How Muse.ie Died - Twice
The 1990's version of the internet in Ireland can be described with one word: barren.
There was no broadband. Dial-up internet was slow to connect to, and slow to use. It wasn't uncommon to resort to dialling nodes in every county in Ireland to find one that wasn't congested.
If you did get to "surf" the web (oh, the terms we used) the range of Irish content on the internet was, let's say, sparse. Along came Rondomondo to fix that.
Rondomondo was a digital publishing business, started by Telecom Éireann. It was Ireland's answer to AOL. With a 26 year old CEO, £15m Irish punts in the bank, and a glitzy launch party, it was primed to become the first real Irish internet success story. Then, the bubble burst and Rondomondo was no more. Along the way, though, Rondomondo created something special.
A music magazine for the internet age, Muse.ie had a modern look and great content. A strong set of contributors, including Donal Scannell, John Collins, and John Kelly complemented the modern look with modern views. They interviewed a wonderful variety of celebs like U2, Madonna, Posh Spice, Orbital, Fun Loving Criminals and Robbie Williams. They sold ads, but I guess not enough of them.
When Muse.ie died, the content died with it. Arguably the biggest loss of all.
Back in 1998 - when I was a 5th year student figuring out whether industrial design, web design, or culinary arts was my calling - I emailed Muse.ie asking for an internship. Their rejection email was direct but polite.
So, having been rejected by it, when the opportunity to buy and revive Muse.ie arose in the mid-2000's, I didn't think twice. It would be a moment of redemption for the 1998 version of me.
I convinced the wonderful Steve Cummins - an editor at NME - to join me on the journey. I hopped on a plane to London to hammer out a deal with now publicly listed 7digital. They built some neat technology for bands to upload and sell their music from profile pages on Muse.ie. A partnership with VideoEgg (RIP) made it easy for bands and gig-goers to add videos to their profile pages. This was before Facebook was a big deal in Ireland, and before the iPhone was a "thing."
When the revived Muse.ie emerged from the vaults, it received pretty favourable reviews. Far from perfect, but a great start. "The layout is intuitive but not exactly slick or pretty" - I took that one on the chin.
By far the best part of it all was Steve's content. Daily music news, reviews, and interviews kept people coming back to the site. Our event listings were - I would humbly argue - best-in-class. We built a simple way for visitors to the site to contribute to it. User generated content became high quality content. Advertisers, like Heineken, came onboard to fund our crusade.
Then, the inevitable happened.
Like the first death of Muse.ie, the second was triggered by catastrophe in financial markets. 2008 was an awful year - not just for us, but for everyone in the industry. Live events dried up, gig-goers stayed at home. A different version of today's reality. Debt was a different strain of virus back then.
Today, Muse.ie - the domain, at least - is alive and well. A portfolio site for a designer called Penny.