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Milun Tesovic: Local Web Entrepreneur Knows the Score

Milun Tesovic. Photo courtesy Simon Fraser University.

UPDATE: yesterday (November 19), it was announced that Milun Tesovich has been named the Global Champion at the 2009 Global Student Entrepreneur awards held in Kansas City, Missouri, winning over 1,500 other student entrepreneurs from 18 countries. Congratulations, Milun!

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I couldn’t get to sleep the other night. My mind was preoccupied with a serious matter, namely what were the lyrics to that old song by the Hollies, Long Cool Woman? Did they really sing about “working for the FBI?” and about “a pair of moneybags”? What’s a pair of moneybags anyway?

Fortunately, the answer to this and similar questions is easy to find. Type “lyrics” in any search engine and millions of results will come up (234 million results in Google, 72 million in Bing), including dozens of sites specializing in music lyrics. There’s lyrics.com, azlyrics.com, lyricsmode.com, lyrics.astraweb.com, lyricsmania.com, seeklyrics.com and so on.

But the most popular lyrics site on the Web is metrolyrics.com, which was started eight years ago by Milun Tesovic, then a 16-year-old Burnaby high school student. Tesovic created metrolyrics.com for a simple reason: he needed money to buy a car. "I went into the only market that doesn’t discriminate against age but rather for ability and knowledge," he says.

Metrolyrics started small, as Tesovic, who is now studying business administration at Simon Fraser University, succeeded beyond his expectations. Metrolyrics gets more than  32 million unique monthly visitors and is the sixth-most-popular music site on the web. “I went from a start-up in an over-saturated market to being the largest site, with competitors trailing behind us by 50 per cent." He declines to say how much metrolyrics.com is worth, but he was able to buy that car, and two more besides, as well as  a new house for his parents. His company, MetroLeap Media (which employs several other SFU students and grads) is expanding into new offices in Burnaby. He’s been feted by SFU, and by Red Herring and other internet and music publications.

Tesovic attributes Metrolyrics' success to the passion its audience has for music. ”People love music and they feel connections to songs. When people can relate to the song, they want to be able to sing along and know what the artist is singing about. Of course there's the few percent of our visitors who visit our site just to settle a bet with their friends but for the most part it's the passion behind the music fans that drive lyric sites.“

Originally, the site was a compilation of random songs found on the internet from various sites.  ”It was grossly unorganized,“ Tesovic confesses. ”It took us a few years to clean it up properly and bring it up to a presentable level. We now get new lyrics from Gracenote (an online database of songs owned by Sony) and our users.  Gracenote has systems in place to push the latest songs and lyrics to us and the rest of the songs are filled in by our community who are passionate about the songs they listen to.“

Though song lyrics are the site’s main draw, it also features music news and gossip, upcoming concerts, top ten lists, bulletin boards and artists’ tweets. Windows users can even download plugins for iTunes and other jukebox programs so that lyrics display as their songs play. ”We keep our edge by spending a lot of time on search-engine optimization and developing strong music-industry partnerships. And by offering something that similar sites don’t – compensation for songwriters and music publishers,“ Tesovic says. The site generates revenue through online advertising.

While reliable as a lyrics reference, metrolyrics is a bit quirky in other respects. Its strength is in more recent music. When it comes to songs from Vancouver’s punk scene in the late 70s and early 80s, for example, it’s a bit weak. Look up D.O.A., for example, and metrolyrics will claim that Nelly Furtado, Hilary Duff and Cristina Aguilera are similar artists, which would surprise Joey Shithead, I imagine.

As for that Hollies song, Metrolyrics did come to the rescue. Yes, the lyrics to "Long Cool Women" do include “working for the FBI” and “a pair of moneybags.” I slept soundly. Thanks Milun.

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