Solfeg·io, Super Hi-Fi, Audoo and Uptune have been named as the winners of this year’s Midemlab startups contest, held as part of the Midem music industry conference.
Like the conference, Midemlab was an entirely-online affair, with the pitches of all 20 finalists broadcast this afternoon, followed by the announcement of the winners.
Music Ally is a partner for Midemlab – we help to choose the finalists – so naturally we were watching the pitches and taking notes.
They’re below: first for the four winners, and then for the other finalists. It’s a good snapshot (alongside our recent coverage of the Techstars Music demo day) of 2020’s best music startups.
Midemlab 2020 winners
Solfeg·io – Music Creation & Education winner
We interviewed Latvian startup Solfeg·io back in August 2017, so it’s exciting to see how it’s developed since then. It’s a music education platform designed to be used by schools and their students.
It teaches pupils how to play songs, with a catalogue of music – the company has a licensing deal with a large publisher already, and is seeking more – and built-in ‘audiovisual chatbot’ tech to deliver them.
Solfeg·io is free for teachers, and students can do their homework in it for free. if they want to learn more skills and songs, they pay an €8.99 monthly subscription.
400 schools a month were signing up before the Covid-19 pandemic, but that has since grown to 2,000 a month, with 28% of students going on to become monthly active users.
Super Hi-Fi – Music Distribution & Discovery winner
Regular Music Ally readers will know all about US startup Super Hi-Fi: we profiled the company in August last year and have followed its progress since.
To recap: its AI-powered technology helps streaming services to fill the gaps between songs with a range of content: introductions, interview clips, audio branding and so on, making them sound more like traditional radio stations.
It’s working for clients including Sonos – its recently-launched radio station – Peloton, iHeartRadio and Napster, and in April alone delivered more than 1bn of these ‘transitions’.
Super Hi-Fi charges clients using a ‘software as a service’ model, but also works with them to produce the audio content.
Audoo – Music Marketing & Data/Analytics winner
We’ve also written about British startup Audoo: it’s part of the Abbey Road Red incubator, and recently launched an equity crowdfunding campaign.
Audoo’s technology helps collecting societies to more accurately monitor the music being played in public venues, from gyms and cafes to pubs and clubs – regardless of whether that music is being played from radios, streaming services, CDs or other sources.
It makes a device that collecting societies pay to have installed in these venues, and the software to identify the music played, and feed all the data into an analytics dashboard to ensure the right people get paid royalties.
It has raised £1.6m of funding so far and is about to start raising a £4m Series A round. A pilot is launching in September (delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown) with four collecting societies already on board.
Uptune – Live Music Experiences winner
Uptune from Canada is a startup we hadn’t covered before, but it’s certainly interesting. It wants to help emerging musicians, who can’t afford their own sound engineer, to sound as good as possible in their concerts.
(Obvious caveat: this is when concerts are back up and running after the Covid-19 lockdown.)
Its technology is a mobile or web app which musicians can use to manage their setlists and calendar, but also for volume balance and feedback analysis – with system calibration coming later in the year – for their live sound.
Built using $150k in grants and subsidies, the app had been downloaded 13k times by May, and was being used for an average of 200 soundchecks a month before lockdown.
The basic app is free and offers two soundchecks a month and one setlist, but musicians can pay $6 a month or $48 a year to unlock the feedback analyser and unlimited soundchecks.
And now our notes from the other 16 finalists, organised by category:
Music Creation & Education
Another startup that should be no stranger to Music Ally readers: we profiled US firm Boomy last year, and explored its take on AI-generated music.
That’s what Boomy does: people can use it to create original songs in a range of styles – they’ve made more than 500k since its public-beta launch last year – and also to release those tracks on streaming services.
There are already thousands of Boomy-made songs on those services, generating millions of streams a month. Boomy has also been adding new styles regularly: Afrobeats being the latest.
This French startup’s technology aims to play music “as easily as Lego bricks” – letting people upload a WAV file to a system that can then build millions of variations on that, to create remixes or synchronise to videos and games.
Games is one of its first markets: it already has a contract with big publisher Ubisoft, and expects to have three or four studios on board by the end of 2020.
It’s also hoping to be used for other kinds of sync uses, like advertising – its demo saw the music from a 60-second Dior ad cut down for a 15-second video.
If you’ve always wanted to be a drummer but are lacking a drumkit (but do have a virtual reality headset) then Paradiddle will be right up your street.
It’s an application that lets you play virtual drums, regardless of whether you’ve played real ones before. People have already been racking up more than 120 hours apiece using it.
Paradiddle currently includes 22 different drum types, and is planning to expand into educational content and licensed song packs, as well as adding new devices like the Oculus Quest headset.
In 2021, it plans to move into other kinds of instruments: piano and strings for example, as well as AR features to teach people to play their real instruments. And longer term: to build a full-on ‘multi-user platform’ for playing music together.
Indian startup Riyaz is also teaching musical novices, but this time it’s to sing rather than to drum. Its app launched in July 2019, and already has more than 7,000 paying subscribers.
The app has a catalogue of Indian classical music and western tracks, and gets people to sing along, showing how well they’re hitting the notes with an on-screen indicator.
It charges 1,999 rupees in India or $90 elsewhere in the world for an annual subscription, and is in talks with music colleges and other potential partners.
Music Distribution & Discovery
Hailing from Norway, this is the latest app spin on the ‘fantasy sports but for music’ startup genre, with some interesting partnerships already in place to get people playing.
It works alongside festivals and music TV shows, getting people to ‘sign’ artists (or in the latter case, contestants) to their virtual labels, then earn points based on those artists’ real-world performance.
