Recent Harvard Graduates Revolutionize Downloading of Internet Music

During reading period two years ago, three self-proclaimed “radio nerds” at Harvard Radio WHRB stumbled onto an idea which led them away from the frenzy of exams and into a world of patents, venture capital and big bucks.

In an attempt to make digital music easier to navigate, Clifford Chen ’00, Gabriel Dorfman ’02-’04 and Michael Papish, class of 2000, co-founded MediaUnbound, a service that creates playlists based on its users’ tastes.

Just last Tuesday, the Cambridge-based company signed a three-year deal with pressplay, a legal version of Napster backed by the world’s three largest record companies––Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Recorded Music.

The site will use MediaUnbound’s technology to recommend music to its subscribers.

While the dot com world has proven harsh for many who left school on its promise, Papish says MediaUnbound is thriving, although he will not specify the amount of the deal.

“This deal is huge for us,” Papish says, “Pressplay has an enormous amount of money behind them.”

The Beginnings

MediaUnbound was born two years ago, Papish says, when he and his friends began to notice the difficulty of navigating the music options available through the Internet.

After creating a WHRB website which would allow listeners online access to the radio station, Papish says he began to consider the computer’s untapped music potential.

“We were bored and didn’t want to study,” he says. “We saw the computer was a horrible thing for music, and it seemed like an exciting area to explore. But beyond that, our ideas were still fuzzy.”

According to Papish, it took the three students only 10 days before they began to receive funding for their project, from WHRB alums and Harvard Business School grants.

“It was an easy time to start a company because at that time every business student’s dream was to drop out of school and make it big,” Dorfman says.

The students then began to research how to best market their idea.

According to Dorfman, they identified a need for a more accurate system of online music recommendations.

“MediaUnbound solves the problem that there’s too much stuff on the Internet for people to know about it all,” Dorfman says.