital artist services, launched today with an unusual promise to let artists keep 100% of the revenue from songs they sell by using the service.
Based in Marin, Calif., Muzooka aims to develop a social network for independent artists where they can sell their music, attract new fans and connect with established music supervisors and producers.
Muzooka has recruited a handful of producers to use the service, including Walter Afanasieff, Leonard Brooks, Rodney Jerkins, Tommy McWilliams and Tony Mardini, among others. Many have long credits to their careers. Afanasieff, for example, is a Grammy-winning record producer who has worked with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Michael Jackson. McWilliams, who worked with Emilio Estefan and Carlos Vives, won an Emmy Award for composition.
But the service, which had been in beta for several months, needs artists to populate it platform with music they want to sell. To lure them, Muzooka promises not to take a cut of the sale, which artists can set between 69 cents and $1.29 a track. (The actual amounts artists receive from the sales depend on the agreement they have with their labels, if any.) In exchange, artists agree to let visitors stream their music for free.
The discovery aspect of the service comes into play when listeners vote up songs, the way posts are voted on in Reddit.
"Muzooka is designed to bubble up the best music using a voting system," said Shawn Wilson, the start-up's chief executive who founded the company with Chester Aldridge, the CEO of U.S. Equity Holdings. "In our betas, producers are using the service to discover new acts. It's a minor league system for artists."
How does Muzooka plan to make money? It won't be obvious at first, because the service has no advertising and free to use. That's because it faces a classic start-up problem for companies whose models require a critical mass of users.
"Our focus is scale at this stage," Wilson said. "We're not reinventing any new business models. But one thing we are avoiding is ads. To attract users, we need a clean interface that puts the focus entirely on content and community."
Next year, however, Wilson said the company will begin to experiment with a subscription tier for artists who want premium features, such as analytics. Producers looking for hot new talent could also subscribe to a notification service that would alert them to rapidly trending talent that meet certain demographic or genre criteria. Users could also pay to cache music for offline listening, said Wilson, who owns a collection of more than 10,000 CDs.
But he concedes that it would be difficult to get listeners to pay up in this day and age.
"It's so easy to get music for free. We concede that," Wilson said. "At this stage, we're focusing on reducing friction, for users, artists and producers."