There’s an App for That: EMI’s Music Coding Project [GUEST POST]

The Echo Nest

This post was written by Brittany Lyons, who aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

British record label EMI has teamed with technology company The Echo Nest to launch a music-based application coding project. Operating through the OpenEMI initiative, the project grants developers access to EMI’s music catalog for the purpose of creating applications for Apple and Android devices, and the internet in general. Potential applications could include streaming services similar to Pandora or music-based games like Guitar Hero.

The music coding project aims to create interactive technology tools in a democratic manner. Established and beginner developers have an equal shot at designing a potential application for the label’s approval—you don’t need programming PhDs to participate in the project. The end result is a product that promotes an EMI artist, The Echo Nest’s technology, and the career of the developer all at once.

EMI provides “sandboxes” featuring music titles and associated artwork from the company’s catalog, as well as a packaged collection of code containing the basics that must be present in order for the application to work. Developers use the sandbox as a foundation for building a customized application.

Current sandbox offerings include both artist-specific bundles and more general, wide-ranging bundles. Artists featured in the bundles include Pet Shop Boys, Tinie Tempah, Eliza Doolittle and Gorillaz. The general EMI Selection sandbox opens up nearly 2,000 songs from the EMI catalog for development. Genre specific sandboxes include Classics, for classical music, and Blue Note, which focuses on the label’s jazz imprint.

The application process is strictly defined by EMI and The Echo Nest, but developers can informally practice and experiment working with the sandbox offerings. Design work operates within a free application programming interface (API) created and hosted by The Echo Nest. To formally create an application, the developer must first apply to gain access to the specific sandbox. Approved developers will receive personalized login information for logging into the API to design.

Coders must develop a demo application to present to EMI for approval. After EMI approves, an upfront revenue sharing agreement is established. This is currently set at a split that earns the developer the majority of 40 percent of profits, subtracting only a small payment to The Echo Nest. The exact amount of The Echo Nest’s cut depends on how much the application relies on its technology.

Developers maintain the intellectual rights to the application with EMI’s stake represented through a license. Source code must be turned in to the company with the application. EMI and The Echo Nest will take care of the application marketing. The company can also help developers gain a license to materials not currently offered in the sandbox packages, including songs from independent artists on the label’s smaller imprints.

EMI plans to expand the sandbox offerings in the future to broaden the tools available to developers. The music coding project is in its early stages and further changes are likely as the company adapts to needs and troubleshoots issues. The changes will uphold the purpose of the project, expanding the relationship between music production, promotion and technology.

Independent artists would do well to take note of EMI’s project, as it’s a great way to combine music with social technology. Developing smart phone apps is a relatively simple task for talented developers, many of whom are trying to establish names for themselves. Creating partnerships with engineers is just one more way that independent artists can get a foothold in the industry.

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    The Echo Nest is possibly the hottest music data company around right now. This is going to be more exciting for music industry.