John Jones (BuyWidget) – Interview (Part 1)

Back in May I wrote a post about a system for the monetization of music named BuyWidget, and just last week I managed to talk with its CEO, Mr. John Jones. I did wish I could have featured him before on MusicKO, but now I know that the saying “Good things come to those who wait” couldn’t be truer – just look at his answers. Incredibly insightful, rich in content and a joy to read.

But enough of my chatter. On with the interview!


Full Name: John Jones
Age: 50
Startup: BuyWidget
Position: CEO



Tell us a little about your startup. How was it conceived? What gives it an edge?

BuyWidget was conceived as a means of allowing any site, blog or portal to quickly set up their own music download sales store. The core idea was to give sites a means of enhancing their visitor’s experience, increasing their user engagement, and increasing their revenue. The significant advantage is that the signup, and build process of creating a BuyWidget only takes a few minutes – less than it takes to watch a video explaining it actually! And it works on WordPress, TypePad, Blogspot and any HTML site. BuyWidget is a product from our parent, fortyninegroup, a digital products and services company.

What was the original launch date?

The service launched in beta in May 2010.

What has been the response so far? In which countries has it been more successful?

Great, thanks for asking! BuyWidget is now on more than 250 sites. The US has the most installations.

What features can we expect to see implemented in future revisions?

We recently added a PayPal payment process. All site owners who host a BuyWidget can be paid through PayPal. We are working on a number of new additions. The great thing, from the beta launch, is that the code has been stable, and our hosting provider is fantastic, so reliability has not been an issue!

Which other products have you got in the pipeline?

We are expanding the BuyWidget network this week by launching SchoolBuyWidget and FaithBuyWidget – two brand extensions focused on 1) the scholastic market and 2) the faith-based market. We see a need for school sites to add a BuyWidget to their websites to allow music sales which would drive revenue back into the school to benefit their activity programs. Same thing for churches and places of worship. We are expanding with two more brand extensions next week, to address additional communities where we’ve seen significant interest and uptake. It’s a network approach to the BuyWidget product.

There is a certain tendency to demonize the Internet in the music industry. I think it is all a matter of perspective – it all depends on the uses it is put to. What is your opinion? In which areas has the Internet left an unquestionably positive mark?

How much time do I have???

Three points – in content there are three verticals – content creation, content packaging and content distribution – technology has flattened content creation and packaging. The internet has flattened content distribution, which was previously a business with a high barrier to entry and high margins. Now, there is very little barrier to entry and also, very little margin. This is a positive trend for music – it is democratizing the distribution of content.

Secondly, the internet has given us the ability to act on three planes of consumer experience more efficiently than ever before. Content, Community, Commerce. Not just for music, but most businesses and aspects of life. As an example that most of us have done by now – I want to buy a new pair of shoes – within 5 minutes on the internet, I have endless reviews, pricing options and points of purchase. 20 years ago, really a sliver of time in human existence, that would not have been possible.

Thirdly, in terms of positive life experiences as a result of the enabling ability of technology, has there been a better time to be alive?

What advice could you give to anybody who is launching a music-related startup in the future? What are the obvious mistakes that should be avoided?

Be relentless about becoming profitable as quickly as possible, and build a business that has as few dependencies on third parties as possible. In other words, build legal, viable, profitable businesses that require as few dependencies on label, publisher or performance rights organization licensing as possible.

Read Part 2 of this interview.

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