Is 2015 a good year for new music tech startups? In June we’ll get a good chance to find out with Midemlab.
The annual startup pitching contest takes place during the Midem music industry conference in Cannes, and the 30 finalists for this year’s event have just been announced.
It’s a good chance to take the pulse of the current crop of music and music-relevant startups, with a competition that has in the past brought the likes of SoundCloud, Songkick and The Echo Nest to wider attention.
This year’s contest has three categories: Music discovery, recommendation and creation; Marketing, social engagement and monetisation solutions; and Hardware / Internet of things – the latter being brand new.
Full disclosure: Music Ally helped to select the finalists for this year’s Midemlab, and our CEO Paul Brindley will be chairing one of the judging panels at Midem.
So, here are those finalists in full:
Music Discovery, Recommendation and Creation
An iPhone app that gets people to send songs to friends via other messaging apps: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for example. It taps streaming services including Spotify, Rhapsody, Beats Music, Pandora, Rdio and Deezer for the actual music.
FeedYourMusic by AllThatSeries (Korea)
An online music education startup that promises feedback from “your favourite instructor”, throwing in video lectures and homework too. The instructors can get paid for giving their feedback, and it all revolves around people signing in with their SoundCloud accounts.
An iOS and Android app that “takes the selfie to the next step” according to its app store listing. That means getting people to film videos of themselves singing, lip-syncing or dancing to their favourite songs, with that footage then being integrated with the song’s original video, for sharing.
Billed as “the digital alternative to sheet music”, this is a web-app for managing musicians’ sheet music digitally. It enables them to upload their own PDFs or MusicXML files, then access them online and offline. They can annotate the scores, and there’s even a built-in tuning fork and metronome.
Shred Video (USA)
At the time of writing, this startup is mysterious (i.e. its website isn’t working) but Midemlab’s official description calls it “artificial intelligence music video creation”. We’ll update this listing as we get more information.
A “music creation marketplace” that wants to help musicians “finish your song” by connecting them with studios, mixing and mastering engineers, producers and session musicians. Artists can post a brief and then get quotes from these various professionals for how much their services will cost.
A music discovery startup promising “playlists curated with passion”. It aims to gather musical influencers’ playlists in one place, from DJs and journalists to music fans. Playlists are sorted into moods and styles (Chilling With Friends, Athlete’s Corner, French Music and so on), pulling in music from SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify and Deezer.
The Best Song (France)
The pitch here is that The Best Song is “the TripAdvisor for music”. That means an iOS and Android music discovery app that gets people to swipe through recommendations – a Tinder-style interface for approving or rejecting songs – and export playlists of the songs they find to their streaming service of choice.
Another smartphone app that wants people to find new music, but this time through the medium of a stock-exchange style game where they invest virtual coins in songs they like, and earn a return if they prove popular – with those able to be spent on real-world music-related rewards like tickets and t-shirts.
VOX by Coppertino (USA)
Vox started as a music-playing application for Mac computers, but is now available for iPhone too. It includes elements of cloud storage – “Loop for VOX” – and the ability to play songs from iTunes, SoundCloud and personal music libraries, among other sources. It also supports “hi-res” formats.
Marketing, Social Engagement and Monetisation Solutions
This startup provides project management and analytics for marketing and PR campaigns, and already has an impressive roster of music industry clients from Universal, Sony Music and Syco Music to XL Recordings, Ministry of Sound and Domino. Users can track their campaigns from all their devices.
A startup focused on “connecting the world’s creatives” – and just as importantly, helping them credit one another for their work. The idea is that people post details of the projects they’ve worked on (music videos, for example) and then credit the other people who worked on it, building up a database of useful information.
Dice launched its smartphone app in 2014, providing London gig-goers with a handpicked list of upcoming concerts, and selling them tickets with no booking fees – complete with the ability to join a waiting list for sold-out gigs in case more tickets become available. It even has staff at the venues to welcome them at the door.
ehco by The Entertainment Helping Company (USA)
This would be the “social engagement” part of this category then: a hugely worthwhile idea that aims to use music as a way to “change the world”. It works with artists to sell merchandise, from t-shirts to vinyl, to raise money for charitable projects.
