Music technology has progressed so much that anyone with talent and time can record and produce music that rivals almost anything done in a commercial studio. But once you have that final mix in your computer, how do you get people to buy it? There are several Web sites, such as CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com), that allow independent artists to sell their music online, but it isn't so easy for consumers to find your stuff among the myriad offerings.
A company called Predixis (www.predixis.com) has developed an interesting answer to those concerns and incorporated it into their new digital-music management software, MusicMagic Mixer. The program is now available for Windows, with Mac OS X and Linux versions in beta testing.
MusicMagic Mixer is based on algorithms that analyze the audio information in a digital-music file and generate values for 35 parameters that correspond to the musical content. This helps the program find other files with similar content by comparing parameter values. For example, the tempo parameter reflects the overall sense of speed, not just beats per minute. The tempo algorithm looks for peak events and repeated patterns within certain frequency spectra, while filtering out patterns that don't correspond to overall speed. Other parameters include how “noisy” the piece is (distortion vs. clear harmonics) and overall volume level. The time required to analyze a piece in this way is about 80 percent of the file's real-time duration.
Predixis maintains a server with a database of recorded music and the parameter values for each piece. As of this writing, it includes about half a million titles. The database interacts with the MusicMagic Mixer client software, which users can download from the company's Web site.
After the software is installed on your computer, you point it to your music collection, and it scans the files for metadata, such as title and artist. It also performs a quick analysis of the first 30 or 40 seconds of the file to create a “fingerprint” that serves as a backup in case the metadata is inaccurate (which is all too often the case). Currently supported file types include MP3, WMA, OGG, and FLAC. (The last two are open-source compression formats; OGG is much like MP3, and FLAC is a lossless format.)
Next, the program contacts the Predixis server and compares the metadata and fingerprints of your collection with its database. If a piece you have is already in the database, its parameter values are uploaded to your computer. If not, the software performs an analysis of the unknown selection and sends the resulting parameter values to the server, which adds them to the database.
Once it has the parameter values for your collection, MusicMagic Mixer uses them to automatically generate playlists of selections that are similar in genre, mood, and so on. Then the software sends the playlist to one of several supported software players, such as Musicmatch Jukebox, Windows Media Player, or AOL Winamp. You can also download it to a hardware MP3 player or play it through the Turtle Beach Audiotron, which sends the audio through a home network (Ethernet or phone line) to any networked audio system.
How does all this lead consumers to your music on a site like CD Baby? When users press the onscreen CD Ideas button, the software looks for music on the site with parameter values that are similar to whatever they've selected from their library; if your music has similar values, they'll find it right away. Currently, Predixis has agreements with CD Baby and Amazon.com, and they're planning to develop relationships with many music e-tailers. If this catches on, anyone who likes the sort of music you record will be able to find you easily, and nothing is more valuable than that to an independent artist.