Fuzz Wants to be Online Radio by the People, for the People

You know somewhere between Pandora’s steady, old reliable model, Spotify’s have it all, take it anywhere incredible features, and various other stations like SHOUTcast covering some of the most obscure music out there, I guess I once felt content saying that the world of internet radio is pretty well covered.

And yet it seems like there is at least one more site out there that thinks that there is still fresh ground to tread in that particular field by catering to this wild idea that instead of a computer algorithm generating music selection, perhaps it would be preferable for human beings to take a stab at it.

That site is called Fuzz and, if you let them, they’d very much like to rock/rap/alternative/classical your world.

How? Well the entire site is made up of user created stations. Members can upload their personal music and create a radio station set to a theme of the music selection, with the built in system mixing the music together for you. Examples include the standards like classic rock or 90’s hip hop, but a quick search reveals more specific stations like classical dinner music or trendy sushi bar.  A band search option is available to get you started, but the general idea is to start with music you are familiar with, and expand your interests, and favorite playlists, based on people who like those same bands or songs other available selections. It’s an idea that is automatically handled by computers on other sites, but Fuzz treats it much more like each user is the DJ to their own mix, complete with custom station names, backdrops, and comment and feedback features.

The creator of the site, Jeff Yasuda, has tooled around the internet radio scene for a while, and he and his team simply feel that it is more fun, and rewarding, for people to share music with people and not machines. It’s an idea that was encouraged by Yasuda’s other music app Blip.Fm, which allows people to play the music they’re listening to via Twitter and Facebook. The quiet success of that app has instilled Yasuda with the belief that a site that expands that idea into a full radio station could be a hit. Although, he is certainly aware of the long shot that any internet station is, as he reveals via a cryptic quote in an interview with Bloomberg.com when speaking of the internet radio industry:

“The space is crowded and the graveyard is long, deep and wide,”

So how is the site? While I’m personally still inclined to default to Spotify or Pandora for a kickback and let it play listening experience, Fuzz is infinitely more entertaining to just explore, whether it be for new music, or just to see what obscure and awesome stations people dream up. Though the battle for success, much less supremacy, is one that hasn’t even begun, to me it is indisputable that the basic idea behind Fuzz is a winner. Yasuda and co. are right in their idea that it is much more fun to put people in charge of a music selection, and the difference give Fuzz a personality in its beta stage that even the larger, and more established, stations don’t share.

In fact, even if Fuzz doesn’t take off, it’s that idea that I love, and which I hope ultimately influences other stations to implement something similar. Although, as so many other things in the tech business have proven, sometimes all it really does take is a good idea, and the proper amount of momentum to make it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I may have to make a station featuring the music of Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and the soundtrack to the video game “Earthbound.

  

Roqbot Promises to be the Jukebox Reborn

In many ways, the jukebox hasn’t been a relevant or practical item for quite a few years now. Even before the advent of the iPod, many establishments that once used them prominently suddenly started preferring TV sets and house music to stand in for the old nickelodeon. Yet even though time has diminished the prominence of the jukebox, it has only added to the machine’s mystique. When imagining any good old time diner or gin joint, the jukebox is sure to spring to mind in its home right in the corner, as some classic tune frames another undisputed image of Americana.

It was only a matter of time, though, before the idea of a musical public centerpiece entered the digital age in full effect, and now it appears that thanks to a smartphone app called Roqbot, that time has come.

The idea is that a restaurant, bar or other type of patron establishment will register themselves as a Roqbot location and install a corresponding system. You can even help your favorite local joint become a member by recommending them on the Facebook campaign, “Jukebox Reborn,” Then, you can use your smartphone to check in to the affiliated location and see what’s playing, help create set lists, recommend the music, and even check out specials and other information about the place, thus allowing customers to truly set the music selection of their favorite hangouts like never before.

It’s an idea that’s time has come, and depending on the participation of venues and users, is one that could become popular fast. But I can’t help but lament that this is a clear sign the days of jukeboxes are truly done. Yes, their selection is very limited, and they’re extremely bulky and prone to break down, but besides the romantic aspect of seeing one, there is the fun of flipping through the sheets and finding that perfect song, or just knowing the number of your favorite by heart.

Also, the limited selection of a jukebox helps to truly define a good bar. I take comfort in knowing a little hole in the wall whose jukebox is loaded with Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Eric Clapton because I know that for the cost of some quarters, I have found a safe haven from club beats and dance music, and am around common souls whose heads start to nod and feet start to tap as the music fills the room, letting me know it was a good selection. I don’t know if an unlimited public playlist selection can offer that same kind of community.

But hey, maybe I’m just an old fashioned.

Even if the Roqbot is the wave of the future, though, I’m still going to go down to my favorite dives and give a quarter of tribute to one of the most pure fun inventions of all time.