Soundbuzz music store to shut down on July 15

June 8th, 2009 | by Alfred Siew

RIP, Soundbuzz

Soundbuzz, one of the first online music sources in Singapore, is officially shutting its store come July 15, even as more online music stores are opening with a wave of optimism surrounding music downloads.

In a note to subscribers last Friday, as well as on its website, the company said everything will be taken down after July 15 midnight, marking a sorry end to a bright dot.com poster boy of yesteryear.

The closure will come just 18 months after Motorola said it was acquiring the Singapore-based Soundbuzz, in a bid to boost its MotoMusic service and sell its music-enabled phones. The service had been launched in India in June 2008, though prices were still higher than what you could get with a CD, which offered higher-quality music.

Along with the dramatic demise of Motorola’s mobile phone business in the past two years, Soundbuzz now also faces closure of its own. It’s an ironic end for a company that seemed ahead of its time when it came out selling legit music in 1999 – at the dawn of illegal downloads.

Many were surprised at the time, when Soundbuzz CEO Sudhanshu Sarronwala, a former MTV stalwart, managed to court the music labels even when they were more interested in blocking people from ripping CDs. Its music collection was built up very fast, providing users in Singapore with a legit alternative to pirated songs.

But soon, the competition came for “Suds” and his company. Though Apple iTunes is still not officially here in Singapore now, Nokia has recently launched its music store here. And Sony Ericsson too, has partnered SingTel to offer a direct-to-mobile music download service.

Soundbuzz, meanwhile, was a much smaller player and had a less extensive music collection. Plus, it somehow only supported the Internet Explorer browser, likely because of its Windows Media back-end, which kept out a lot of users.

The final nail in the coffin must have been its sale to Motorola, a company that invented the cellphone and won millions over with the iconic Razr phone, but somehow still managed to lose direction in its cellphone business thanks to poor management and decision-making.

Before Soundbuzz shuts its store, it advises users to download and back up all the stuff they bought. Users should burn the tracks into CDs, because they would not be available for re-download and no licences will be given for them – should you transfer your songs to a new PC or hard disk.

According to Soundbuzz:
“We recommend that you burn these songs (in CD-Audio format using Windows Media Player or other compatible software media players) to a CD-R so that you have a back up of your tracks and can enjoy them over time. Further downloads or license re-issues will not be possible after July 15th, 2009. “

Sad way to go. RIP Soundbuzz. May easier, legit and DRM-free music take your place.

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12 Comments

  1. oneofthem says:

    was part of the soundbuzz team until 2007… good place to work in. Can’t forget the memories there.

  2. Soundbuzz says:

    I think that the DRM being too restrictive was ultimatly the downfall of Soundbuzz. I did actually like the site to be honest, even if it was onyl visiable in internet explorer 😛

  3. r0bZ says:

    I have no sympathy for Soundbuzz. Key decisions on the business were poor – you can’t even access the Web site without Internet Explorer, not platform agnostic, DRM too restrictive, and they did not ever look as if they were considering alternative models like subscription music. They should have folded a long time ago, back when they were just receiving a few thousand a year in revenue.

  4. Aaron Tan says:

    There is a new music community start-up called Wayango. Seems to focus more on indie music.

  5. VeeCee says:

    I was invited to invest in SoundBuzz in 1998 but I did not like their business model.
    Too many obstacles for the user to jump over.

    Ten years is not bad. They had a very good team, but got tangled up with a messy execution.

  6. wheregotfree says:

    really sad, I was a regular there last time

  7. mike says:

    I have tried to buy from Soundbuzz before but got stopped because of browser not supported… I think the DRMed tracks would have been troublesome too. But unavoidable issue then.

    Did meet some of the Soundbuzz people years ago and they were pretty nice. Me and a colleague were filming around Keong Saik and they graciously let us in to shoot even if we didn’t setup appointments and all.

    Vivamusic.com gone, Soundbuzz going… any other local music-related dot com still around?

  8. Chi-Loong says:

    Hmmm. Ironic is right, and a little sad as well.

    As Alf said, Soundbuzz is one of the nascent pioneers (in Asia, at least) of the digital music industry and was one of the better known homegrown start-ups.

    Soundbuzz got lots of publicity during their growth years (around 2004 to 2005). ST/Digital Life interviewed Sudhanshu a couple of times.

    They had rough early years in the early 2000s, almost died, and switched to selling ringtones to survive. Then, around 2004-ish onwards the digital music scene matured a bit, and they found partners (e.g. Creative), recording labels to sign on, and new countries to pursue. Things looked good then.

    Forward five years, and they’re folding. Ah well. At least they got bought out by Motorola!

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