Rockin' all over the world

Forget promoting, distributing and selling music online. Sometimes you have to stop and make the stuff. Might as well use the internet for that too, right?

Kompoz

In the latest of my ongoing campaign of getting other people to write my posts for me and then passing it off as legitimate blogging, I interviewed Raf Fiol, founder of Kompoz.com.

Kompoz is an online community of musicians who record a track, and submit it for others to collaborate. It’s not a free-for-all, and there’s actually some smart ways of directing the project to include the mix of talents you think it’ll need to turn out the way you want it to.

But I have some niggling questions about the whole thing.

Why would musicians collaborate online?
1. Because it’s possible. Personal computers with high-speed access to the Internet are now a common. High-end sound cards are cheap. Recording software can be obtained for free as open source. And the MP3 audio file format has revolutionized the way people exchange audio files by making them small and easily exchanged over the Internet.

2. There’s is already propensity to work in this way. Instant messaging, IP phones, video conferencing, cellular phones – they’ve all changed the way individuals and groups communicate. Blogs, wikis, bulletin boards, news groups and social networks have changed the way people discuss everything. The rise of these technologies is affecting the social culture of human communication, and is also affecting the way people collaborate.

Kompoz builds on that by providing the right mix of social networking tools specifically for music collaboration.

3. It’s practical. Online collaboration solves the obvious time and space problems, such as travel time, rehearsal space, and coordination of schedules. And because it’s asynchronous, participation can happen when it’s convenient.

4. Unbelievable Depth. I like to joke with my friends in “offline bands” — My band is bigger than yours!

In the offline world, you’re limited to the creative input of the people in your band. In the online world, you have millions of potential bandmates!

Most of the projects you’ll see underway have multi-national participation. I’m working on a song right now that has people from Australia, France, Brazil, Spain, and Scotland. They all bring fresh ideas to the project. Instead of, or in an addition to meeting, connecting, and creating music with people at a local club or other venues in some neighborhood, you can now find people all around the world.

This really works. Just yesterday, a member on Kompoz posted a Harmonium and Sarangi track to a project. What are the chances of finding that talent in your local offline band?!?!

Think of Kompoz as a Match.com for musicians.

How do you make this work?
We create the tools; ‘the people’ make it work.

We provide all the latest Web 2.0 features, social networking tools, and the platform to help people connect and make music.

We provide individual project workspaces for each project, a member-driven rating system, personal musician profiles, blogs, private messaging, commenting / feedback, project forums, embeddable shareable flash players, unlimited disk space, easy upload and download features, collaboration “friends” lists, and more.

Our members make it work by creating great music! You start with an idea, post it, nurture it, and watch it grow into a completed song.

Most projects start with a single track (a rough guitar track, for example). The project founder will normally post a creative brief describing the direction for the project. Sometimes it’s very specific, other times it is very open-ended. Other members can then preview the work, and download any track.

Anyone can contribute additional tracks (vocals, drums, bass, etc.) and post them to the project. New mixdown tracks are created as the song evolves.

Can musicians jam ‘live’?
No. The technology, mainly bandwidth, is not there yet for the average user. Perhaps someday, but not now.

Kompoz is a remote “asynchronous” collaboration tool. It is project-focused. This has many benefits, including the ability to work and develop a song over a longer period of time, without worrying about your collaborators having to leave for dinner!

There’s no meter running on your studio time either.

New ideas can be explored more easily this way without fear of wasting the time of the other participants. This encourages experimentation, exploration, and refinement of the song.

Is this starting to reveal new ways of being ‘in a band’?
What is a band??! Yes, absolutely. Being in a band takes on a whole new meaning on Kompoz. Your band grows dynamically.

Actually, each new project results in a new virtual band. New friends and affinities are created daily. It’s really an amazing thing to experience.

Enjoyable timewaster, or serious working method?
It’s what you make it. Kompoz is a set of tools, and you can do what ever you want with it. All the tools are there to goof around or to create a masterpiece. It’s up to you. We provide the platform to ignite ideas.

Most members are on Kompoz to create real music.

