Listening To His Heart An Interview with BluYun
As a young boy in Seoul, South Korea, Blue Yun was so surrounded by musical strains at home: his mother conducted piano lessons from there, that for a time he tired of their sound, but eventually grew passionate about music. Even so, he received little encouragement to become a musician or an entrepreneur, let alone both, and instead he was advised to work for a big South Korean company like Samsung or LG.
Yun’s family moved to California in 1990. He continued living in Seoul but traveled often to the U.S. where his entrepreneurial spirit was stoked; helping him
realize that he could indeed do what he really wanted. So he combined his love of music with his desire to create content such as videos and computer programs to found the company Musicshake, an online platform that allows consumers to make and distribute music.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I was a recording engineer and a technical engineer in South Korea. I also had a web development company where I made over 100 websites. And I made over 1000 videos for the web. I also worked in TV production, directing several national television programs and several short films. My focus was making good content for all types of media.
Also, when I was in high school, I got a job as a computer programmer. As a result, I gained a lot of confidence in the field. Before that I thought that professional programmers were untouchable but after that I started to believe that making a game, a program, or a product was not a big deal.
How did you come up with idea for Musicshake?
It was kind of natural to think of a product that combined my experiences in music and the internet. The first time I thought of Musicshake was in 1999. Originally it was planned to serve professional musicians, not consumers. These days, it’s possible to create an entire album on a single computer but things were different back then. You could only create quality songs by going into a studio using expensive analog and digital audio equipment. I really wanted to create inexpensive, high quality master recordings using just the computer.
How long did it take to launch the company?
Even though there were some willing investors, I kept my day jobs and I continued exploring the idea. I realized that there would be a huge market if I changed the idea a little bit and created a service for the general public. I founded the company in March 2005.
Just as with many other startups, we went through tough times in the beginning. To save money, we didn’t rent an office. Our salaries were minimal. Then we ran out of money and went through some rough patches until we finally got some venture capital investment to seriously develop the product.
What kind of traffic are you experiencing now?
We have about 100,000 monthly visitors. Our special app for the iPhone, called Free MP3 for YouTube, is being downloaded 5,000 times per day.
Facebook’s initial public offering again drew a lot of attention to the concern for an online business’ ability to generate revenue.
What is Musicshake’s business model for monetization?
Creating and sharing music is basically free but there are items that can be purchased in the process of making music and uploading music to the sites. For example, making music, uploading the music to the site, and sharing the song link with friends is free but downloading one’s own MP3 is a paid service. We provide a general personal license for 99 cents and a commercial license for $19.99.
An important business model is publishing the music created by users. User-generated music is currently creating revenues on YouTube. We have plans to use the music for retail background music, games, apps and web development. Major movies and games may require music created by famous musicians but we can service the majority of the web, app, games, film and broadcasting markets by providing very inexpensive, high quality music.
Besides these existing business models, we are also thinking about adding a Musicshake component in toys to make a fun and interactive musical experience for children.
Part of the stated mission of Musicshake is to provide a way for your users to make money. How is that accomplished?
It is hard for anyone to sell their music on their own but we use many different ways to help them. For example, we are a premium partner of YouTube and we provide our user’s music to YouTube’s Audioswap so that their users can use it as background music for their videos free of charge. And we share the advertisement revenue of that video from YouTube with our users who made the songs.
Besides YouTube, what other companies are you partnering with?
We have partnered with Apple. With our iPhone app, we provide background music for video taken with an iPhone that you can then upload directly to YouTube. The uploaded videos create a royalty stream. We’ve had 500,000 downloads in the nine months since this app was released.
Our product is also included in some Samsung camcorders. The background music plays while the camcorder records and the user can upload the video as soon as they are done recording.
Another advantage for YouTube due to our partnership is that they can replace the illegal music on their site with inexpensive music from us.
What do you think are the common principles or patterns that one needs to succeed as an entrepreneur?
There are a lot of common patterns in successful entrepreneurs but I would say that three things stand out:
First, drive. I haven’t seen anyone become successful without positive drive. Sometimes people land a deal even though they don’t have a whole lot to offer: it’s just that the deal maker had this incredible drive.
Second, passion. Surprisingly there are a lot of lazy entrepreneurs. But none of them succeed without passion – very strong passion. It creates energy, drive, and makes people move. I surely think that passion can make everything happen.
Third, the ability to attract people. To make an appealing product, we need a lot of great people who can work together. The entrepreneur has to attract people, motivate them, and help them make money. Also, most businesses eventually have to get money from other people or companies.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
Do what you really want to do. Managing a company is a difficult job. You can’t keep on doing something that you don’t really like. I would highly recommend that you take your time to figure that out before starting a company. If you think that you have found your destiny then don’t hesitate. Don’t look back. Just go get the tiger.
Without the passion and love for what I’m doing, I wouldn’t have lasted this long. That’s why many entrepreneurs say that the most important thing in running a company is patience. I totally agree with that. But you can’t keep on doing something that you don’t really like. You can be patient and overcome obstacles only if the job is something you love, something you want to do.
So, for the entrepreneur, choosing what you’re going to do as a business is the most important thing.
My parents, friends, relatives: everyone told me to go back to engineering. I didn’t listen to any of that. I was doing what I wanted to do. I finally found my future in Musicshake and I’ve been doing this for the past 8 years. Not listening to others and just doing what I really want to do is part of my entrepreneurial spirit.
What is in the future for Musicshake?
I want Musicshake to be a global platform like YouTube – a global music-making distribution platform.
We developed a real time, music composition engine called “Musicshake Biz”. This engine makes complete songs and people can use these songs anytime and anywhere. It is a magical music box! All you have to do is choose the type of music you want. You can use this engine to create background music for retail stores, mobile apps, games, films, TV shows, web sites, and more.
We want to be a platform where people can easily make their own music and sell that music to other people and companies. Some could even turn it into a full-time job. In other words, we will realize people’s dreams.