OMI Summer Lab: Dispatch 2

Designing with a customer-centric music business approach

Panos Panay, Founding Managing Director of Berklee’s Institute of Creative Entrepreneurship addresses the OMI Lab Fellows prior to their presentations from the second Spring. Photo Credit Pablo Lalama Salazar

One thing that comes into stark relief as you get older is the brightness of spirit that tends to illuminate the young, as compared to a too-frequently-seen grayness evinced from those too long in the trenches. If indeed, as I’ve long posited, there is an inverse relationship between opportunities and bitterness (as opportunities decrease, bitterness increases), it was not surprising to see the unbridled enthusiasm with which this batch of projects were presented by the Open Music Initiative’s Summer Lab fellows.

The presentation capped the second week-long sprint that was once again artfully executed by IDEO. For background on the OMI, generally, and the Summer Lab, specifically, check out the Lab Notes that detail the projects and process from the fellows and my initial Dispatch.

If the projects that resulted from the first week’s sprint congealed around the “garbage in/garbage out” problem as it relates to more effectively defining and utilizing data in order to both increase the validity of attribution and lead to more effective interoperability (a crucial component of the OMI’s mission), then this second sprint took aim at better satisfying the customers.
The “Mark” Team presenting their work. Photo Credit: Pablo Lalama Salazar

To this end, the fellows “stood up” prototypes meant to address the fan experience:

  • Aura attempts to improve upon the woeful current state of music recommendation, via, rather than simply asking you for a handful of your favorite artists in order to algorithmically generate playlists, generating long-form mashups made from a combination of these tracks’ elements. This creates a sort of mood-based soundscape for the listener.
  • Beam utilizes geo-targeting to create a location-based sound layer culled from what people are playing at any given time in a specific locale. In this way, an additional sensory layer — one distinct from the sights and smells and ambient noises — is introduced; thus providing another level of context for those in that geographic locale — whether tourists or commuters.
  • INTRSTLR is an app that highlights the typically hidden/invisible musical connections between seemingly disparate artists. For instance, the same bass player may play on a track by a fan’s favorite artist and on the recording of an artist that this fan knows nothing about. INTRSTLR makes these links visible to fans. In this way, INTRSTLR takes a step towards addressing one of the more frustrating current customer experiences: worthless recommendations (“You like The Beatles, you might also like The Rolling Stones.”)
  • Lucy takes a cue from some of the work being done around holograms and AR, and creates interactive representations of an artist’s performance in order to provide an immersive and interactive experience for fans…even when they can’t physically be in the same room as the performer.
  • Mark, similar to Aura, is a wearable that uses jaw-bone technology and voice recognition to create a musical playlist geared towards specific situations. For instance…need to boost your creativity? Tell this to Mark, and it will source a playlist designed for this purpose.
  • Wavelength redefines the relationship between fan and artist, and enables an architecture of participation in which fans play an active role in the creation of the artist’s work — from designing collateral to running lights at a show.
Fellows, OMI Members, and facilitators convene at the MIT Media Lab to view the projects. Photo Credit: Nicole d’Avis / BerkleeICE

Certainly, legal or technological (…or both) challenges exist for the projects detailed above — and in defense of the fellows, they were given a mandate to design from a perspective of the technology becoming available within the next ten years. However, I was very much left with the sensation that — via Moore’s law, generally, or via fast-growing technology, like Blockchain — much of what was presented either was or will soon be feasible.

Regarding the rights issues surrounding these projects, I return to the steadfast enthusiasm with which not only these products were conceived, but also with which they were greeted by those present at the demo, many of whom were seasoned industry veterans with full knowledge of the rights issues.

Even with respect to both the legal and technological hurdles, the overarching sentiment for many of the products — expressed via action and words — was one of, “I want that…now.”

That type of demand, both from a creator side and a customer side, drives markets. Certainly, advances in the music industry have long been hampered by both technological and rights-based challenges, and — from one point of view — these continue to seem insurmountable. But, from another vantage point — the one which has been present throughout the lab — there’s a sense of inevitability. Through the combination of technological advances, new approaches to data that lead to net benefit for rights holders, and increased customer demand for a range of new and diverse experiences that is eagerly embraced by entrepreneurs, we may be closer to breakthrough than it seems at first glance.

OMI Fellow Raul Feliz presents the Beam project. Photo Credit: Pablo Lalama Salazar
Significantly, these “edge ideas” propel the interoperability conversation that is at the core of the OMI’s efforts. When we began the lab, many of us (myself included) had a much more limited view on “data,” but, through the lab, it has becoming increasingly clear that this interoperability of data is a much broader landscape than first imagined, and thus will be instrumental in affecting the tech “handshakes” so crucially needed for innovation, growth, and sustainability.

The OMI embraces this spirit that leads to a sort of conscious breakthrough; one that is aware of the issues and challenges and diverse interests, but still tilts towards innovation and progress. This lab, and the work of the fellows, exemplified this approach in every way.

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