Partners have included the by:Larm and Øyafestivalen festivals in Norway, with plans to make money from festival clients, a ‘pro’ tier of users, and advertising.
This Brazilian startup is all about the user-generated content (UGC): music uploaded by artists themselves, who want to reach its audience of 10 million monthly active users and one million daily active users.
Sua Música is already generating more than 400m monthly streams from the more than 15,000 artists using the platform, including big names like Wesley Safadao.
With shades of early SoundCloud, these streams don’t generate royalties for artists, but
Sua Música is planning to launch a premium subscription – at an affordable price – as well as distributing artists’ music to other streaming services, and launching audio and video livestreaming features including a tips economy.
We’ve been tracking Weav Music since 2017 when we interviewed its founders, Lars Rasmussen (the co-creator of Google Maps) and Elomida Visviki. Its technology turns recorded music tracks into ‘adaptive’ songs capable of changing on the fly – to match joggers’ pace in its first product, Weav Run.
Licensing deals have helped it to build a library of 500 songs, including tracks from artists including Shakira, Cardi B, Selena Gomez, Clean Bandit and Dolly Parton, with 10-20 more being added every month.
Weav’s next big thing is licensing its technology to other fitness apps, with a “major partnership” coming later this year in that regard.
As its name implies, this startup wants to get inside the head of music fans: to understand how they’re responding to the music that they love.
Its technology could be integrated into headphones or AR/VR headsets, collecting EEG signals ‘non-invasively’ to track a listener’s emotions, and then map that to their musical tastes.
So far, it’s conducted 200 tests involving 1,200 music tracks, and has been working with audio and video production companies who want to see how a panel of users reacts to music.
Music Marketing & Data/Analytics
Founded by a pair of former Google/YouTube managers, BuzzMyVideos is trying to help labels make even better use of their YouTube channels, so as not to miss out on potential revenues.
Its technology analyses YouTube analytics and the videos on those channels, to spot where opportunities are being missed, from playlists to missing end screens and tags.
However, the tech can also automatically create what’s missing, for the label to review. The company is big on scale, too: it can do all this for thousands of channels.
Data is also the key to what Fanear Labs does for its customers, who range from festival promoters and big venues to governments and collecting societies.
Its software pulls together data for “triple impact measurement” on musical events: their environmental, economic and social/cultural impact.
It’s worked with 12 big events in Chile so far, helping to show that they had a $10m total economic impact on their local economies, and also helping them to raise $2m of funding using the data.
Other uses can be to analyse the audience of an event, or to calculate its carbon footprint, enabling the organiser to take steps to neutralise it.
Estonian startup Soundeon is the latest firm trying to help musicians and rightsholders generate income through ‘securitisation’ – selling off a percentage of their future royalties to investors, be they institutional, or fans.
The example given: a musician might sell 50% of the future royalties on their work, dividing that between institutional investors and fans, while retaining 50% for themselves.
Sellers pay Soundeon a $10 fee to cover the due diligence – making sure they do own the rights being sold – and it takes a 7% cut of successful campaigns, as well as 7% of any proceeds from secondary sales on its platform.
A recent pilot in Russia saw Soundeon sell $200k worth of royalties for a Russian pop singer to multiple private investors.
It’s an app that uses AI-powered “cinema science” to turn people’s video clips into polished videos for sharing on whatever social app they like.
Available for iPhone, it has some recently-launched features aimed at independent musicians, to help them make videos. The app is free, but with plans to make money from ‘pro’ accounts with more tools, as well as brand sponsorships, and working on the creative side of advertising.
Live Music Experiences
This US-based startup has been working on live hologram concerts, often involving dead artists: it was behind the Ronnie James Dio tours in 2017 and 2019, as well as the Frank Zappa tour in 2019.
It creates and produces these events, with plans for a tour based on classical pianist Glenn Gould, and a “major Latin icon” that will be announced in the coming months.
It’s not just about artists who have passed away: it can help artists who have retired from touring continue to play live shows, and fittingly for the Covid-19 era, is working on a “drive-in model” for events at drive-in cinemas.
French startup Jamset wants to help people play music when they’re away from home: whether that’s at work, or in airports and shopping centres.
It has built two sizes of mobile recording studio: ‘Pod’ and ‘Station’, which businesses and transport hubs can buy and place within their locations (with instruments) for staff / passers-by to play.
These installations are “silent by design” with headphones supplied, and have already been taken up by CapGemini, WeWork, W Hotels and Le Meridien among other clients – 10-12 installations so far.
Right now, it costs €7k for a Pod or €25k for a Station, then €150 a month for support and maintenance. In time, users may also be charged “something like €3 per 15 minutes”.
Another Norwegian startup here: it’s about the experience of listening to music – from private parties to corporate events, music venues and festivals.
It’s essentially a ‘social jukebox’ where people can see songs in the playlist, vote for what should be played, and add new tracks.
It uses a credits system where people can pay to do this, although there is also a sponsorship model, and a licensing system for venues – who’ll also be able to take a cut of the money from requests.
A new spin-off is called RQSTIVAL, where artists and labels can create their own interactive, livestreamed festival, deciding the length of the show and the price.
British startup Snaptivity takes photos at live events – sports and music alike – then makes them available to fans for sharing.
It uses a portable system of 4-10 robotic cameras, and a sensor network using AI to analyse the emotions of a crowd, and pinpoint the exciting bits of the match or show, then take photos.
It’s not using facial recognition technology for this, but rather pattern recognition. The idea is that a venue would offer fans the chance to receive the photos taken of them, but that they can opt out if they don’t want to – anyone opting out will have their face blurred in all images.
In events where the tech has been deployed so far, the average engagement rate (the percentage of fans who opt in) is 40%.