fairsharemusic: Lee Cannon and Jonny Woolf

The music experts on introducing charity to the download industry

Name:Lee Cannon and Jonny Woolf
Staff numbers:Four
Company description:Ethical music downloads

Tell us what your business does fairsharemusic is a unique new music download site where the music you buy really does make a difference.  With over 8.5 million tracks, and prices starting at 79p per track, fairsharemusic is not dissimilar from other popular music sites, except that for every track you download, it donates half of its profit to your chosen charity.  The more you download, the more it donates. fairsharemusic gives charities access to a new music-based fundraising tool, enabling them to reach and engage a broad demographic of music lovers.  Leveraging the power of micro donations, it promises to make a difference without requiring significant goodwill or generosity from donors.

Where did the idea for your business come from? We have over 40 years combined experience in the music industry, working on everything from Live Aid to Robbie Williams. We understand what drives music downloads and we saw how music has the power to inspire and motivate people. Working on entertainment projects that not only helped specific causes but also supported artists and songwriters, we decided we wanted people to feel good about downloading music and donating to charity which is where the idea for fairsharemusic came from.

How did you know there was a market for it? The market for music downloads in the UK is growing at around 40% per year and now makes up almost 20% of music sales. Five years ago it was only 1%.

There is no other music download site that fuses together downloading with charity donations. We have partnered with eleven of the top UK charities to ensure that there is a charity available on fairsharemusic that appeals to everyone. The eleven charities that have partnered with fairsharemusic are: Great Ormond Street Hospital, WWF, NSPCC, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Centrepoint, British Red Cross, Sue Ryder, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty and Teenage Cancer Trust.   Have you always wanted to run your own business? We have both always felt incredibly privileged to be able to work in an industry that we love. Working for some of the biggest entertainment companies in the world over the last 20 years has provided us with the skills and experience needed to create a new business in a very competitive market.  We have always wanted to run our own business but felt we needed the right vehicle before making the jump. With fairsharemusic we are in the business of music but are using music as a vehicle to motivate people to donate to charity in a new way.     How did you find suppliers? Being experts in the music field we decided that the best way to provide the widest range of music to our users was to use a content aggregator, so we researched all the services that were available. Our site offers over 8.5million tracks. Our aim was to keep supplier costs down to a minimum so that we could offer consumers parity in price for music downloads.   What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? There have been many of the usual challenges, from finding a payment gateway provider able to offer reasonable terms on micro payments, to sourcing the best staff and location. The biggest challenge that we have had to overcome was convincing 11 of the biggest charities in the country to become a partner without a live website to show them. We feel that with commitment, passion and integrity anything can be achieved.       Where is your business based? We have an office at the Arlington House, the innovative social housing scheme in Camden that houses 95 rooms for residents; artist studios, 35 flats; classrooms and training as well as a number of local businesses.   How much do you charge? How did you decide this? Prices start at 79p for a track and the price is calculated depending on the artist, as record companies differ their pricing. Our prices are on par if not better than other music download sites available. We are very transparent with our costs and want consumers to be aware of how much money for each download goes to the charity, artist, tax man and the bank. 

What has your growth been like? The last seven months have been incredibly busy, from coming up with the original concept, developing the website and confirming the charity partners, to actually launching the site at the end of June 2010. Since the launch we have seen some encouraging trends. The average basket size on fairsharemusic is 50% higher than we had anticipated at £7.48 compared with the national average of £5.  Another interesting trend we have seen since launching the site is that far more of our customers are women, which is surprising as music downloading trends indicate that men download more music on average then women. This suggest that by providing an ethical alternative to other music download sites people are not only feeling good about their downloads, they actually buy more because of it.

What was your first big breakthrough? The first breakthrough was when Oxfam confirmed as a charity partner. This was our first charity partner and made the business a reality.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Research your idea and if you really believe you’ve got a great business, research some more. Make sure you know all there is to know about your business before you commit. And once you commit, stay focused, believe in yourself and don’t let ego get in the way of making the right decisions.

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Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan? In five years time we would like to be front of mind for consumers when thinking about music download websites and a source of significant revenue for our charity partners.


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