5 Music Industry Leaders You Should Know

Fast Company Magazine recently released their list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2012, with 10 filling the Music category.  These days, it seems like the music industry is expanding at rapid speed – is it just us, or does it feel like we were just listening to portable CD players?  Now, we’ve got iPods the size of a paperclip, it seems.

The best part?  These innovators impact everyone in the music industry- not just artists, but concertgoers and fans.  What will be next?  In 20 years, we can only imagine how we’ll be sharing, distributing, recording and listening to music.  Check out our 5 favorites that made the list, along with commentary from Fast Company:

1. SoundCloud
For creating a simple, democratic sound-sharing platform embraced by everyone from 50 Cent and Madonna to urban nomads looking to capture an interesting neighborhood sound. More than 10 million users have jumped on SoundCloud’s mission to “unmute the web,” two million of which came in the last two months. In May, it released its API to appbuilders with SoundCloud Labs, where more than 10,000 apps are currently in development. And $50 million from a Kleiner Perkins-led funding round? Well that sounds pretty sweet, too.

2. Spotify
For taking the cake in the battle of the all-you-can-eat on-demand music streaming services (against competitors such as MOG and Rdio). Since its July U.S. launch, Spotify has become Facebook’s default music partner and gained 3 million paying subscribers worldwide, 20% of its active user base. Most surprising? More than half of those paying for the service are under 30.

3. Bjork
For creating the world’s first app album. Björk tapped interactive design guru Scott Snibbe to create the phantasmagoric iPad app for Biophilia, her first full-length album in four years, immediately positing it as a new-media model for fellow recording artists.

4. Mason Jar Music
For pioneering a new concert model. The Brooklyn-based collective of musicians, artists, and filmmakers eschews large, commercial spaces for nontraditional venues that foster organic collaboration. In October, they partnered with indie darling Feist to stage a 25-piece band for a secret debut of her Metals album at a tiny Harlem crypt. And a recent video for their new Grooveshark series, “Mason Jar Music Presents…,” documents a performance by The Wood Brothers at an abandoned Brooklyn schoolhouse.

For turning music sharing into a novel social experience.’s 110,000 active users–about 30,000 of whom are logging 10 to 20 hours a month–can DJ their favorite songs to each other in virtual “rooms,” either from their personal libraries or from the service’s own catalog, supplied by copyright heavyweights ASCAP and BMI. Since its debut last January, the service has inspired several copycats, notably Facebook’s “Listen With” feature which launched this January. In the age of made-for-you personal playlists from the likes of Pandora, is a breath of fresh air.

Your turn – what are your predictions for what’s next for the music industry and technology?  Think big, and let us know what you think!  Are there any companies that you feel are missing from this list?  Leave a comment on our Facebook page to join the discussion. Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.


Photo by Audio-TechnicaUK.

Discover 4 New Places to Find Free Music Online

Remember a time when the only way to discover new music was listening to the radio or asking your friends?  With the growing list of ways to find music online, that sure seems like ancient history now!

We were in awe when Spotify was released, a perfect equation of one-part Pandora and one-part iTunes, with practically every song you think of available for free and instant streaming.  Unfortunately, for those who downloaded the service when its first US release came out in July 2011, your streaming access will soon be capped to just 10 hours per month.

Still, you don’t have to worry – there are many other options for finding music.  Facebook, for example, has been rolling out its “Listen With Friends” feature, allowing friends to listen to songs simultaneously.

Still need more options?  Here are 4 more ideas for finding music online:

Google Music
Google Music may not have as much free music as either Spotify or MOG, but every day it offers new songs and albums from big-name artists that users can download to their computers for free. Moreover, users can upload up to 20,000 of their own songs to Google Music for free to stream from any computer or mobile device. This way, you don’t have to waste any of your allotted time on services such as Spotify listening to music you already have.

Like Google Music, RCRD Label lets you stream and download new tracks from established and lesser-known artists for free every day. There’s no membership fee or subscription; all you have to do is create a free account and you can download the tracks, no strings attached. The site’s selection is much smaller than the others on the list, but then again, the point of it is to discover new artists whose catalogs you can listen to elsewhere.
Calling Turntable a music streaming service misses the point somewhat. In reality, Turntable is a virtual hangout space that just happens to be built around music. Users create avatars for themselves and can join or create music rooms of their choice, each centered around a different genre, where users take turn playing the role of DJ and chatting with other users. It’s probably not the right service for someone who just wants to passively listen to a few songs while at work, but the site does offer the potential to discover artists and new friends, all for no cost.

When all else fails, there’s always YouTube. If there’s an artist or song you want to listen to, chances are YouTube has it — it just may not always be studio quality.

Will you be paying for a Spotify membership once they start capping the free music, or will you turn to other services?  What other ways do you find music online?

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5 More Awesome iPhone Music Apps

Photo by cdharrison, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

5 More Awesome iPhone Music Apps

What a year for Apple – iPhone sales are still through the roof, Siri continues to be a hot topic, and Steve Jobs is now being recognized with a posthumous Grammy award for his part in revolutionizing the music industry.  Nowadays our smartphones help us with anything and everything, it seems; it’s hard to imagine living without them!

