By Kerri Panchuk
Before gracing the football field as an offensive tackle in the NFL, and before becoming CEO of social media start-up EarBuds Music, Jason Fox was a normal high school teenager in Fort Worth, exchanging CDs with friends in a quest to find the latest and greatest music.
Like many athletes, Fox says that his love of music remained an integral part of his life through an athletic career that included stints with the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins. From pre-game nerves to victory celebrations, music has been a soothing balm or energizing stimulant for Fox throughout his life, both inside and outside of sports.
Fox remembers locker rooms filled with famous NFL players — many of who calmed their pre-game jitters by listening to their favorite playlists and shared their music and artist recommendations with teammates.
During those moments, Fox had a thought: What would happen if sports fans could see at any given moment what was playing in, for example, Cam Newton’s ear buds right before a big game?
Fox hopes to answer that question with his social media start-up, appropriately named EarBuds. With the EarBuds app, users will be able to directly access the real-time playlists of friends, family, and favorite celebrities and athletes.
In its pre-launch phase, EarBuds is inviting music fans nationwide to test out its platform (the site is collecting email addresses of people interested in participating in the upcoming test phase).
Fox’s goal is to make music a social experience again. Ironically, while the Internet has provided more options for music aficionados to listen to songs online, Fox says it’s a long way from his high school days when it was easy to meet a friend in the hallways to share CDs.
“I think people shared music more in high school than they do now,” Fox says. “People were always passing around CDs.” This allowed Fox as a teenager to stay on top of new bands and genres of music.
But many of those friendly exchanges died with the Internet, Fox says. While music is more instantaneous and readily available today, the ability to know what your friends, your co-workers, your family, or your favorite celebrity or athlete is listening these days is diminished, Fox believes.
“Now everybody has their own streaming service,” says Fox. “And they rely on the music that they already have in their library, or on algorithms.” But he has noticed these services and apps don’t always lead to new discoveries or the type of man-on-the-street discussions that used to tip Fox off to up-and-coming bands and genres of music.
If being a music fan means communicating in real time with other music lovers, the Internet has yet to satisfy this part of the musical experience, he says.
EarBuds (http://www.earbudsmusic.com/) is asking users to sign up and become beta testers for the app. The site is in the pre-launch stage soliciting app testers. Fox is eager to help music fans discover new music in real time by sharing songs and lists with friends and celebs. By signing up, beta testers will be able to view in real time the playlists of all the other participants.
Fox, by way of his time in the NFL, says he already has plenty of famous athletes interested in exploring the app in the future.
“EarBuds will give you the ability to connect with anyone — celebrities and friends — and you can listen with them in real time,” Fox explains. “It gives you the ability to share your playlist. So, if someone is in California, and the other person is in Texas, they can both still share the same moment or the same experience with you by listening to your live playlist.”
Like most social media apps, users will be able to comment on the music posted, share feedback, and “like” songs. Earbuds users will be able to launch any playlist that they have, whether it is saved on Spotify, Apple Music, or most other providers, and share their music with friends.
For Fox, he is following the path of many former NFL players by launching his own company, but his motivation comes from his own personal desire to improve the music-sharing capabilities of the Internet. EarBuds is more than a post-NFL career choice; it’s a passion Fox has harbored since his youth in Fort Worth.
“It isn’t just about running my own company,” he says. “It was really about what I saw as a gap in the market. When I was growing up, music was such a huge part of my life.
“As I moved up in the NFL, I would see guys sharing music with their fans through Instagram and Twitter; and they would get feedback through responses.”
Yet, Fox believes that the Internet still doesn’t offer a platform that encourages human engagement in the process of sharing music.
“It came to fruition when in my last year playing, I saw Cam Newton warming up with a stadium packed with Carolina fans, and thought here is a guy with a huge social media following,” Fox says.
That’s when the idea hit Fox. He thought to himself, when Cam is dancing on the sidelines, prepping, or celebrating, how many people would love to listen to what is playing in his headphones at those moments?
If you’d like to test the app, simply log into the Earbuds webpage (http://www.earbudsmusic.com/). And sign up with your email address. As a tester, you will soon be able to begin sampling the music of other participants, and watch how the app develops in real time.
If Earbuds works, fans will soon be able to dance along with Cam!