The Future of the Music Industry Starts Here

February 24, 2011

The Echo Nest announced a partnership with Island Def Jam today that will finally bridge the gap between cutting-edge app developers and the most popular music in the world. First, a little background on how we got here…

A few months back at Boston Music Hack Day, I overheard some excellent developers — all of whom have built music apps you’ve heard of — passionately and intensely discussing the finer points of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), mechanical royalties, and Fair Use. As a recovering music lawyer, I usually dig those conversations. But I couldn’t help but leave that one feeling that somewhere along the line, we as an industry had gone astray.

Why were these guys, who aren’t lawyers and have no interest in becoming lawyers, spending the few hours they have together in Boston navigating the legal complexities of building music apps? Our industry should be better at figuring this out so that developers can focus on what they do best, while the music and technology industries provide a support network around them to handle licensing and monetization.

Virtually every other creative industry has solved this riddle. Why not music apps?

For years, we at The Echo Nest have looked toward a future where any developer can build a great commercial music app that includes the most popular music in the world and compensates artists fairly without being sidetracked by the hassles and transaction costs that have come to nearly define digital music. Most of the people reading this are well aware of the frustrating gap between innovative app developers and popular music. That gap hurts content owners, app developers and, ultimately, music fans, who never get to enjoy all the fantastic ideas that never see the light of day, due to licensing headaches.

Today, we take a big step towards closing that gap.

We’re pleased to announce the world’s first direct partnership between a major label and the app developer community. As part of this agreement, Island Def Jam, the leading division of the biggest record label in the world, Universal Music Group, will make its music and videos available through The Echo Nest’s APIs so that at long last, thousands of app developers on every platform will be able to build commercial music applications around Island Def Jam’s incredibly popular catalog of music.

Together, Island Def Jam and The Echo Nest send a clear message to the developer community: Focus on creating a great user experience, and we’ll handle the rest. The Echo Nest is supplying all of our deep music data and developer tools, while Island Def Jam provides top-flight music and videos, and manages the rights issues associated with distributing them within the apps you create. Our shared goal is to power new, highly-attractive experiences for music fans, to promote Island Def Jam artists and distribute their music in clever ways, and to create new revenue streams for the dual creative forces at the root of tomorrow’s music industry: app developers and recording artists.

I have to give major props to Island Def Jam and Universal Music Group for their vision and conviction in taking this major step. Expect a lot more to come…

- Jim