Muzime: Next Gen Of Music Discovery Emerges In Tampa

Say you're a folk-pop duo based out of the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa. You record your music out of your living room in between school and work. And you play the occasional open-mic gig, but you're ready to invest a little more time to self-promotion.

Whether you're a major label artist or an independent musician, building a connection to your fans through social media is a priceless asset. Want instant feedback on that last song you wrote? Post a video of yourself on YouTube. Want to ask people what they thought of your setlist last night? Tweet them.

Just about every aspect of your career can be handled through the power of social media.

But posting videos on your Facebook isn't cutting it anymore. You need a way to reach people that gives them direct access to your music (with the option to purchase) and allow you to maintain control of your creative property.

Tampa-based entrepreneurs Joel Fenelon and Nick Jagodzinski, both 26, think they have an answer.

It's called Muzime (rhymes with oodelay) and it's a free web app that combines the streaming capabilities of Spotify with the social connectivity of Facebook and the purchasing component of iTunes.

Fenelon first planted the seeds for Muzime at the University of Tampa after switching majors from business to music. His initial idea was to create a network for other musicians who were in college -- he eventually decided to can it. Fast forward to grad school in conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Fenelon's vision became more focused.

"I realized everyone in the world loves music," he explains, "so, why not create a network for everyone, not just artists."

Last September Fenelon tapped Jagodzinski, a former classmate at Tampa Bay Technical High School and University of Central Florida graduate with a background in digital media and marketing, to program and plan the site.

The idea was to create an innovative music platform, showcasing independent artists of all levels, where they can share their music without answering to the demands of a record label, Fenelon explains.

Here's how it works: you, the artist/band, create a profile on Muzime. You upload the songs you want users to hear, select the genre and subgenre it falls under and tag each song with keywords describing the track: angsty, romantic, somber, party anthem, etc.

Artists control how many times users can stream your full song for free before its reduced to a 30-second clip. You also choose whether you want to offer an MP3 download of the song for free or for purchase. Songs will be in 256 bit rate, with the possibility of offering MP4s in the near future, according to Jagodzinski.

Transactions will be handled through a package of credits purchased through a PayPal account.

How much does a song cost? 89 cents. The artist gets 69 cents and Muzime keeps the rest.

Designed To Favor The Performers

It's a business model that encourages artists to retain ownership of their work, according to Fenelon. More than 150 artists have signed up already, the majority from the Tampa Bay region.

"If you're under a [record] label, you get about 8 cents every time your song is downloaded on iTunes," Fenelon explains. "Those platforms are all geared toward heavily favoring the industry and not the artist."

Muzime hopes to bridge the gap between artists and fans. Once enough artists have joined the network, fans will be invited to sign up and start discovering new music.

"We're depending on artists to drive consumers to Muzime," Jagodzinski says. "The more you push your profile, the more fans of other bands will buy your music."

Other incentives include artist analytics, which show who's listening and what city they're located in so bands can schedule shows accordingly.

In addition to the 20 cents earned from each download, Muzime will have a series of features for artists and fans to generate income. One is the ability to broadcast events to fans of your genre of music in the city that your playing. Reaching your core audience ensures a higher turnout for your show, according to Fenelon.

There are also plans to draw users to the application through a Facebook tie-in. Building connections between bands with existing fan bases will be the key to a successful launch.

Will Muzime revolutionize the way independent music is shared? Its creators are hopeful.

"I haven't seen a lot of ambitious startups that are industry-changing," Jagodzinski says. "Tampa Bay has huge potential in the technology and music market."

Matt Spencer, a University of South Florida grad, is a native Floridian who enjoys sharing his love for Patty Griffin, browsing produce stands, spending hours in record shops and gawking at the ice cream selection in grocery stores. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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