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Get to know a Toronto startup: Tunezy

Posted by Guest Contributor / April 21, 2012

TunezyTunezy, a fan-driven social record label, believes it can revolutionize the $20 billion independent music industry. The idea behind the Richmond Hill-based start-up is to leverage the tools of social media and gamification to empower fans to help their favourite independent musicians succeed. When fans engage with music on the site, by listening to a song, sharing it on Twitter, or leaving a comment, they earn notes, a virtual currency that can be used to tip artists they like. Once they've earned enough notes, artists can spend them in Tunezy's marketplace, which contains services associated with a traditional record label - including mixing, studio time, licensing and promotion.

In March, the Tunezy team pitched its concept and won first place out of over 80 teams at NBTC in Toronto, and earlier this month Tunezy announced it had sold a 20% stake in the company to Intertainment Media. Next up, Tunezy is poised to launch in private beta at the end of May, and will unveil itself to the public later this summer.

I recently sat down with 24 year old co-founder and CEO Derrick Fung to learn more about the inspiration for Tunezy, and why he thinks it will strike a chord with music lovers.

Where did the idea for Tunezy come from?

My co-founder, Brandon Chu, and I looked at the major trends in the music space. First and foremost, people don't want to buy music anymore. Second, the Internet is allowing independent content creators to bypass traditional gatekeepers (like publishing companies and record labels) to go directly to the consumer. Third, there are all these Internet trends: social media, crowdsourcing, and gamification. We combined these trends with our passion for music, and Tunezy was born.

How long has Tunezy been in development?

We officially launched the company in January but the idea has been in the works for almost a year now. Brandon left his job at Kraft, where he was an associate finance manager, the first business day after we won the NBTC competition. I left my job in December 2011. We're now working on the company full time and have a growing, top-notch team.

How did your background prepare you to enter the music biz?

I went to the University of Toronto to study business, spent some time at Microsoft working in marketing and, later, worked in investment banking. As the CEO of Tunezy, understanding finance is a huge asset. I'm also a big music lover. I've played music since I was four. I was classically trained in Royal Conservatory and I play guitar as well. When I was in high school I had a website called Quality Sheet Music, which is where I had my first foray into technology.

How will Tunezy help fans discover new artists?

Right now if you go to YouTube and want to discover new musicians, it's very difficult; there is a sea of videos and you don't know where to start. We think we've found a solution to that problem. Users sign up for Tunezy through their Facebook account, and so we will have some data about their preferences to begin with. Then, we'll ask users to provide input about what they want and like. We built these filters based on the way we think people naturally look for music. By leveraging this data, supplemented by data from their activity on the site, we will be able to recommend independent musicians in line with their preferences.

How will it look?

Without revealing too much, because we want to make it a surprise when we launch, I can say that we're making the experience very visual. We think that design is becoming more and more of a competitive advantage for start-ups, and so we focused on design when creating our site. Once users make their selections, which will be done in a visual way, we populate the screen with stuff we think they'll like and, like Pinterest, there will be an infinite scroll. Every musician on the site will have a "V Card," a visual way of identifying them.

Is there a way for people to use the site without giving their data away?

Right now, in terms of harvesting data, it's just from Facebook, and a lot of start-ups use Facebook data as the main way to register. We're considering opening it up to allow users to participate by just giving us their email address. But to have the best experience, you're going to have to connect through Facebook.

Will all independent artists be eligible to participate on the Tunezy site?

Right now, any independent artist with a music video on YouTube can be part of Tunezy. It could be a homemade video of someone playing in their room, or it could be a professional recording. As long as they're not signed to a major record label they can use our site.

How does Tunezy make money?

We hope to make money in three ways. First, fans will be able to supplement the notes they earn by purchasing notes on the site. They may use these notes to tip artists, but we also hope to open up the marketplace to fans so they can spend their notes on cool experiences, like concert tickets or Skype chats with their favourite band. Second, we'll make money through partnerships with companies in the marketplace. Companies will pay to be featured on our site. Finally, if musicians purchase services of a company in the marketplace and then end up buying more services from that company, we'll make money through affiliate sales.

Where do you see Tunezy in 5 years?

