This Free Music App Is Now Bigger Than Industry Giants, but It May Not Be Playing by the Rules

Musi is a free music streaming app that has grown above Deezer and Pandora.
Musi is a free music streaming app that has grown above Deezer and Pandora.

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Is Musi too good to be legal?

A free music streaming app called Musi has risen to become a big competitor in the digital music streaming industry.

Since its launch in 2016, it already got over 66 million downloads, which is way past popular platforms like Deezer and Pandora.

But despite its popularity, the legality of its business model, which involves streaming music from YouTube, has come under scrutiny.

Musi’s Rapid Growth and Popularity

Aaron Wojnowski and Christian Lunny pitching their idea for Musi on Dragon's Den. (From:
Aaron Wojnowski and Christian Lunny pitching their idea for Musi on Dragon’s Den. (From:

Aaron Wojnowski and Christian Lunny, two 19-year-olds from Winnipeg, created Musi with a unique value proposition.

Upon opening the app, users are shown video ads. But once they sit through those, they can enjoy uninterrupted music totally for free. Then, only banner ads that don’t get in the way are displayed while listening, which can be removed by paying a one-time fee of US$5.99.

Musi’s simplicity is its hallmark. The no-frills app is devoid of extra features like song lyrics or concert information seen on other services. There’s also no download feature for offline listening.

“Musi is essentially a way to stream music from YouTube. You have to sit through video ads when you open the app, but after that, you can listen to uninterrupted music. There are visual banner ads, but these don’t intrude if you’re simply using it as an audio experience.” explained the founders.
Musi is a top performer in download numbers and revenue generation. (From: Musi)
Musi is a top performer in download numbers and revenue generation. (From: Musi)

Currently, Musi is available only on iOS. However, it has been making waves in terms of download numbers and revenue generation, as reported by data analytics firms.

Sensor Tower says that Musi downloads exceed its rivals as it became popular among iOS users in North America.

“Musi regularly ranks in the top five music streaming apps on Apple’s App Store. Sensor Tower estimates that it has been downloaded more than 66 million times since launching more than a decade ago, with 8.5 million downloads last year alone.” says Sensor Tower.

Musi’s success also reached new heights in February 2024 when it became the top-grossing iOS app, based on Pixalate. Over the past two years, it has ranked as the first or second highest-earning iOS app in North America, bringing in over $107 million from ads since January 2023.

Yet, Musi remains a small, private company with 2-10 employees according to its LinkedIn page.

Details about Musi’s corporate structure and leadership are hard to find in the public domain. The founders, Wojnowski and Lunny, no longer list their involvement with the company on LinkedIn, with Wojnowski announcing his departure in early 2024.
Musi logo.
Musi logo.

Musi’s legal situation is a subject of debate among legal experts. Some, like copyright lawyer David Herlihy, believe that Musi’s model is on solid legal ground.

“They’re linking to YouTube, and YouTube has licenses,” Herlihy says, suggesting Musi operates within legal bounds by using licensed YouTube links.

On the other hand, James Grimmelmann, a professor at Cornell Tech, is cautious. He questions whether Musi’s use of YouTube content extends beyond the scope of YouTube’s licenses.

“Is this copyright infringement? A license for YouTube might not be a license to Musi.” says Grimmelmann.

Grimmelmann also raises concerns about potential violations of YouTube’s terms of service. This could lead YouTube to restrict Musi’s access to its content, potentially messing up Musi’s business model.

Musi’s legal history also includes a 2019 lawsuit against an online ad network.

The network’s counter-complaint accused Musi of “knowingly and illegally ripping music off from YouTube.” Yet, the case was eventually dismissed in 2020.

However, it remains unclear if playing a song on Musi generates the same artist income as a YouTube stream, given the complex factors in streaming payout calculations. It’s also uncertain if rights holders can remove their music from Musi without pulling it from YouTube entirely.

Business Community Response

CBC's Dragons also weren't fully convinced of the legalities of Musi's value proposition. (From: CBC)
CBC’s Dragons also weren’t fully convinced of the legalities of Musi’s value proposition. (From: CBC)

These legal uncertainties are reflected in the business community’s response.

Wojnowski and Lunny captured interest when they pitched their startup on the reality TV show Dragons’ Den. They managed to generate interest among the judges. But, they failed to secure lasting investment as potential investors withdrew due to legal worries.

“I was advised that when companies such as Musi get to a critical size, they could be sued for past use by the publishers,” Joe Mimran, a judge from Dragons’ Den, told the Financial Post in 2016.

According to WIRED, “one major label” is rumored to be considering litigation against Musi. Vevo has also expressed intentions to take action against Musi for using its music videos without a proper license.

“We have recently been made aware of the music video app, Musi. Music videos on the app have not been licensed by Vevo, and Musi is using the Vevo mark on its service without license, and Vevo will take appropriate measures,” says Evelyn Swiderski, Vevo spokesperson.

Despite all this, industry insiders, like Audiomack‘s Dave Macli, believe that shutting down Musi will lead to the emergence of similar apps.

“If you look at the iOS app landscape, there are a lot of apps like this—Musi is just the top one,” Macli says.

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