Changing Music by Increasing Accessibility to Collaborative Software
A group of students at 42 Silicon Valley are working on making music collaboration more accessible by developing collaborative software for independent musicians and record labels around the world. With Cardioid, an emerging music startup that started as a student project at 42, a musician no longer has to write down their ideas on a napkin or upload all their files on a usb before handing it over to another artist. Cardioid will make it possible for musicians to share and add to work entirely online. Johnny Tahirov, Backend Engineer at Cardioid, shared, “With our technology, we may have collaboration with different bands, maybe written by 10 different bands at one time.”
The Economist stated that music is more collaborative than ever before, “According to data from the Billboard Hot 100, a weekly ranking of the most popular singles in the country, collaborations now represent more than a third of hit songs. Of the top ten songs on the current Hot 100 chart, half are credited to more than one artist.” Beyond accessibility, CEO of Cardioid Brad Vautour, said, “We want to expand to other things, creating more tools to make the independent artist more successful. You may not be able to afford to go to a master studio, so we want to weave in services that could provide that. With a centralized location online, we essentially want to build a pipeline.” Cardioid is a passion project for Brad, who studied music for 17 years and has worked professionally in music for about 6 years. Brad studied electronic production and design, acoustics and film scoring, jazz theory, writing for music and television, and making electronic components of music at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
MIDI: Making Music Software More Compatible and Open Source
There is something in music technology known as MIDI, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. According to the MIDI Foundation, “MIDI is an industry standard music technology protocol that connects products from many different companies including digital musical instruments, computers, tablets, and smartphones. MIDI is used every day around the world by musicians, DJs, producers, educators, artists, and hobbyists to create, perform, learn, and share music and artistic works.” Allowing your digital setup to be synchronized, MIDI does not transmit any audio signal but instead transfers data so devices can communicate with each other. DAW, which stands for digital audio workstation, describes any device or software that is used for music programming. But there is a caveat, the recording software that is out there is not compatible with each other. Brad shared that this is an issue that Cardioid intends to work on, “Currently we are focusing on one recording software because people are using so many different things and are very particular, we would be building solutions where people could collaborate cross-platform.” The Cardioid Team also wants to tackle how to make music more open source. Brad elaborated, “Creative Commons is currently the only legal source for providing an open source, the goal would be not only changing how people are collaborating but also how people are intending on making money with their music and how that process works.”
Why Record Labels Will Care About What Cardioid is Doing
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is an organization that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide. IFPI recently reported, “Recording costs can vary widely between individual projects, with the average being driven by projects that involve superstar producers and the most sought-after session musicians. Recording costs for an emerging pop act in a major market are estimated to be between US$150,000 and US$500,000.” Brad explained the impact that Cardioid is hoping to have on recording costs, “One of the things we are focusing on is an enterprise solution which would be a solution for record labels. Why that is such a huge deal is if you have an artist in NY and fly them out to LA to do all that work, and an executive says they don’t like it, that is why the costs blow up so much. You are paying for transportation and housing and feeding the artist, so trying to cut that cost out would be a huge enterprise solution. For some folks it will increase collaboration on an enterprise level, say you are the only musician in your own town, you will be able to interact with people online and maybe form a band. Where music collaboration is limited, Cardioid is their best friend.”
Meet the Team
Name: Brad Vautour, CEO
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Interests: Family, Jazz, Hiking, Unix Ricing, UX/UI, Coding, Producing music.
Dream job or long-term career goals: Continuing to build musical tools to help independent musicians achieve their career goals.
Name: Michael Vann, Head of Product for the front end of the website.
Hometown: Menlo Park, CA
Interests: I like music production and software engineering so Cardioid is the perfect project for me. I’ve also been doing some game development in my spare time.
Dream job or long-term career goals: I’d like to end up in a job that has one foot in engineering and one foot in another department. Business Development and Product Management roles interest me because they require technical knowledge as well as solid soft skills. Additionally, I’d like to end up at a company that looks to technology as a solution for social issues like the housing crisis or education inequality.
Name: Isamar “Isa” Hodge, Head of Product for the desktop application.
Hometown: Lynn, Massachusetts
Interests: Reading, learning about other cultures, self-improvement.
Dream job or long-term career goals: Work in something that keeps my mind stimulated (problem-solving) and where I can make an impact.
Name: Maksud “Max” Aghayev, CTO and Architect.
Hometown: Azerbaijan, Baku
Interests: My interests outside of programming mainly lies in outdoor activities, and the more fun they are the better, some of them would be snowboarding, skiing, mountain climbing, beach camping.
Dream job or long-term career goals: My career end goal was always to become a system architect.
Name: Jeyhun “Johnny” Tahirov, Backend Engineer.
Hometown: I was born in a small country on the edge of the Caspian Sea, called Azerbaijan. It is a wonderful place that is right in the middle of everything.
Interests: I love to act and play. Maybe I would be not the worst actor in history, who knows? 🙂
Dream job or long-term career goals: It is not like I want to achieve something specific more likely I want to enjoy the road I follow and I want to see where it will lead me.
Name: Yuriy Nenakhov, Full Stack Developer, currently working on the web app.
Hometown: Lipetsk, Russia
Interests: Other than software development, I like to do sports, especially martial arts.
Dream job or long-term career goals: Still undecided, but the main goal is that my job or career is in software engineering and not dependant on my geolocation.
Name: Aneesh Nazar, Full Stack Developer for the desktop application.
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Interests: Music, animation, movies/filmmaking, writing, drones/RC flight.
