The service was founded in 2003 by Vincent Han and David Galper; raised $41.5M from Battery Ventures, Shelter Capital, and others; was acquired in 2008 by Total Music, a joint venture between Sony and Universal; and was closed on February 6, 2009 when Ruckus' website was replaced with a graphic saying, "Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thanks."
Ruckus Network, which was based in Herndon, Virginia, was backed by venture capitalists Battery Ventures and Shelter Capital. With its official launch in September 2004 at Northern Illinois University, Ruckus became the first online music service focused exclusively on the college market.
In January 2006, Ruckus moved away from its subscription business model in favor of one that was ad-subsidized. This change eliminated the previous monthly fee required for site access and granted users cost-free entry to use the service. By November 2006, Ruckus had officially partnered with 80 colleges and universities and five state-wide network systems, which support over 200 higher education institutions.
On January 22, 2007, Ruckus announced that access to their music library, which was previously available only at schools with contractual agreements, can be accessed by any college student with a valid college (.edu) email account.
As of January 2008, the website stated that 1 million additional members would be required to keep the site open and then spread this message through various online communication portals. This development was apparently an effort by Ruckus to gain the help of members before more serious efforts would need to be set in place. As of early December 2008, Ruckus had developed exclusive partnerships with 215 schools with users from over 1000 schools nationwide.
Ruckus had not updated its library since late December 2008; it did however advertise an upcoming site makeover. On February 6, 2009, at approximately 3:58 pm the Ruckus webpage shut down "for periodic maintenance". At approximately 4:02 pm central standard time, visitors to the website saw a graphic stating "Unfortunately, the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thanks". The Ruckus Facebook application also shows a message saying that "Ruckus had to shut down the party due to over crowdedness. Please rock out to some music and we’ll get the party going again shortly." This led some to believe that the Ruckus service may eventually resume operation. However, since then that Facebook account has been closed.
As of October 27, 2009, the Ruckus Website reads "Sorry! This site is not currently available."
The domain name expired on December 1, 2009, and is now pending deletion from the internet. Nearly a year since its removal, no announcement has been made regarding restoration of the popular music server. Ruckus is, by all accounts, permanently dead.
Features and restrictions
- Pricing: Free to all students with a valid .edu email address. $8.99/month for alumni and college faculty.
- Platform(s): Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista only.
- Downloading: Yes.
- Burning/Copying: No.
- Streaming: Streaming video content on Ruckus TV. No streaming music content.
- Format: Protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Windows Media Video (WMV) format.
- Digital restrictions: No burning to compact discs. Limited player support. Files contain embedded licenses that must be renewed periodically.
- Preview: None.
- Trial: None.
- Catalog: Over 3 million files.
- Features: Adding "friends", friend-to-friend music recommendations, user messaging, music search function, streaming video content from Ruckus TV and a television/film library.
- Global availability: Ruckus is only available to college undergraduates, alumni and faculty located in the United States.
- Customer Support: Website only.
Ruckus has faced criticism on several points:
- Ruckus works only with Microsoft PlaysForSure, a program with an uncertain long-term future following the release of Microsoft's new flagship Zune format, which is incompatible with other portable devices.
- The service is not compatible with Apple Macintosh or Linux operating systems.
- The Ruckus library of 3 million songs, while substantial, is smaller than the industry-leading iTunes Store (with more than 6 million songs).
- Inconsistent naming convention for files (some file names are entirely capitalized, others include underscores rather than spaces).
- Inconsistent storage of track number (some files lack a track number property in the wma info tab)
- Inconsistent labeling of explicit and clean albums: Some explicit albums have the parental advisory icon next to their listing, while others only have the icon in the lower right corner of the album cover art. Additionally, some clean tracks (and even tracks without lyrics) are incorrectly marked as "explicit".
- Some albums may be incomplete - certain album tracks may be unavailable due to cross-listings on the service.
- Inconsistent availability of explicit and clean albums; some albums have both types available, others only have one type available.
- Questionable marketing practices (see section on "Brody Ruckus").
"Brody Ruckus" incident
In September 2006, Ruckus attempted to create the single largest group on Facebook as a promotional tool. An employee started a fictional student account under the name "Brody Ruckus." The group created under the name "If this group reaches 100,000 my girlfriend will have a threesome" drew membership on the claim that if 100,000 people joined, the fictional character's girlfriend "Holly" (based on a real-life friend of the employee) would have a threesome with "Ruckus" and another woman. Within a week, the group had reached 100,000 members. "Brody Ruckus" then promised to post pictures of his sexual encounter online if 300,000 people joined. Within seven days, the group membership had exceeded 400,000 and "Ruckus" wrote that if the group became the largest on Facebook, he would post a video of his threesome. Facebook administrators deleted the "Brody Ruckus" profile and his group, since it represented a breach in the site's Terms of Service agreement, specifically with reference to: "impersonating any person or entity, or falsely stating or otherwise misrepresenting yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity."
In an interview with the online newspaper eSchool News, Ruckus President Mike Bebel said that the Brody Ruckus affair "was an exercise conducted by one of our marketing teams. It wasn't something we had any real designs around. It took on a life of its own. It was a good learning exercise for us, but not something that we would repeat."
In a letter to the editor of Student Life the student newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis, Bebel stated that "contrary to what has been reported in other media outlets ... Ruckus did not use this [Brody Ruckus] profile to market the Ruckus service." He also acknowledged that "the creation of the Brody Ruckus profile was ill-advised and I can promise that this tactic will not be repeated."
- Forbes page
- CrunchBase page
- TechCrunch article
- Battery Ventures
- Shelter Capital
- Invite Your Friends to Ruckus!
- Save Your Music
- Affiliated Colleges and Universities
- Daily Orange
- Smart Money.com
- Appel, Justin (2006-10-27). "Ruckus upsets college music scene". eSchool News. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2006-11-10.
- Mike Bebel, Ruckus responds, Student Life, November 08, 2006