MusicPlayr: music for the online generation

One Berlin-based start-up is trying to rethink the way we discover, gather and share music. If you want to know why what they're doing makes perfect sense - look at the way children watch cartoons.

Here’s the thing about the future of TV: it might not be TV at all. earlier in the year, we went to visit friends of my wife, who have two small children. The kids were well-behaved, and sat up at table, eating dinner with the grown-ups surprisingly well for they tender years. Eventually, they were given permission to get down from the table to watch cartoons.

They ran to the computer, opened YouTube, and started picking and choosing the cartoons they liked there. The world has changed in the 35 years since I was their age. For me, cartoons were something that happened at a certain time of the day, and I had no control over what I saw. They can pick and choose from a vast library of cartoons whenever they want. Why would they grow up caring about traditional TV, with its restrictive ways and tied content?

Our model of entertainment evolved for the internet is still rooted in the past – in purchase and airplay. iTunes and Spotify and their ilk are evolutions of existing models, rather than something new, but one Berlin-based start-up is building a music service for the generation that watches their cartoons on a computer. MusicPlayr makes consumption of your favourite online media – because it allows you to build a playlist of videos, music and sound clips available on sites like YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud. I’ve started a playlist by way of example.

Co-founder Stefan Vosskoetter describes it as your musical profile, as LinkedIn is you business profil and Facebook is your social profile. Yet, it handles much like a music app – you can play playlists just like you can in iTunes, and there’s even a full screen party mode for using playlists as a soundtrack you your festive revelry.

“When we were in closed beta, I followed 20 strangers, and heard all kinds of new, cool stuff,” says Stefan. “There was this one guy from Stockholm – every second song he had was new and great.”

The site has learnt the social lesson of blogging site like Tumblr, and make sit easy to add cool tracks you find on others’ profiles straight into yours. The mobile app will allow streaming of content – with a premium subscription for cacheing, allowing the service to pay royalties to the music companies.

The next stage in the service’s evolution will be sound recognition, allowing tow things. First up is mobile music blogging – capture the soundtrack to your life events as they happen within the service. The mobile app will allow you to recognise playing music’s “audio thumbprint”, identify the track and add it to you profile with other info. This same audio profiling technology will allow better discovery – by comparing the audio footprints of other people with yours – and matching you up. “It’s musical DNA matching,” says Stefan.

It’s very much a product of the open web – playlists are embeddable and shareable for example, so in theory, users will also be promoting the tracks they like.

But what if the video or soundclip you’ve embedded in a playlist goes away? MusicPlayr retains the “memory” of the clip, and, while playlist plays seamless skip the missing track, you are offered links to buy the track you can no longer access – another money-making opportunity.

It’s a different model – and one that eventually links through to the traditional models of buying or renting music. Is Stefan worried about the music companies getting difficult? “It could be a problem is we get big,” he admits. But that’s why the revenue models for advanced services are there, he argues.

It’s an interesting and compelling experiment  It mashes together blogging sensibility with music discovery and embedding culture to create a whole new music discovery and playback experience. Perhaps the real way to reinvent our entertainment experiences is not to look at what we’re doing now and figure out how to do it in a more online way, but to look at how children are using the internet for media – and rebuild our industries around that.