I see sites like SpliceMusic and JamGlue as very enjoyable time-wasters. They are primarily “re-mix” sites full of samples, sound effects, and MIDI files.

We don’t believe that an online Flash-based mixing tool (like the ones provided by Splice and JamGlue) can provide the level of control needed for true music production.

Kompoz is a platform and social network for musicians that use off-line software like Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, and other Digital Audio Workstations. You won’t find online mixers on Kompoz. It’s not a model.

Our direction is to provide integration with the DAW you already use.

Even so, is it mostly just amateurs noodling?
Many of the members on Kompoz are practicing musicians. Many play in bands, or have played in bands at some point in their lives.

We don’t have any formal surveys to back that, but you can see it in their profiles and in the messages they post on the forums. There are also quite a few professionals on Kompoz.

Either way – amateur or professional – there’s very little idle noodling. Most are here because they truly want to participate in the creation of real music. They’re here to develop a song that they can share with the world.

Any notable releases yet as a result of the Kompoz platform?
Yes. But first let me first point out that Kompoz is changing the way people think of music as being ‘released’. On Kompoz, a song/project is constantly being refined and perfected on a daily basis.

Songs in the past had to be ‘released’ because of the way they were produced and because of the media format on which they were issued. In the past a ‘band’ would have to record on X day to meet the X date for the CD distribution. That’s just is not true anymore.

Time, location, and delivery are 100% dynamic.

Technically, a song on Kompoz is never “closed” and declared as finished. Anyone at anytime is free to continue to develop any song.

Of course, milestone mixdowns are produced periodically and they are published for all to play and download.

So using this terminology, there have been several notable “milestone” releases. We’re in the process now of rolling out “Kompoz Radio” and compilation CDs so that the great music produced here reaches new listeners.

Here… have a listen to a few of our recent notable releases:

Helena


Don’t Belong


Keep On

Nice embedded players. So… how do you make your money?
Our business plan details four primary revenue opportunities. At a high level, they include new music distribution services, premium member services (such as private project workspaces), hosted promotion services, and of course advertising.

____________________

It’s the weekend. Go sign up, have a play, start a project, jam on someone’s track, and then pop back here to let me know what you make of the site in the comments. I’d do it myself, but then I’d have to play the guitar — and NOBODY wants that.

10 thoughts on “Rockin' all over the world

  1. Andreya says:

    Wow! Sounds interesting!

    Must have a look. But listening to LiveEarth now, so… next time! ;)

  2. George says:

    I like the idea, but the tracks are always going to be 2nd division because they’re just ideas.

    In my experience quality songwriters are precious about their creations and want the best for their best work so they will make the extra effort to form actual relationships and work in actual environments with other people. Same goes for quality producers, arrangers, engineers and musicians. They are all precious about their skills and abilities and won’t want to showcase with people they don’t know or trust.

    The value of this will be found in the relationships that are built online – how can you compare actual relationships to virtual ones? How valuable financially, creatively etc. are virtual relationships that use this kind of platform to output?

    I’d love to sign up and find a great songwriter, some great musicians to collaborate with but my guess is that it would still take a massive amount of time to first find those people then develop work that is mature so I figure I’m better off sticking to actual environment for music that I’m precious about.

    However I could see myself messing with stuff via this to make some heavily edited and processed tracks experimentally. Saying that I’ll probably spend more time searching for good songs to work with than anything else.

  3. I understand what George is saying, but after visiting Kompoz, I was pretty amazed at some of the quality that is there. You can meet and assess quality via the web the same way you can in the “real world. You talk, see if you share the same ideals, try some things out and see if it works. If it does, you continue the relationship.

    I’ve collaborated via the net with people I’ve never met, people were doing it before Kompoz, Kompoz has just streamlined the process. Think of the doors it opens to people geographically isolated. I find the idea very exciting because you’re not limited to your geographic area, your talent pool is the world.

