Connecting People Through Music: A Conversation with weeSPIN CEO and Co-founder Darius Fong by Christopher A. Daniel @Journalistorian @weespin @thePREFCT

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Remember that time when you and your peeps used to post up by the radio speakers or go to the club every weekend to hear those new songs by your favorite artists? You and your friends covered your mouths as you yelled at a slick verse or nodded your heads to the beat. It was a special moment because you were all in the same room hearing it at the same time.

Grammy-winning producer, engineer and mixer Darius Fong thought it would be cool to recapture similar times like this without having to be in the same room. Fong is the ultra-cool CEO and co-founder of weeSPIN (iOS only), a free mobile app that allows friends and like-minded people to play and listen to music together in real time despite distance.

weeSPIN is the first and only social networking platform to allow streaming music to not be reduced to a singular listening experience. Unlike other streaming services like iTunes, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, Tidal or last.fm, weeSPIN permits each individual user to curate playlists. In turn, their followers can enjoy the same exact songs beat-for-beat, note-for-note.

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Fong envisions for each song to possibly correlate with sharing pictures or posting status updates. “There was a big gap for a more humanistic approach to social networking,” he says. “There was not really much of a sharing feature you can really control. When people replace that photo with a song, it’s not that apparent.”

Followers can also send each other songs. weeSPIN’s main objective, Fong says, is to bring groups and communities of people together around music in the digital era similar to what jukeboxes, terrestrial radio, and early MTV video blocks accomplished for previous generations.

“Our task is making sure people can listen to music together and to bring what’s valuable from the artist to the consumer,” says Fong via phone. “We’re very consumer-focused. We’re actually not making a huge change as far as how music is being delivered. We’re focusing more on the social side.”

Prior to Fong starting his Culver City, CA-based startup company, the data savvy Hong Kong native honed his chops in the recording studio for over 10 years. His ear landed him behind the console on projects by Sergio Mendes, Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Weezer, Julio Iglesias, Herb Alpert, Randy Crawford, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Marcus Miller and Dave Koz.

weeSPIN, originally founded in 2013, is not Fong’s only foray into the tech ecosystem. He developed SMACK, a virtual hub of percussion sounds. After spending up to as many as 17 hours a day for years in the studio, Fong, a self-labeled “studio rat,” watched the music business go through many changes.

Revenue streams from publishing royalties were diminishing. Audiences were downloading and streaming music from their mobile devices as opposed to buying physical copies of albums from retailers. Many recording artists and music industry professionals often transitioned into other careers. More computer programs were allowing novice producers to create songs with the assistance of a team.

Determined to not lose his passion for making music and the music business, Fong even started to ponder what his next move would ultimately become. “I thought I wouldn’t be as close to music as I was,” says the Indiana University Bloomington alum.

“The music industry was changing rapidly. When streaming came along, it sort of made the entire music experience very hyperindividualized. The lines started to get really blurred, but we were really excited about those opportunities.”

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weeSPIN currently has a team of five people. The digital product has already cultivated partnerships and activations with lifestyle brands like TOMS shoes and Coachella Music Festival.

Managing a staff and developing a brand is where Fong dedicates most of his time and energy. He does admit that he misses being in the studio ‘round-the-clock. He hasn’t cut his ties from turning knobs just yet though.

“I still play music,” utters Fong chased by a hint of chuckles. “I can still go back to the studio anytime I want. For now, it’s about making it fun and easiest for people to enjoy music together. If we can do that, we’re happy.”

Fong thinks weeSPIN will advance to rank with other multimillion and billion-dollar social media companies. Since each user acts as an individual data scientist based on their tastes and listening habits, he is hoping for major and independent artists to use weeSPIN as a consultancy group to advise and inform them on where their intellectual property resonates.

Reiterating that he keeps one foot in the recording studio and the other in his lofty office space, Fong doesn’t see a fundamental difference between his past and his present work. He does question if weeSPIN is in fact solving a real problem to treat music as a social unifier.

In the meantime, Fong is confident in weeSPIN’s ability to be collaborative, humanistic and most importantly, social. In fact, Fong thinks music is actually the precursor to social media. “Music really is the connector,” he says.

“It continues to bring people together. The mobile app is an extension of what I was doing before, and the rewards have exceeded my expectations. We stay really focused on the mission that everything we do has to do with our vision, which is bringing people closer together through music.”

To learn more, visit weespin.com

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