But besides organizing our calendars and feeding our Angry Birds addiction, the iPhone is a great resource for music teachers and music fans alike.  Check out our original list of 5 apps for music lovers – now, here are 5 more especially great music apps for teachers to check out, courtesy of

1. ACappella – This simple song recording app can be used to record voices into tracks that can be played at the same time or one by one. The user can adjust the volume, tempo, and time signature. The app was designed for ease of sharing files: song URL’s can be posted to Facebook and Twitter or shared on a special website called “SingSing.” ($1.99)

2. Notes for Little Composers – Designed for ages 3 and up, this app can be used to introduce beginners to music notation and basic composition. The user taps on the treble clef screen to make notes, hear the names of notes, and create simple songs. Ideal as an accompaniment to starting music lessons. ($0.99)

3. Ear Trainer – This app is designed for beginning to advanced music students, and provides exercises on intervals, chords, scales, and relative pitch. A virtual piano keyboard helps you recognize the notes that have been played. Individual progress is tracked so that users can pinpoint areas of strength or weakness. ($6.99)

4. ImproVox– Record your voice into your device and create harmonies as you sing. This app demonstrates effects such as reverb and echo, and enables you to generate 4-part harmonies in different styles. ($3.99)

5. TabToolkit – This guitar tablature and notation viewer can be used for learning guitar and practicing music. The interface shows a fret board or keyboard with finger positions and/or standard music notation. Upload tabs from your computer or download from the Internet. ($4.99)

What other music apps do you love?  Leave a comment below!

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Image courtesy of–iphone-89811/app

5 Things Siri Can’t Help You Do On The iPhone

With the iPhone 4S now on the market, it’s hard to get away from all of the hype.  The iPhone has been a game-changer from the very first release in 2007, with its extensive app market and now with its very own digital personal assistant, Siri.  But believe it or not, there are some things Siri can’t help you with.  Try asking her to tune your guitar, or find out the name of that new Mumford & Sons song that is always on the radio.

So what’s a musician to do?  Luckily, the iPhone still has a ton of music-related apps that aren’t going anywhere.

Last week we discussed Bjork’s new album, which has been released with corresponding apps.  Rihanna has her own version, with her Talk That Talk album released in Facebook app form, allowing fans to unlock pieces of the album by performing certain tasks.   Now that apps are becoming the “next big thing,” we can’t wait to see what other creative uses artists will think up.

Even if you’re not releasing an album, there are tons of awesome iPhone Apps that will rock your music-loving world.  Here are 5 that we think top the charts:

1. Pandora Radio
Pandora is the go-to streaming music app for a lot of mobile and web users. The service the app accesses uses advanced recommendation algorithms to play music for you that matches your tastes. It builds custom stations around your favorite artists, and those stations are refined as you give it feedback about which tracks and artists you love and which ones you hate.
The app is simple as can be; just type in the name of a song or artist, and music starts playing that’s either by that artist or someone Pandora’s algorithm deems similar. Enjoy the beats and melodies, and bookmark songs you like so you can buy them through download services.
Price: Free

2. Ocarina
One of the first music-making apps, Ocarina has hardly waned in popularity. It’s just what you would guess — a digital ocarina. You blow into the microphone as you would blow into the ocarina, and the touchscreen has dots in place of an ocarina’s holes. Additionally, Ocarina has a globe view that lets you see and listen to performances by other people who are using the app all over the world.
App developer Smule runs an online forum full of notation to help Ocarina fans figure out songs. The songs are mostly user-submitted and they cover a wide range of styles. However, because the ocarina instrument received a boost in popularity after it was featured in the very popular video game The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, there are a bunch of video game songs to be found on the forum.
Price: $0.99

3. Shazam
Shazam’s primary feature is its ability to recognize almost any popular song playing nearby. Just whip out your iPhone or iPod Touch and load up the app when you hear a song you like but don’t recognize, and Shazam will tell you what it is and provide you with information about where to buy it digitally. There’s also a chart of popular songs that will help you find great songs to listen to.
The app can launch Pandora’s streaming service, and it has an elaborate tagging system. You can share your tags with your friends on Twitt er or Facebook. The developer has launched two versions of Shazam. There’s a free version simply called Shazam, and there’s Shazam Encore, which supports unlimited tagging and a few additional features.
Price: Free or $5.99

4. Slacker Radio
Don’t trust computer recommendation algorithms to pick songs out for you? Slacker Radio is an online music streaming service that’s carefully curated by either music experts or other users. It also has artist-themed stations like Pandora does, but it goes about creating them in a completely different way. Download this app and you’ll have access to 2.4 million songs on 100 programmed stations and 10,000 artist stations. We think that’s a great deal at “free.”
Price: Free

5. Pocket Guitar
Pocket Guitar doesn’t have high-end professional features like BeatMaker, but it only costs a dollar — a perfect price for a fun toy. As with Ocarina, the name tells you what you need to know: This app is a pocket-sized guitar simulator. You can pluck and strum the virtual strings using your device’s touchscreen.
There is an impressive array of customization options for a $0.99 app. You can tune each string individually and activate and modify various effects. For example, you can set a delay by the millisecond between 100 milliseconds and 10 seconds, and adjust the level and feedback. You won’t be cranking out any top 40 rock records with this app, but it’s certainly fun.
Price: $0.99

The full top-10 list can be found at the tech blog My Life Scoop.

