“The future of the music business is not in selling music,” says Derrick Fung (BBA 2009 UTSC). He isn’t saying anything revolutionary; the rise of online piracy has been hurting sales for years. What is new is his solution: he sells musical experiences, which are created in part by fans.
Fung is the co-creator of Tunezy, a music-focused crowdfunding platform for up-and-coming artists. Launched last year, the website promotes musicians by recommending their videos to its tens of thousands of subscribers, based on user preferences. Fans can then make wishes for musical encounters with artists, who can respond with personalized experiences for sale. Some recent packages have included a private guitar lesson, pre-show dinner, Skype chat, photo shoot and living room concert. Artists, which have included Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop band Naughty by Nature, keep all the revenue generated minus a 15 per cent cut to Tunezy.
The idea for Tunezy – which won Billboard’s Innovator’s Showcase in 2012 – was sparked by Fung’s longtime passion for music. Fung, 25, started playing the piano at age four and trained at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, and today also plays guitar and sings for fun. In high school, he created the largest free site for sharing sheet music. His U of T education, which included an internship at Microsoft, helped him develop his business savvy, as did post-graduation jobs at Merrill Lynch and CIBC World Markets.
“We’re empowering musicians to give something great to fans and at the same time make money,” says Fung, who mentors students on entrepreneurship as a UTSC executive in residence. “Fans can have an experience with artists they’ll never forget.”