Fuzz, a new online music service launched today, tries to recapture some of the teenage excitement of making a mixtape and update it for the online era.
Unfortunately, like some other new online music services, Fuzz suffers from an unclear mission. In this case, it's trying to serve two audiences at once: music fans and musicians.
From a fan's perspective, the biggest draw seems to be an easy way to share music with your friends. After signing up and signing in, you start by clicking the "Deckorator" on the right side of the home page. This launches a Flash application that lets you upload any MP3 from your computer and organize these uploads into a playlist. The playlists are posted in a public forum, but the real draw is the Mixtape Creator, which essentially packages your playlist as a virtual mixtape, complete with canned cover art (you can also create your own). The tape then appears on your profile page, and you can also embed it on any personal Web page or send e-mail to guide your friends to that mixtape.
As an artist, you can create a profile page with 1GB of storage on which you can advertise gigs, invite fans to sign up for your e-mail list, and upload your music to give away or sell. (Fuzz keeps $0.30 cents per transaction, and lets you set your price, although $0.99 per song is the default.) It's sort of like MySpace with digital distribution.
The trouble is, the two goals aren't in perfect alignment. In its effort to attract artists, Fuzz devotes quite a lot of real estate to its artists and their wares. But there aren't a lot of artists signed up yet, which makes it look like a fairly limited online music store. This buries the real draw for users: the ability to create and share custom playlists, including music that users have already bought. If I were in charge of Fuzz's business strategy, I'd start by weighing the site more heavily to users, try and draw a large userbase to create and exchange virtual mixtapes, and then use this large userbase to draw more artists in.