Meet Murfie — the business that stores your CDs and vinyl records in a warehouse and digitizes their content so that you can stream your music collection wherever you are. Founded in 2011 by Preston Austin and Matt Younkle, the company warehouse now holds over 700,000 CDs.
The name comes from “the intersection of ‘sounds like a good name for a dog’ and a play on words for materials recycling facility,” said Austin.
The business wanted to showcase their approachability with a friendly name and being keen on recycling, playing off the existing acronym for materials recycling facility, MRF.
When CDs are sent to Murfie, the jewel cases are automatically recycled and disks are stored in sleeves. Not only does this defray shipping costs and make storage easier in the warehouse, but the recycled cases provide valuable material streams for other uses.
Surprisingly, while co-founders Austin and Younkle are both UW-Madison alums, the two didn’t know each other while attending the university. It wasn’t until Bryan Chan of SupraNet Communications introduced the pair that they began discussing current events and possible ventures as they “were both sort of like ‘what’s our next thing?’” said Austin.
The concept of Murfie was born between Austin’s past interest in creating a trading service for music through a venture he never launched and Younkle’s realization that despite no longer having a CD player, every time he moved he was still bringing his huge disk collection with him.
The pair recognized not only the financial investment put into one’s music collection and the value of the physical property, but also the personal history and emotional connection people have to the artists and albums they’ve kept.
“People have this stuff, put a lot into it. It both represents a record of their tastes and what they like, it has utility, and it’s music that they really own as opposed to something like a premium streaming service where you pay every month and when you stop paying you lose your access or you would get ads in it,” said Austin.
This is where Murfie distinguishes itself from other streaming services; you own the physical copy of the music being streamed. Murfie’s unique model is all about preserving the emotional connection to your music collection and the artists you invest in, while allowing you to have all the modern conveniences of cloud access.
While Murfie stores the disk or record, “Your music collection remains yours always,” said Austin.
You can always get the physical albums shipped back to you. And because the content Murfie streams comes from a physical album you own, you’ve directly supported that artist by buying their album, which “is not the same as metered payment of royalties for streaming,” Austin said.
Murfie does more than just store and digitize your music collection, the company also allows people to trade, buy and sell albums with other Murfie users, so long as they haven’t downloaded an audio file. “It’s like iTunes plus eBay,” said Austin.
There’s even an autobuy feature which lets consumers set the price they’re willing to pay for an album, and if there’s ever a copy at that price, it will be automatically purchased. No matter how many times an album changes hands, the key concept here is that “literally every single album that’s represented in a member’s collection is backed by a physical copy they own — they own the copy, we take custodial responsibility for it,” said Austin.
Because the value of your actual property is taken so seriously, Murfie even provides an option to list an inheritor of your music collection.
As for Murfie’s future, how artists sell their original content is going to be a real growing focus of the business in upcoming years, according to Austin. Artists can currently sell their content in the Murfie marketplace as long as there’s a CD or vinyl record being sold, but as Austin explains, “What we’re looking at is potentially in the future, things where the artist is extending a license to the buyer that’s equivalent to the physical object.”
This would be an “inclusive license” that would legally allow downloaded audio files to be sold to someone else, which you can’t currently do.
All in all, “Murfie helps reactivate people’s love of music,” said Austin.
Users can browse collections held by other Murfie members to find new music. If you’re searching the collection of someone who owns an album that you love, it’s likely that you’ll also enjoy the rest of the music in their collection.
According to Austin, this is due to the personal history people have with their CDs. “My collection is something that I actually invested in, it’s not just what I happened to playlist or something like that, and it’s not just what I happen to be playing a lot of right now. It’s more of a historic description of what I’m interested in and what I chose to keep,” Austin said.
Of Austin’s own musical taste, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon had the most impact on him, but he’s also very into Adele’s 21.
Interested in learning more about Murfie? You can check out their services at Austin and Younkle’s website: www.murfie.com.