Part Music Part Design Part Technology

Eric Chan
Eric Chan
Jul 19, 2017 · 6 min read

Week 3 + 4 of the Open Music Initiative Summer Lab 2017

The Open Music Initiative Summer Lab is an 8-week program, in which the Open Music Initiative hosts nineteen student software developers, musicians and visual artists at IDEO Cambridge. During the program, four teams are challenged to envision a future for music and its industry through the lens of human-centered design, distributed ledgers, and the OMI API. Throughout the program, each team will be generating prototypes with the intention of developing and refining a venture concept.


Over the past four weeks, I’ve been dedicated to 19 fellows and the ever-evolving and messy process of human centered design in order to equip them for their four different briefs created by the OMI members. The fellows have come so far from the OMI Summer Lab Kickoff to their Midpoint demos on June 29th. While all the fellow teams started out with a different brief to tackle, the sum of each team’s venture concepts paints a picture of a music industry that has two major themes. This future of music revolves around the creation of new commercialization opportunities through storytelling and an even access to the tools of creative generation. Here is a quick look into what the fellows have created over the past 4 weeks.

First, we have Team Blue and their brief “Compensating artists for visual works using their songs as data”. They created deepdive, a platform focused on telling the fan-curated story of a musicians’ artistic influence. It all starts with an artist’s influential moments such as an album, a song, or a live show. Each of the moments are represented as a key storytelling node. As fans of the artist discover derivative and fragmented content, they can curate relationships between that content and the artist’s influential moments.

The result is a visualization of an artist’s influence throughout their career — fascinating information for fans and extremely useful data for artists and their management about fans’ perception of the artists. On the backend, this also enables an extensive attribution scheme that not only acknowledges the artist but also the fans and creators who have been influenced to produce additional content. By creating a platform to capture this valuable information, it also becomes queryable by the OMI API. This creates an even playing field for creators to understand the ecosystem they’re playing in as well as discoverability.


Next, we have Team Bread and their brief “Identifying individuals for their contributions to single tracks in new works”. After using the process of design research to understand how people interact with music and what they wanted to learn about that music, Team Bread found a haunting message throughout their conversations…

Music is fundamentally human, it has personality, soul, intent, and the ability to be an empathetic medium. However, music and its interactions today are compressed, losing much of its art.

Team Bread has prototyped a VR experience that allows for music to expand into a multi-dimensional experience that enables more holistic storytelling. Every song has a story — a narrative of how that song was written, who was involved, why certain choices were made. That narrative could also include the story of a song after its inception — the influence it’s had, the people whose lives it’s touched, the fans engagement, it’s death as people forget it, and its potential rebirth.


Followed by Team Fruit Basket and their brief “Commercializing mixtapes built from back catalog and original material”. By exploring the license and copyright industry surrounding music covers and sampling, Team Fruit Basket realized that there is a large gap in the industry for a platform that could understand music from many different rights holders by using a interoperable technology like the OMI API. So they have created Echowe, a sample marketplace that allows for creators to have even access to samples from songs while allowing copyright holders to easily specify the sample licensing rules with granularity that allows the copyright holders to express their intent.

Their current process is to upload a mix to site and their system will recognize the samples that you used from their database, and generate a smart contract that makes the licensing process easy and seamless. They intend to distribute to all selling and streaming platforms. All generated revenue will be distributed back to you and a percentage will go to the original copyright holders of the samples used.

They hope to accomplish two different things, give the ability for derivative work creators to have easy access to both samples and their licenses, thereby creating a workflow that is an even playing field for all types of craters to generate content. They also wish to make the sample negotiations for copyright holders much simpler and streamlined, with the question of do you ask for forgiveness or permission?


Last but not least Team NotTomatoLovers and their brief “Cataloguing, attributing, and distributing live DJ mixes”. Cataloguing is the most important step for the brief because it enables the latter two. So, Team NotTomatoLovers have decided to focus on the question,

How might we facilitate data exchange between artist and audience in a live setting?

They’ve created a two-sided venture concept, LÜM. It has B-to-C and B-to-B components, between the audience and performer in a live venue as well as the performer and the industry players surrounding them. They are focused on creating an experience that facilitates the data relationship between the audience and the performer as it is the source or core interest for the majority of the information.

The prototype was a digital experience that allowed for multiple individuals in a live setting draw on their phones as an example of audience participation. The web application logged all the interactions and used that data to affect the filter of a live DJ mix being produced in Ableton Live software. On the backend of the software, the team also created a modification to Ableton Live that logs each song as it gets loaded into the live mix. That data creates accurate attribution to all the components being used by the artist. This allows to artist to then submit their mixes for commercialization.


As each fellow team dove into their brief, they were all drawn to a unified narrative about music. Music is a holistic story being woven by the artist and the community from many parts. Those parts can be musically technical, the way Team NotTomatoLovers thinks of it — the beats as they thunder by, the virtuosic flair of a performer, the tracks used in the creation of a mix. The parts can be community based as Team Blue explores — the inspired works that fans make or the influence of an artist. Parts can be composed of the underlying story of a piece of music or the contributors that helped bring it to life. The design of music creation tools that utilize and manipulate these parts will be deeply impacted as the line between consumers and creators blur. This impact is exemplified as these creators are granted new tools and commercialization opportunities to tell a complex narrative through music.

The Open Music Initiative

Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship co-founded the Open Music Initiative to promote open source standards and innovation for music, and to assure compensation for all music creators, performers and rights holders. We share our stories here.

Thanks to Thomas Chardin.

Eric Chan

Written by

Eric Chan

Let’s envision a future, we can never unsee. Creative Engineer at @IDEO, Friend of @IDEOcoLAB. Focusing on Decentralized Tech, AI, and VR/AR.

The Open Music Initiative

Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship co-founded the Open Music Initiative to promote open source standards and innovation for music, and to assure compensation for all music creators, performers and rights holders. We share our stories here.