The Midemlab startups contest is taking place at Midem today, and the fourth and final category was for experiential technologies startups. The jury for this category included Google’s Christian Behrendt; TheLynk’s Yvan Boudillet; Station F’s Marine Wetzel; Kuack Media Group’s Juan Francisco Saavedra Plata; and GP Bullhound’s Alon Kuperman.
(Disclosure: Music Ally helped choose the finalists for this year’s contest, as usual.)
Joué from France was represented by CEO Pascal Joguet (pictured above). “We have developed a digital instrument with a soul!” he said, suggesting that while 20% of people learn to play an instrument, but 80% would like to – yet give up (or don’t even try). “We think that playing music must be intuitive, playful and expressive,” he said.
Joué is also the name of the company’s first instrument, made of wood and metal (“it’s sustainable”) with “magic modules” made of silicon that slot on to the board to make it a drum pad, a guitar or keyboard, for example. It’s been on the market since last March, with good feedback from artists and the media alike, and more than 1,000 sales.
The Joué Essential pack costs €479, with other modules available individually. Later this year, it will launch Joué Pop, complete with an app, which could have even wider appeal. “We felt at the beginning that this instrument was made for electronic musicians, but 50% of the people buying this are not musicians at all. They just want to get into music.” And he stressed that the sustainability of the product is very important: that’s why it doesn’t have a battery inside. “Because if I put a battery inside, in two years it’s dead!”. New modules are released regularly.
MI.MU from the UK was represented by managing director Adam Stark. It’s trying to avoid the existing ways of interactive with computers, which “restrict the bounds of human creativity… and it’s especially true in the world of music”. And it’s also an attempt to bring more physicality back into the performance of electronic music, so that artists don’t look like they’re “checking their emails” when playing live.
Artist and producer Imogen Heap founded the company and remains its creative director: she’s been using the Mi·Mu gloves in her own performances for some time now. The gloves translate the movement of the musician’s hands into music – they can be mapped to whatever instrument or software they like. “Any artist using the gloves can create their own world of gestures and sounds,” he said. Later this year, the software behind it will be released for hobbyist musicians, to work with other sensor-packed devices too.
So far, a community of 50 early-adopter artists have been using the gloves. “Ariana Grande used them on her arena tour! These are professional tools for real musicians on real tours,” stressed Stark. It has sold more than £100k of the gloves in May 2019 alone, and has launched a £39 kit for kids to make their own version of the gloves, learning to sew and code as they do. Stark also said that the gloves could be used for other things: virtual reality games, for example. “We will explore these areas through licensing as time goes on… And we want to move to other things like whole-body suits!”
MuX from Denmark was represented by CEO Eduardo Fouilloux. “I’m playing with sound, mixed realities and animation,” he said. “Our vision with this company is to imagine if Lego and Pink Floyd had a kid!… What if we could touch sound? The screen is limiting the way we think about technology in a very flat way… But we can represent and animate sound!”
The idea: to create a format where you “can play and break things apart… an instrument from another dimension. Because you can play with new ways of interacting with space.” It was released as an early-access product with no tutorials, to see what happens. Used with virtual reality headsets, it enables people to create and connect virtual instruments to virtual speakers, creating music.
The company is in talks with Facebook’s Oculus VR division to support its new Oculus Quest headset, which Fouilloux said he’s very excited about. One version will be free to play with, but a ‘builder’ version will be charged for. There will also be a shop where people can sell the instruments they’ve built, with MuX taking a cut. And he stressed that this won’t be a virtual-reality-only thing: PCs and smartphones are on the company’s radar.
Odiho from France was represented by CEO Gauthier Dalle. Its slogan is “sound on demand”, and an alternative to bulky speakers used for public performances, playing sound through smartphones and headphones. He cited the example of a couple at a festival where one person wants to go to see Wolf Alice and the other wants to see Rammstein: the latter could use Odiho to listen to Rammstein’s performance, while accompanying their partner to Wolf Alice.
But Odiho’s technology could be used for public speaking: Dalle showed it by talking into his phone, and having his voice coming out of people’s smartphones in the room. He also said the technology could have applications for people with hearing difficulties. The company is strictly B2B in focus, with customers paying it a typical price of €1 per listener.
Could other tech be added to this? For example real-time translation, so that someone giving a speech could have their words translated for different language-speakers in the audience, all at once. “Automatic translators for me are the future!” he said. “I believe in one or two years, in 2021, we could use that kind of direct translation.”
Tunefork from Israel was represented by CEO Tomer Shor. Its focus is also on people with hearing challenges: 400 million people with hearing loss and 1bn elderly people. “An audio personalisation technology that allows the user to find his unique earprint, and adjust any audio content to his needs,” as he put it. The company launched a demo application a year ago, and has thousands of people using it.
It claims to have the “most accurate self-hearing test in the world”, having worked with some hearing clinics in Israel. Its business model is B2B, selling its technology to audio-app providers (like Skype or Spotify, for example) and smart-device makers (like Samsung). One of its early customers is a music app designed for older people. The company has just closed its first funding round, also. “Right now we are looking for more customers,” added Shor.
The technology starts with a 5-7 minute hearing test on their device, with audio then tuned based on the results of that test. Tunefork will charge its customers a per-user fee (i.e. a certain amount for each person using the technology – which has good potential if a service like Spotify adopted the technology).