Let There Be Muzit! Making P2P Friends, Not Foes
When Cher, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears ruled the charts, there was no iTunes, no smartphones, and no Napster – let alone BitTorrent. Back then, life was good for music labels, who posted multiple years of double-digit growth. But as file sharing grew, music sales declined until millions believed that music should cost nothing.
As we all know, the music industry decided to fight this trend, responding with massive, unsuccessful litigation, sometimes stooping as low as to send viruses to people’s computers! In 2001, Steve Jobs offered an alternative, creating iTunes to ‘combat piracy’. Today, the music industry believes services like Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify have replaced file sharing and ‘killed piracy’. They’re wrong. According to research firm Envisional, unauthorized P2P downloading grew 167% in 2014 and now accounts for nearly 28% of Internet traffic.
Industry lawsuits have failed to stop file sharing and their bullying tactics did not help artists, instead alienating millions of potential customers. iTunes only dented P2P. Currently, iTunes sells around 3 million songs per day while people ‘share’ billions of songs daily. While streaming services are required to pay multi-million dollar licensing fees to the major music labels, the bulk of this revenue is not shared with their artists. Under the current system, the music creator needs one million streams just to receive $60.00! Couple this shocking statistic with the fact that artists draw absolutely no revenue from the deluge of P2P file sharing that dwarfs legitimate track sales roughly 20 to 1, it’s no wonder artists are upset.
What’s an Artist to do?
So, the labels, the music publishers, and the streaming companies make big money but what about the people who actually make music? Muzit founder, industry veteran, and copyright owner himself, Tommy Funderburk, has a solution.
Tommy enjoyed international success throughout the 80’s and 90’s as lead vocalist and writer for seminal music groups such as Airplay, The Front, Boston, and King Of Hearts, on RCA, BMG, MCA, Polydor and Pioneer music labels. Additionally, Tommy performed on hundreds of hit records including international and Grammy Award-winners by artists as diverse as Jimmy Page, Celine Dion, Boston, David Foster, Andrae Crouch, and the legendary Spinal Tap!
In 2002, Tommy founded the Internet music label, Sovereign Artists, signing rock & roll legends, The Crickets, Grammy winners, Heart, Grammy winner, Don Grusin, and six-time Grammy winner, Dee Dee Bridgewater. “We were as friendly to artists as possible – it was a labor of love. But file sharing killed us. I reached out to guys from Grokster and Morpheous but in their minds they were ‘sticking it to the man’. Suddenly I was ‘the man’ and they were happy to get the Heart album that cost me hundreds of thousands for free!”
Coming out of that experience, a short lived trial run with a technology company from Norway convinced Funderburk it was possible to use existing copyright law as something other than a weapon. “In 2008, I founded the first fan and artist friendly P2P DMCA marketing company, PayArtists and soon partnered with technology provider DtecNet, the leading data provider for the RIAA.”
Tommy brought PayArtists to major music labels and publishers including Sony, Warner Bros., Universal Music, Concord, Capitol Records, Peer Music Publishers, and Sony ATV. “The first meetings with CTOs & their staff would go great, then the RIAA attorneys would show up. They weren’t interested in a solution that would eliminate them from the process and PayArtists didn’t want to sue anyone. And they were serious. One day I got a call from DtecNet’s owner saying the RIAA had called him, demanding that he cease working with PayArtists. Thankfully, by then, we’d learned enough to begin building our own system, which we did.”
Turning Technology into a Company
Later, in 2012, Tommy was having lunch with legendary music producer & engineer, and technology entrepreneur Niko Bolas. Sitting at a booth at Delphine Restaurant across from Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, they mapped out the newly named Muzit business model on the back of a napkin.
“By this time, it was clear to us the major labels were not interested in the opportunity Muzit presented,” recalls Niko. “So we designed a plan for how to bring this amazing technology directly to artists on a massive scale and open up this new market for the industry.”
Tommy commented, “I told Niko about the campaigns we’d run for Frank Zappa and others at PayArtists, where we’d discovered that The Frank Zappa catalog was downloaded (but not paid for) over 96,000 times a day in the US alone. Niko got it right away: treat the P2P community as fans – not foes.”
In 2014, former Vice President of Information Technology for Intuit, Mike Hennessy, joined the Muzit team as Chief Technology Officer. Mike developed the roadmap for our global platform and brought it fully to life.
The team soon discovered tracking IP addresses meant they also knew where the fans were, which would enable artists using the Muzit platform to make targeted decisions for touring, concerts, and release parties based on where their fans are actually located. This and other capabilities became a core feature of the Muzit TRACE platform.
Today, Muzit is firing on all cylinders, successfully transforming their core concept into the fully developed TRACE platform and bringing on artists to run a variety of campaigns.