For most music producers, managing media involves scattered files on hard drives and the occasional file transfer service. There are now three fresh big players vying to convince you to start uploading, managing, and collaborating on music production online.
Unlike most music technology products, traditional bootstrapped affairs involving selling software or hardware, these companies have the Internet – and startup culture and funding – in their DNA. And they’re fundamentally services. blend.io is a Dropbox-powered tool that focuses primarily on collaboration, and began its life in Manhattan incubator betaworks. On the two coasts, two other companies have millions of dollars in venture money behind each of them. New York’s Splice emphasizes the collaborative process and deep integration with DAWs. LA-based Gobbler pitches collaboration, too, but also easier file management and backup.
Brainless backup or easier collaboration outside the studio are already good reasons to consider these services. (I’m working on some hands-on reviews now, as I do, believe it or not, sometimes create digital music myself.) But Blend last week suggested another reason: you could earn money on remixes or samples once they’re uploaded. The offering is something called the Blend market:
In an announcement published to Medium, Blend makes a two-pronged case for why you ought to do this.
One, they say that there isn’t yet a way to easily sell music in an interactive format. That’s essentially true: most online shops right now are set up to sell tracks, not stems, let alone more aid in selling and managing sophisticated project files. The somewhat tepid response to the remix contests everyone seems to be staging constantly might indicate that something is missing here.
Two, they argue there’s no good way to track who’s working with those materials and where the music is going. Here, the assumption is that people will both buy your music on Blend and then upload the resulting remix to the same platform.
Payments are handled by Stripe, though that’s not an entirely global solution yet – right now it’s limited to the US, Canada, Australia, and most of Western Europe.
There are a few unique details here. You can very quickly get music online on the marketplace. Payments are by direct deposit – so no waiting. And you can see interaction, though I wonder if artists looking to create a lot of interaction will still want to choose free offerings.
Blend Market is unlikely to be the last word on this idea. It’s a bit peculiar that another long-running startup, SoundCloud, hasn’t worked out how to get in this game, for instance – and Blend’s rivals seem likely to be readying their own ideas.
And for now, what’s missing is content. The Market at launch appears to be exclusively sample packs. It also seems so far like general-purpose sample packs are what are gaining popularity. Look, for instance, to the success of Beatport’s Beatport Sounds section. An interesting trend to watch will be whether people really want to remix your track, or would rather you give them a nice collection of drum samples.
But there is reason to believe Blend could make a substantial offering here. Blend, like its rivals, demonstrates that having your assets in the cloud can solve several problems at once. Hard drive died? Restore from a backup. Find collaborators? Do it online, and track changes on the site. Music is done and you want it on iTunes, fast? The Blend Label offers distribution via various services (once you have 100 likes).
Just having a good product won’t be enough, though. Part of the staying power of SoundCloud, despite a lack of this sort of functionality and various user gripes, is that it simply has loads of users. If you just want lots of listeners – the biggest currency for musicians – it’s going to be the top choice. With collaboration, showcases, and now even selling tracks intended as the draw, you’ll still need lots of users.
Blend makes a good argument for why it’ll be useful; the next step is to demonstrate some material use. Now we get to watch this shake out.