Entertainment Factory (Turkey)
An all-in-one platform for creators that aims to not just distribute their work, but also help them track it across the web and into offline media. “We will even prevent online privacy and track offline activities like radio plays, tv plays, concerts, events and official charts,” it explains.
FireChat by Open Garden (USA)
FireChat is an iOS and Android messaging app with a twist: it works without requiring Wi-Fi or mobile network reception. Instead, it connects devices wirelessly into their own “off-the-grid” network. It’s been used by demonstrators in protests, but also for concertgoers and clubbers chatting during music events.
Laniakea Music (UK)
Laniakea says it’s “the next generation of music multi-channel network” (MCN) that wants to help artists make more money on YouTube, as well as making the most of its promotional capabilities. That includes a focus on cover artists, helping them build their audiences on YouTube through licensed covers.
“Smart links for music marketing” from this startup, which is a music-focused alternative to services like smartURL, helping people deep-link into more than 50 music services and apps with a single URL, which can be posted on social networks and shared through other channels. The idea: fans choose to listen where they want to.
Another creators’ marketplace: this time a site to find and hire professional composers, with the ability to filter its database by genre, content type and industry – for example, electro composers who’ve made music for games. The startup began in Paris before moving to New York early this year.
Vinyl It (France)
Finally in this category, a service that turns vinyl into personal playlists. Well, vice versa: you choose your tracks, create a sticker and sleeve by uploading an image, and then wait for your vinyl record to be delivered. Record labels including Batelier Records, Dixiefrog Records and Hadra Records are already on board.
Hardware/Internet of Things
FretX by Labana (France)
This is a device that will help people learn to play guitar, with its makers due to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign later in the year. It uses a system of lights to show people what note to play when, with the device due to go on sale by February 2016 – so Midemlab will be an early chance to see it in action.
Described as “GoPro for sound”, Hooke’s Verse is a pair of wireless headphones “that incorporate binaural mics designed to capture audio exactly the way it is being heard by the wearer”. They work with a Bluetooth receiver so people can record 3D audio on digital cameras and other devices, too.
Immersive Album (UK)
This startup is trying to find new ways to present music. Well: “music and art for web, desktop, mobile and VR” through a mixture of interactive audio, 3D environments and 360-degree videos. It supports iOS, Android, Windows and Oculus Rift, and has worked on projects for Ian Dury, Timo Maas and DJ Vadim already, as well as The Who’s VR app.
Lucie Labs (France)
There’s a lot of buzz around wearable devices this year, and Lucie Labs is trying to give the category an entertainment spin: “the world’s first smart and creative LED lighting wristband that augments your music experience”. It basically turns your wrist into a lightshow, judging by its demo video.
More wearables here, but this time the goal is making music, not just accompanying it. “Control the beat, the melody, and sound effects just by moving with Phonotonic: the object tracks the way you move, talks to the app using bluetooth, and our award-winning technologies turn these movements into music in real time…”
People have been comparing Prizm to Nest, the home devices firm acquired by Google last year. It describes itself s “the first learning music player” – a connected speaker that streams from multiple services, but crucially, which aims to learn your preferences and serve up music accordingly.
The Basslet by Rescued Ideas (Germany)
Another wristband: this time one that “amplifies music through a physical sensation”. It works with a pair of headphones, “adding the visceral sensation of bass and beats that we perceive through our body when we go to a club”, with a team drawn from Ableton, Sony, Texas Instruments and Native Instruments.
The Q by Belleds Technologies (USA)
More music technology for the home, this time based around the connected Q lightbulbs, a base station and the ability to change the lighting according to the music that’s playing. It comes with a companion app that controls everything, as well as setting up the user’s home.
A smart wristband that’s due to launch this autumn, with companion iOS and Android apps. The pitch here is that people will wear it to parties, and double-tap to “like” the songs that they love for later listening. The app will also connect people at the same event and also enable them to follow the DJs and artists that they hear.
Finally, another virtual reality / 360-degree video startup, which helps people create immersive videos by stitching together the feeds from different cameras. Its spherical videos can be watched on smartphones or virtual reality headsets, and the company is even looking at live event broadcasting.