Nobody knows what Jeff Yasuda’s online music startup is up against better than Jeff Yasuda. The 40-year-old San Francisco entrepreneur has spent more than five years trying to crack the market and along the way has suffered through numerous fits and starts, pivots and iterations.
So as he unveils Internet radio serviceFuzz.comto the public today, he’s prepared for the obvious question: Why does the world need yet another music site? There’s alreadyPandora, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, Turntable.fm and Clear Channel’s IHeartRadio in the mix, not to mention all the players that have failed along the way.
“The space is crowded and the graveyard is long, deep and wide,” said Yasuda, from the basement of his Pacific Heights home, which doubles as Fuzz’s headquarters and includes a cozy, fully-equipped music studio.
He’s not deterred by the long odds and sees a big opportunity for his six-person shop to make a splash in the online music market, which Gartner predicts will reach $7.7 billion in 2015, up from $5.9 billion in 2010. The digital media shift is accelerating as the growth of smartphones and tablets offer ready access to music throughout the day. But making money has proven to be the big challenge, with bands remiss to just give their music away and consumers reluctant to pay.
Fuzz’s answer to that is “people-powered radio,” a nod to its 4,000 disc jockeys already building online stations and broadcasting them to their followers. Yasuda expects that number to expand rapidly now that the service is out of private beta. He’s raised $500,000 in angel funding to get the company on its feet.
Unlike Pandora, which uses complex algorithms to make suggestions to its 150 million-plus users, Fuzz lets listeners type in songs, artists or genres to find relevant stations that are run by human DJs. For example, if I wanted to hear Mumford & Sons, I could enter the band’s name in the search box and click on one of the stations featuring its songs. By launching that station, I would hear whatever the DJ serves up, with the idea that I’ll discover new music from someone with similar tastes.