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This Indonesian audio startup is targeting music junkies around the world

These days, if you’re a die hard musician or even just an amateur songwriter, it’s likely that you have your own recording software. Popular titles include FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), Nuendo, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro X for Mac users. However, if you’ve heard of the Bandung-based audio tools startup Kuassa, odds are you’re not Indonesian, as most of its users come from overseas.

Kuassa specializes in digital guitar amplification and audio processing. The site, which has been around since 2010, is disruptive (as are its competitors) because it offers affordable computerized versions of otherwise expensive music gear for recording purposes. For example, users can purchase the Vermilion amp simulator for US$39 on Kuassa, whereas real-life amp combo prices can reach higher than US$1,000. On Kuassa, users can purchase and download a variety of virtual amplifiers, effects pedals, equalizers, and plugins that let music junkies mix and produce tracks that are comparable in quality to that of a professional recording studio.

The business model is not new, but it’s interesting to see how different startups go about it. Co-founders Grahadea Kusuf, Adhitya Wibisana, and Arie Ardiansyah are not just the software developers behind the Kuassa. They are also musicians themselves. Kusuf plays in an Indonesian electronic band Homogenic, while Ardiansyah writes songs and plays guitar in a local melodic punk outfit called Disconnected. Wibisana plays bass for the local industrial rock group HelmProyek. He is also one of the guys behind Indonesia’s most famous horror game DreadOut.

From blogging to selling beats

Before the inception of Kuassa, Ardiansyah had a blog where he posted musical freeware from time to time. This caught the attention of Kusuf, who was immediately keen to set up a recording studio in Bandung with Ardiansyah. In April 2010, the pair took notes on what holes really needed to be filled in the modern music market and then launched Kuassa. While the pair claims to have started Kuassa simply as a passion project, today Kusuf says that the site is their primary source of income.

“We know that Kuassa is popular throughout the indie music scene in London, for example,” says Kusuf, CEO. “We believe that we have good taste and abilities, and we’re now confident that we can make great products that music lovers will want.”

Most music software today lets you have a free trial to see if you like it. Most often the trials are limited by the number of days you can use it, or by the number of features available. Kuassa hopes to differentiate itself in this sense. “All of our trials and demos can be used forever,” says Kusuf. However, he admits that recordings in the Kuassa trial software are limited to 40 seconds, which is essentially just trading one restriction for another.

Big in the US and Europe

To date, Kuassa has sold more than 400,000 downloads, according to Kusuf. On average, its software prices range from US$39 to US$69. The team claims that the majority of Kuassa’s users actually come from the US and Europe. “The United States is by far the largest user base of Kuassa, and as much as 38 percent of our other users come from the UK, Germany, Australia, or Japan,” explains Kusuf. With a predominantly overseas clientele, Kusuf admits that marketing is tough for his team, as it is often difficult to get a direct line of contact to users and potential partners in other countries.