[Editor's Note] Milos Bezanov is a second year student currently studying International Politics at King’s College London.
Why of? It seems an odd choice of wording. I could've used “from music” or “with music”. It may not seem like much, but here and now, “making more of music” sums up Audiodraft better than any other sentence. Suddenly, the why question becomes much more interesting. Audiodraft is a Finnish startup run by Co-founders Teemu-Yli-Hollo and Arto Tolonen, who started the project in early 2010. Both music lovers, Yli-Hollo hopes that Audiodraft will “give artists other means to create and find distribution for their music rather than the old record label way”. If Audiodraft were making more from music, they would simply be another record label. If they were making more with music, they would be a band. If they were using music, they wouldn't be original. So if they make more of music, the next question is how?
Audiodraft crowdsource music. They provide a platform that allows clientele, which can be mobile phone providers to advertising agencies, film producers...in fact anyone who needs a piece of music, to create a competition. These competitions are open, and sound designers compete for the reward (usually a cash prize). Audiodraft earn through the $99 listing fee and a modest 10% of the prize money, and take nothing from the musicians. Clients can give feedback while the music is being made. They can listen to the samples and tracks of what’s in progress and in turn provide either general or personal feedback. Often with music it's difficult to know what the client wants at the very start, and it's even likely the client may change his mind. The result is more rewriting of music, more work, more stress and a shortened lifespan for all. However, with an interactive platform, if the client doesn't like something he can say so and change it immediately. Instant connectivity means the same result with less work and a lifespan left intact.
Clearly the idea has appeal. Audiodraft is backed by Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka, who is on the advisory board, and has Finnish investors to feed its startup needs. Since then, big names like Nokia have used the service to find new music for its ringtone, while also expanding operations to San Francisco. But why Audiodraft? Other services like MusikPitch also provide an interactive platform linking musicians to clients, so what makes it unique? The difference is Audiodraft spotted a flaw in the business model. Supposing you commission musicians to make music. They compete amongst each other and the winner gets the prize money, but what about everyone else? This high risk high reward model makes it difficult maintain a steady income, especially if you're an “independent, unsigned artist that produces quality work”, the kind of artist that audiodraft is made for.
Audiodraft have the answer. The model is versatile enough for collaboration on its “social audio sketching tool” (e.g. one may work on the vocal track, another on bass or drums...). This feature also has social networking aspects to their model. Yli-Hollo explains that “artists can comment on the song on the timeline of their track.... can tag a comment to the point of the sound wave and ask what is this sound peak...should we tweak it”. The interactive element not only lets the client guide the musicians, it lets the artists guide each other. This is important when working alongside equally talented musicians who are equally convinced of their greatness. What is unique is that Audiodraft managed to combine several aspects into one. Through crowdsourcing it exposes demand to supply, people who want to make music to those who need it. Collaboration can minimise risk and reward for those who want it, and finally, the social networking aspect keeps it all together ensuring any change to the music isn't passed without approval.
Their ambition, it seems, knows no limits. The founders a constantly pushing forward with the idea “Imagine ...giving fans access to hear the song as it is being written, having them comment on the track and share the process of writing music” and are also planning to move ahead on the business front. Their next target is to break onto the international music scene, in particular Los Angeles, New York and Your Truly (London..). Having looked back, it would be easy for them to say we've done well. However, what's really unique is, rather than making more from music or by music, they've stumbled onto a business model that is centred on the music. Not the artists, not the clients, nor the record producers who own the rights, but the music. Collaboration lessens risk for artists, but only to get more on board. The interactive aspect lets the client into the process, but only to ensure the music is what they're looking for. Audiodraft are trying to create the best place to reconcile supply and demand, that is, to make the most of music for suppliers, and to ensure it's in tune with demand. They're closer but still not there, which is why they really shouldn't stop.