This Start-up Wants to be the Spotify for Thai Indie Music
Fungjai was created out of passion for homegrown music
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Sarun “Top” Pinyarat grew up listening to Thai indie music. He tuned in to indie radio stations like 104.5 FM, bought tons of CDs, and listened to Coolvoice.com—the first indie music streaming website in Thailand.
While he was studying and working abroad, he was also an avid user of digital music service Spotify. Upon returning to his home country in 2014, he wanted to catch up with the Thai indie music scene. However, he realized that even through YouTube, it was difficult to discover and search for the music he so loved.
With his passion for local music and the desire to build and nurture his own product, Fungjai was born.
Building a community
Sarun decided he wanted to create the Spotify for Thai indie music. He tapped three other co-founders, Annop 'Champ' Kobkij, Chutipong 'Ball' Khuwichai, and Warchanon 'Pae' Numnam—who were all software developers—to join him. Piyapong 'Py' Muenprasertdee was the last co-founder who came on board and now serves as marketing officer and community manager. Their first hire was Pitchaya 'Sy' Chonato, a newly graduated graphics designer who came up with the name and art direction for Fungjai. The company was officially registered in November 2014.
Fungjai is a community that connects musicians and fans, where they can enjoy music streaming, an online magazine, and offline events like concerts and seminars.
Musicians can apply for an artist profile to be able to upload and manage their music, along with their photos and other information. Users can stream music through the website or the app, which is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Today, Fungjai has more than 3,000 artist profiles on its music-streaming platform, and around 100,000 monthly unique users on the site, according to Piyapong.
Novel business model
At first the company looked at the subscription model, but later realized that the Thai market was not conducive for such a model to survive. As such, while maintaining music streaming as the main draw for the community, Piyapong says, the team explored other business opportunities, such as concert production, an online music magazine, music seminars and workshops, a musician-booking platform, and artist management. Currently, its main revenue sources are sponsorships and ticket sales from concert productions.
“However, as [the company] understands that music is an integrated experience, it now aims to utilize its 360° platforms to become an all-in-one music marketing agency,” Piyapong says.
In early 2015, Fungjai caught the attention of Ookbee—a digital publication platform for newspapers and magazines. The company is now partially funded by Ookbee U—a joint venture between Ookbee and a tech-investment giant from China Tencent—for an undisclosed amount.
Spotify, but not quite
But how does it differentiate itself from Spotify?
“Our biggest difference from the other big players is that we connect and work closely with the music communities,” Piyapong explains, “Our team consists of several musicians and members of the local music community, so people don't see us as a corporation with a logo, but people with familiar faces.”
Moreover, he says, Fungjai does not compete directly with the bigger players. Instead it “carves a niche of passionate music listeners and creators who look for a space to call their own.”
As to the future, Fungjai is keen on setting up for regional expansion.
“We have been personally connecting with leaders and members of local music communities around the region and hope to collaborate on interesting and exciting music ventures in the near future. We hope to become the music platform for Southeast Asia's local music communities to connect and share music,” Piyapong says.