    Imagine a composer like Beethoven, for his artwork to become real, he needed people to play it. 180 years after his death, he still needs someone to collaborate to make his work real. Without musicians, the 9th symphony is dots on a page. When I play in an orchestra, I become part of a work from an artist long dead, yet I share a connection. It’s such a powerful link to the past and and artists genius. When I go to a museum, I look at a painting, but it’s static. I feel a connection, and emotion sure, but the artists work is done. I can’t add anything to it. Yet when I play a Beethoven piece, I inject my own talent, feelings, and perceptions into it. It’s never the same twice, it’s dynamic and living. I think when print music lost its dominance to recorded music, that dynamic was lost. Recorded music is static, it’s the same every time you listen to it. Technology has changed all that. Instead of being consumers, fans can now be participators.

    I think the days of preciousness with your art being a viable strategy are coming to an close. Modest Mouse is letting fans make a video for their second single. Bare Naked Ladies are releasing source tracks so fans can remix their songs. The days of Artist/Art Consumer are ending, as the line between the two becomes blurred. People who consume your art will Expect (with a capital “E”) to be involved in the process. The web and it’s related technologies have always been touted as a “power to the people” kind of revolution, but I think it is just now starting to realize its potential, and I find the whole thing amazing in its potential to change art as we know it. After all that’s what this blog is about, right?

  4. Todd says:

    This looks cool. It’s a concept that will surely work. The three tracks you posted above seem to prove that. Wow! For me (someone with 2 kids and little time to start a band), it’s the perfect solution. Where would we be without the Internet?

  5. I’m glad I jumped this ship, this site looks good, as well as IndabaMusic.

    I think live jamming online will never happen for one simple reason – latency. No matter your bandwith, your audio’s never going to go faster than the speed of light. So your drummer hits the snare in the UK, the keyboards presses his key a bit later in Italy, the trumpet player quite a bit later in the States. By the time the drummer hears the other musicians, he think’s they’re playing quite out of time, so maybe he slows down a bit… you get the point – it’s all going to get very messy very fast. Okay, you could solve this problem by not being able to hear each other (only the metronome), but do you call that “jamming”?!

    I have some ideas for a near-realtime distributed music production environment to support music improvisation, but I think it would be tricky to do well. Maybe I’ll attempt it when I’m richer and more talented ;)

    I think George makes some very valid points. In my opinion, finding musicians and songs is the hardest part of using these sites. I know everyone’s in love with tags at the moment but they’re really not that great for non-factual multimedia content. I’ve been trying to give away some ideas to the IndabaMusic guys about how they could piggyback Last.fm to create an elegant way of finding “interesting” musicians and songs based on your feedback, your Last.fm listener profile and the feedback of other users. They replied very positively but have gone a bit quiet so maybe I’ll get in touch with “Kompoz”.

    As for the value of “RL” relationships, I don’t think anybody but the geekiest geek would argue that face-to-face isn’t better, if you can. But often it’s very hard to organise so ‘meeting’ online is much better than nothing.

  6. Jeff Boltz says:

    Right on! David H. said it best, “The days of Artist/Art Consumer are ending, as the line between the two becomes blurred. People who consume your art will Expect to be involved in the process.” Sites like Kompoz understand that and make it reality.

  7. Hi, Andrew

    About real time online jamming there are a few projects that try to achieve it, but I don’t think they’ve been very much successful until now:

    http://www.ejamming.com/
    http://www.ninjam.com/index.php

    BTW, there’s also NetPD (www.netpd.org) but it’s more directed towards laptop musical composition and edition

    If you can understand Portuguese, I wrote a post about these applications:

    http://remixtures.com/2007/05/software-de-colaboracao-em-tempo-real-para-musicos/

  8. Stacey Ross says:

    Does anyone else think the first two of the three sample tracks sound kind of busy? There is a “too many cooks” feel here, which given the nature of the collaboration isn’t terribly surprising. With a large supply of people looking to tinker with a given song, it might be tempting for people to just layer more and more stuff on there.

    I would be interested to see what processes are in place to keep what could be a nice soup from becoming an overbearing stew.

    In any event, the songwriting quality is reasonably high. Certainly good enough to warrant further inspection. Exciting stuf.

  9. Marc says:

    Another site for online music collaboration, using legal copyright instead of creative commons:

    http://www.virtual-musician.com / http://www.v-band.de

    Marco