Five years from now, I want musicians to think: there are two paths I can go, I can go the old school traditional way, try to be that 1% of musicians who will sign with a record label, and have them take all my money. Or, I'll stay independent, keep my money, and use Tunezy as a platform to help me springboard my career forward. I think that this is the future of the recorded music industry.

Writing by Nadine Blum



John Copor / April 21, 2012 at 11:40 pm
Awesome idea, great site! Good luck.
Daniel Cichon / April 22, 2012 at 02:57 pm
Great idea. I like that this website builds upon the crowdsourcing trend that is going to allow fans to directly engage with their favourite bands by providing funding for new music, tours, merch etc.
It's this level of personal engagement that can never be replicated by major labels. Independent bands can really take advantage of this by going to play unannounced shows at their fans homes to show their appreciation of their earliest supporters.
Cichon Daneils / April 23, 2012 at 03:59 am
Bad idea. Tunezy is doing what is already done organically through sites like soundcloud, blogs, twitters without the need to buy into a propriety Canadian-tire like 'currency. There are real ways to create revenue from your work but Tunezy isn't going to be one of them that I bet many artists will even use, let alone transform the recording industry.
Chondan Ciceils / April 24, 2012 at 11:23 am
I think it's a great idea. The problem with what the bloke above me said, is that although current sites make it possible to develop organically, the evidence shows they have not been able to. The sheer number of start-ups trying to solve this discovery/development issue shows there's something fragmented about the independent music space and no clear platform has yet emerged. I think these guys have a good shot, but it definitely won't be easy
john replying to a comment from Cichon Daneils / June 1, 2012 at 01:18 pm
i agree, its an OK idea at best.

its making artists jump through hoops to get the exposure and rewards they can already get with other channels like Youtube.

Its a bit demeaning to be thrown into a Chuck E Cheese style environment to play for points that can be used towards 'prizes' isn't it?
TommyBigGuns / September 6, 2012 at 08:06 pm
Even if a career is "launched", I do not see any significant benefit from staying on this platform. Once the artist garners the attention of a major label, they will most certainly make the move to earn big bucks. This platform cannot book a major concert venue for them, they need an agent, working with a label to do it.

Organic growth is almost always very slow.This endeavour requires serious money to market it.
Cichon Daneils replying to a comment from Chondan Ciceils / January 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Just because you see trends in what people perceive as a need in the market does not mean these trends are caused by necessary demands of the market. It could be caused because of general trends in the culture of entrepreneurship that these individuals are part of. Just read their interview critically, the alarm bells of trying to solve problems not there are ringing incredible loud and now it has been 6+ months and they have yet to gain any traction. 6 months of effort and all they have is some azn electropop band that I never heard of. It is clearly tunezy is living under the shadow of other successful executions of similar models like kick-starter but ultimately because, like most startups, these guys are working outside their core competencies which is why they are failing. Tunezy biggest mistake is not understanding what they are doing, but doing it anyways. It is the same a breed of amateur heroism that plagued the first few weeks of post-invasion in Iraq which turned a cake walk into a quagmire, complicit further not just by people who captaining the misinformed direction but those of the periphery who supports them that enable such ventures.

But unlike Iraq, Tunezy matters little. In 5 years Tunezy will cease to exist. It's memory to only be recalled by it's founders, misinformed stakeholders and us via still (even at this date) ranking first page on google for the term tunezy. Though it will not be part of the landscape of how musician careers develop in 5 years, they got one thing right about this picture: the career path of musicians will follow either the path major label for those few musicians or the independent path where independent musicians have to do what they are doing now by building growth organically across multiple platforms and venues to get exposure to fans.

But Tunezy might still have a chance though, if they are clever they can reinvent themselves as the asian avenue of music.

To Tunezy, your failure is our succes

UPDATE / April 7, 2014 at 10:11 pm
Tunezy is another #deadpool startup.

Oh, but somehow this "company" was "acquired" mysteriously (according to various bullshit tech press sources). Hmm, I wonder what the terms were - how many peanuts you get?

Lies lies lies
We see through your disguise
You fail so fast, you got no cash
It was not a surprise

onthenose replying to a comment from UPDATE / October 13, 2014 at 08:42 am
You hit it on the nose.

I've heard from a few people in the community that the CEO is basically a fraud who couldn't execute anything or keep his team together. I heard he also got fired from the acquiring company a few months ago - guess he got exposed there, but is probably still playing it off like some bs success
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