Midemlab 2014: Music Discovery, Recommendation and Creation

Midemlab 2014: Music Discovery, Recommendation and Creation

This week Rockol will be looking at the startups selected for the final of the Midemlab competition in the run-up to the event which starts on the 1st of February in Cannes, France. Previous winners of Midemlab include SoundCloud, The Echo Nest, Songkick and Mobile Backstage so the contest has definitely been the springboard for some big ideas in music and tech.

The event has grown to the point that in order to accommodate a bigger number of startups it has split into three categories:
- Music discovery, Recommendation and Creation
- Marketing & Social Engagemen
- Direct-to-consumer Sales and Content Monetization.

In today's feature a look at the startups competing in the first category: Music Discovery, Recommendation and Creation.

The app that has had the most user adoption so far in this category is without a doubt SoundWave, the Dublin-based startup that launched in late 2013 with support from the likes of Eddy Cue and Stephen Fry. SoundWave works a bit like an app version of Last.fm tracking the listening behaviours of users across different music services and providing recommendations based on tastes, connections and locations. The app managed to get around technical restrictions that had prevented other services from tracking plays form the Music app of iOS devices and ended up securing two front page spots on the Apple App store front page.

Blitzr - from Bordeaux, France -  wants to become the ultimate music aggregator combining elements like semantic search and a cross-media player to deliver the best possible experience to users. Blitzr aims to aggregate content from all content platforms related to music, from Discogs to Bandcamp to Amazon to Beatport, to offer a unified experience. The company sees affiliate sales as the primary avenue to monetise its platform.

Cubic.fm hails from Turkey and plans to smash the barriers between Spotify and Deezer users by creating a single network where they can share tracks and listen to playlists based on the listener’s data. The service is driven by a “tasteful” algorithm and the company’s aim is to deliver to you the right tracks at the right time - not an easy feat.

Canadian startup Indiloop plans get users hooked by turning them into instant DJs thanks to the company’s tools and then sharing their creations socially. The platform is very easy to use and the results are compelling, but the company faces an uphill climb when it comes to clearing a substantial amount of samples from labels to make the service endlessly entertaining. Many artists are suspicious of apps that sample or remix their creations and more importantly have issues with the way in which the final “remixed” content can be shared. Still, if Indiloop can produce compelling numbers with its beta version it may well be able to convince some of the more forward-thinking elements of the industry to jump on board.

USA-based Jukely is primarily an iPhone app (although they also have a very usable browser-based version) which acts as a gig match-maker by analysing music taste data and matching friends (as well as friends of friends) for specific events. The app is location-based and on the website it looks like it’s primarily active in 10 major US cities, although it is currently available in the UK app store. The idea is a good one and could make finding that elusive *insert indie band name here* fan to see a concert with that much easier.

Moodsnap is also US-based and wants to create a link between a photo, a mood and a playlist. The service requires a Spotify Premium account in order to listen to the tracks in full and rather than presenting listeners with a series of “titles” for the playlists it shows a series of pictures, users can browse the photos and select the one that fits their situation or mood. Given the importance of communication through images these days it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring, and the service could truly find its calling if and when users will be allowed to add their own photos and playlists creating new “moodsnaps”.

Music Gateway is a UK startup that wants to connect those working in the music industry, whether singers, session musicians, producers, songwriters, labels or publishers and bring them under one roof to streamline the organisation of specific projects. The N.1 issue for musicians and producers starting out in the industry is finding the right team and the right project, so this service could prove to be a valuable tool in that process.

Muzieo - US-based - is a tough one to describe as the app is not yet available (in the UK App Store at least) and the website doesn't provide a great deal of information on the project. It describes itself as a mobile-based on demand music social discovery service, using game mechanics to bring artist and fans together and rewards them with concert tickets. The Midem brief lists brand partnerships as a key component of this idea and presumably brands would end up footing the bill for the giveaways done by the platform.

Nagual Sounds, from Germany, is primarily a technology company which has developed a way to generate tonal music from all sorts of data. The company has focused its research on music generated by movements of the body developing NAGUAL DANCE which is the first practical application of the system. The software can be applied to music composition but also therapeutical settings.

Sound Wand - a UK startup with already two apps available on the App Store - has decided that the days of fiddling with minuscule keyboards on an iPhone screen are over. The company wants to harness the power of the sensors in your device to allow you to play music by simply moving it. The results? Testing of the Sound Wand Harp app the app produced some pleasing results with careful manoeuvring of the iPhone, although the results still tend to feel a little random, but it’s a compelling concept that has not been explored enough.

It’s a tough field as all startups here have very different strengths and are currently at widely different levels in their development and user adoption. It will be interesting to see whether the judges go for the obvious choice or decide to bet on something that is not yet fully formed.

(Andrea Leonelli)