It’s music to the ears of digital developers everywhere: EMI Music is going to make it easy for them to use their songs. Guy Daniels reports.
Something strange has happened at EMI Music. One of the big, intransigent, protectionist music companies is about to make it easy for developers to access and licence their recordings, cracking open the door to the digital reality that lies beyond.
Maybe EMI is fed up with being seeing as one of the enemy; one of the old guard fighting to halt the advance of the internet; doing everything it can to maximise its revenues as ‘traditional’ (i.e. controlled) music consumption dwindles. Or maybe a skunk works operation within the company managed to sneak out a progressive new initiative without the lawyers noticing?
Either way, it’s a step in the right direction. EMI Music has teamed up with Echo Nest, a Boston-based music technology company, to create the OpenEMI initiative. As EMI explains on its website, OpenEMI:
“puts thousands of amazing songs and other content such as videos and photos in the hands of more than 10,000 application developers around the world. This is the most extensive collection of licensed music and other assets to be made available in this way and gives developers a one-stop destination to create new digital products for EMI’s artists.”
Artists involved at the launch of this new project include Gorillaz, Pet Shop Boys, Professor Green and Eliza Doolittle. The company says many more will follow later. Archive recordings from the likes of Culture Club, Simple Minds and Shirley Bassey are included, as are tracks from its Blue Note Records jazz label.
In total, some 12,000 songs have been pre-cleared so far.
The two companies have created a ‘sandbox’ for application developers, which offers developers creative briefs and opportunities to collaborate on building apps. The developer sandbox also includes access to The Echo Nest’s set of developer tools including dynamic playlist APIs, open source audio fingerprinting, audio analysis, and remix software.
Developers can register for an API key, and submit application concepts to EMI and The Echo Nest. Approved apps — both free (ad-supported) and paid — will be released for the web, iPhone, iPad, Android, and other app platforms by EMI, with the underlying intellectual property in the app retained by the developer.
Revenues are shared between developers and rights holders, and EMI will handle all licensing and clearance requirements, and marketing of the apps. The label takes 60 per cent of net revenue and uses that to pay rights holders, with the remaining 40 per cent split between developers and The Echo Nest (exact split unknown, but sources say the majority will go to the developer). Jim Brady, EMI Group EVP for Strategy and Insight said of the initiative:
“We’ve looked at how best we can improve the process of creating new music applications and the OpenEMI sandbox we have built together as a result is a fantastic resource for tapping the passion and innovation of the best developers in the world.”
Jim Lucchese, CEO of The Echo Nest, added that application developers are the future of the music business, but that they needed help:
“We surveyed our community of 10,000 application developers to understand their biggest challenges in building commercial music applications. Music licensing difficulties were the number one problem developers faced, with assistance in marketing applications coming in at number two. By taking on responsibilities around licensing and putting EMI’s marketing muscle behind these applications, OpenEMI is directly addressing these pain points and fostering a more collaborative environment between the established music industry and its future.”
The companies will unveil the developer sandbox and provide developers with an in-person opportunity to meet with representatives of The Echo Nest and EMI in Boston this weekend. The OpenEMI sandbox can be found here.
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