The field for Web applications geared at independent music acts is almost as saturated as, say, video-sharing sites and social networking portals. Consequently, the new ones emerging these days are typically very niche-specific--in other words, find a feature that MySpace doesn't offer, create a Web site for it, and make sure you offer embeddable widgets.
Like this one, PocketFuzz, which just launched its new Web site. Pocketfuzz aims to make it easier for independent artists to offer mobile downloads--specifically ringtones, but also wallpapers and text-message alerts--and profit from the sales. It's free for artists to join, so the company aims to profit by taking a cut of the earnings.
What makes Pocketfuzz different from any other ringtone site is that fans of the band can choose the portion of the song that they want to use as a ringtone, rather than being offered pre-selected clips. Then you can send them directly to your cell phone This can be done either through PocketFuzz's Web site or through widgets than bands (and fans) can embed in Web sites, blogs, and social networking profiles like MySpace. When I spoke to PocketFuzz creators Austin Gayer and Danny Newman on Tuesday, they confirmed to me that a Facebook Platform widget is in the works, too.
The widgets are really the central focus of Pocketfuzz, as all purchasing and downloading activity can be completed through them without needing to actually visit the homepage. Gayer and Newman also assured me that the site is strictly monitored to make sure nobody uploads anything that's copyrighted, and that takedown procedures will be implemented in the case of infringing content. (It goes without saying that the "How do you deal with piracy?" question is something that any new media site, but particularly a music-based one, gets asked these days.)
But the catch, at least for now, is that you probably won't find a whole lot of bands you've heard of on Pocketfuzz. In other words, the technology is there--and it looks good--but the substance isn't. However, the Pocketfuzz creators said to me that they're working on a formal strategy for possibly partnering with record labels and therefore making their service available to mainstream artists. If that goes through, I can see the "create-a-ringtone" model getting popular--and profitable. If it stays "indie," I'm just not so sure, since there are just too many sites out there focusing on crazy ways to help unsigned bands promote their music.
However, I'm a stickler for good design, especially good design that's actually functional--so I'm rooting for this one.