We the help of these apps, you have music tools at your fingertips at all times – and we hope the curiosity inspires more users to pick up an instrument, take music lessons, or start a career in the music biz.  What apps are we missing?  Let us know in the comment section!

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Looking For Bjork’s Newest Album? There’s An App For That

These days, you can take thousands of songs with you in your pocket, share your music library with friends worldwide, play DJ on your laptop, and tune your guitar using an iPhone app.  Icelandic singer Bjork’s new album, out today, now takes listening to a new level.

As CNN reported, the app-album Biophilia is a collection of games, visualizations and musical scores that accompany each song, and is also available as a standard audio album like we’re used to.  Each song, in effect, becomes its own visual-and-audio experience, letting Bjork’s fans interact with her songs in an entirely new way.  Bjork is well-known for her innovative and unique style, and this is no different.  To create the album, she collaborated with app developers, scientists, writers, inventors, musicians, and instrument makers to create the full experience.

According to NPR, apps can be purchased individually for $1.99 from the iTunes music store, and each app interacts with its corresponding song in a different way.  In “Thunderbolt,” for example, users can change the bass line by tapping on a lightning icon.

“You change the speed of the arpeggio, or the range,” said Bjork in the NPR article. “Basically, you’re like this crazy lightning bass player.”

For those who don’t want to download the full album, reported that a free app for Biophilia is also available, in which fans interact with a universe-like image and hear pieces of the songs as the universe expands and turns.

What’s even better is what comes next – instead of having a typical concert tour like most artists, Bjork has planned to embark on a music education tour.  In each city that she stops at, she’ll play a few nights during the week, and spend the rest of the time at local museums working with kids on music and science projects.  Bjork says watching her 8-year-old daughter play with the Biophilia app of the solar system made her she realize its potential.

“She knew more about the solar system than I learned from five years of school — that certain things are not meant to be in a book, you know? If … it’s more like a little game, then you understand it in 3D, like in space,” Bjork says. “Music is like this: You cannot learn it from a book.”

Here at TakeLessons, we love this idea – mixing music and technology is a great way to engage students of all ages, but especially the younger generation.  Teachers, do you  use your iPad or iPod during your lessons?  What other great ideas are out there?  Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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You Say You Want a Revolution: How Steve Jobs Changed The Music Industry

From the iPod to iTunes, it’s no doubt Steve Jobs had a profound effect on technology, music, and everything in between.  Many have said that Jobs rescued the music industry, giving fans a more effective way to find, store and share music, and giving bands a larger and more reachable audience pool.  Apple’s success was clear – during iTunes’ first year in operation in 2003, 30 million digital downloads of songs were sold. Within two years that figure increased to 1.2 billion song downloads.

Industry bigwigs have been sharing their thoughts about Jobs’ impact:

“He was a true visionary who forever transformed how fans access and enjoy music,” Recording Industry Assn. of America Chairman and Chief Executive Cary Sherman said Thursday in a statement. “With the introduction of the iTunes software and other platforms, Steve and Apple made it once again easy and accepted to pay for music.”

The Riverfront Times recently created a list of Jobs’ Six Best Music Innovations – and we especially like the following less-obvious items:

1. The USB Port. Although Apple didn’t invent USB, the company was the first to include USB ports on home computers. Ever since, these ports have become an integral part of modern music. Mp3 players, recording interfaces, portable hard drives stocked with a lifetime supply of obscure dub remixes; USB (or its more intense big brother, Firewire) is essential in syncing our computers with our analog, real-life music experiences.

2. Garage Band. Many recording studio owners, engineers, and producers have spent the better part of twenty years freaking out about becoming obsolete. While these professionals generally have an advantage in the skill department, they’ve lost a bit of their edge with the boom of home recording products that have been stealthily improving over the years. GarageBand is by no means as powerful of a music production tool as ProTools or its competitors, but it’s a stellar introduction to the often intimidating process of recording. The fact that it comes standard on all current Mac computers puts its capabilities in more hands than any similar program to date. With enough time and energy at your disposal, you can even use GarageBand to make a hit. Remember “Fireflies”, the Postal Service-aping single by Owl City? The track was produced on GarageBand.

3. The iPad. Gorillaz used an iPad to produce an entire record. Brian Eno used the device to take his generative music concept to a new level. The Digitech guitar effects company just developed a system interfacing digital recreations of famous guitar pedals with a physical board to step on during live performance. The most exciting thing about the iPad is that we’ve barely unlocked its capabilities.

The impact the music industry has seen with these innovations will only continue.  Just think – what’s next?

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