Dream job or long-term career goals: Software Engineer
What is the purpose of your project?
Michael: To simplify the creation process for musicians is the most simple way to put it. Right now technology doesn’t quite fit the needs of people who are collaborating. Additionally where people get parts of music has changed a lot over the past 30 years, getting to sample previous works has changed the way that music functions. With the internet, there is the aspect of a lot of sharing of music and pulling pieces from various places, and we want to reflect that in our design.
Max: The purpose, as Michael says, is for collaboration, diving into the whole thing with other people and being able to produce something greater than one person probably could. We want to go for collaborative efforts first.
Johnny: The way I see this project when you are in a group of friends, someone just starts jamming. So what we are doing is building a platform where everyone can jump in together.
How does Project Cardioid work?
Michael: With the music creation process, you don’t start with the song, there is a whole process that goes with it. We are trying to open up the ways someone can initiate a music project without being in the same room.
Brad: Also, people have different levels of what they can afford in technology. There are various programs, software and hardware that they use, making it so we can bring those people together is cool.
Describe the work you are doing on the project:
Isa: I work on the desktop application, it is downloaded and people can save things locally instead of having to upload stuff on the browser, the website application. I think it just simplifies that process.
Michael: I am primarily working on the front end with Yuri and a little bit of backend stuff, so just working on the website.
Yuri: I am working on a team with Michael, and we are working on the main functionality of the web application.
Max: I am doing architectural design, basically setting up the development environments, making sure all the systems are connected on the network level, and providing middleware between stacks…basically the glue that allows everything to go smoothly.
Johnny: I joined the team quite recently. The time I have been here I have referred to myself as the middle guy, who makes sure everything is connected and in place.
Brad: I am primarily focused on business development for everybody, I run meetings every day and provide a general vision for what we are building. Initially, I did more coding work, but as my team has grown I have been able to focus on business goals.
What has been the most difficult part?
Isa: For me it was the learning curve, learning web development in general, and trying to produce at the same time.
Michael: I think most of us haven’t built anything of this scale from scratch. There was definitely a learning curve for stuff we didn’t know or didn’t know we didn’t know.
Yuri: Learning new technologies and using them at the same time.
Max: Actually architecting the whole thing, placing everything correctly and dealing with whatever was not placed correctly.
Johnny: I can’t say anything is difficult if you enjoy it. It is kind of fun, when you are struggling with something, trying to solve a problem brings a lot of joy in general.
Brad: This is the biggest team I have managed before. There is a lot of interpersonal stuff, hearing people’s problems, learning about the root of it, and helping them get unstuck. Being able to make sure to encourage them to do their best work, overall it has been a wonderful learning experience and fun. What I like to say is, I want to stay a step away, and let you do what you do best, and not put much of my opinion into how you do that.
What did you enjoy most about your project?
Johnny: The idea we are actually building something big that will be useful for everybody.
Isa: I guess the fact that every day we have to think about how somebody is going to use this, how do we make it so it appeals to them? It’s not just about making it work, what does the user see, how do they interact with it?
Michael: I think I just love working on something large and sustainable and a complete project that has a lot of moving parts. As opposed to a traditional school where you are working on individual disciplines at a time.
Brad: It really allowed us to take all the things we learned at 42 and apply them to their own boxes as it makes sense.
Max: To be fair, I actually prefer 42 because I never believed I could find a team like this. I have been here for 8 months, finding a team like this and doing something this substantial is amazing.
Brad: I came to 42 because I didn’t know anyone who could code outside of a paper bag, and I wasn’t able to. Being able to come here, finding people who want to do good work and make an impact is great.
What did you learn from this project?
Michael: I think working as a team has strengthened our skills. Also, trying to figure out how to do proper project management and learning how to work autonomously so we aren’t in each other’s way.
Brad: We embrace our own unique way of agile management.
Johnny: I am further from music, and just working on this project helps me catch-up and learn more about this field.
Brad: I was raised by a product manager, so I was raised in sprint life. Each week I was asked, ‘What did you do well? What didn’t you do well? What can you improve next week?’ It didn’t occur to me until I confronted my mom and said, ‘you have been managing me my whole life’ and she told me, ‘you are the best product I have ever made.’ I have always been doing it, but not to this magnitude where I get to empower other people.
Tell Us More About Your Participation in the Y-Combinator Startup School:
Michael: We just started the Y-combinator Startup School, I look forward to learning more about startups and business in general. Even though a lot of teams are a part of this program, not all of them are located in Silicon Valley (it is a global initiative). This gives us an advantage where we can go to lectures at Y-Combinator and possibly meet-up with our advisor.
Brad: We were accepted as a team that gets an advisor with the Y-Combinator Startup School. For each advisor, there are 25 companies. There are incentives to make it through the program, but a lot of folks don’t end up finishing the program. Since we have a big team, we can continue to spread the work and I can focus on the business development.
What future do you see for your project?
Brad: We see a lot of great things. I’d like to see us expand into further music technology to solve problems for the music industry and to further the concept of open source music. Being able to create opportunities for artists to be working with major record labels.
Michael: I think that we see a lot of potential for the ways that people can collaborate and with a central location for that sort of thing, the implications for it are large. There are a lot of different ways we can grow the concept of being able to share ideas and open up a world of creative collaboration.
Johnny: One of the things I can see for the future, if this is popular, we will have a lot of different genres of music. When you give a tool that can collaborate, one of those creations could be its own genre.
Max: This project has to bring us to the Hawaiian beach with a pina colada watching the sunset.
published by Stacey Faucett – August 30, 2018