While I was in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, I was able to talk with Greg Wilder and Alison Conard of Orpheus Media Research. They are touting a service with an April launch called Clio that they feel will revolutionize music listening (its predecessor, Myna, is live now). It’s a computer program that listens to music and categorizes it by its qualities. Doesn’t sound that cool? Wait for it.
Ever heard of the Music Genome Project?
It’s the thing that powers Pandora: dozens and dozens of people sitting around, listening to music, and categorizing it by approximately 400 unique qualities. Each song in MGP can take up to 20 minutes to be organized
. Because of this laborious process, Pandora has only about 800,000 tunes
in its catalog.
Clio automates the process.
“The analysis time that the computer takes to actually listen to a piece of music is around one to two seconds,” said Wilder, founder and chief science officer.
A three-to-five minute pop track takes literally the length of a snap to process. This means it categorizes tens of millions of tracks at a time.
Repeat: tens of millions of tracks at a time.
What does this mean? Well, they want to partner with existing services and use Clio to power everything. And by everything, I mean any way that people find music: iTunes Genius, Rhapsody, Amazon, MOG, Pandora and Last.fm are all entities who could benefit from this.
The company is already working in television and movie music, as the screen often demands a song with a very specific mood. If the music director of a production company has a track with the right mood in mind, he or she can plug it into Clio, which will match it to other songs that sound like it in the Vanacore
music library, a current partner of Clio. The program then produces a playlist of tracks that sound similar and are available for use.
But Clio’s library isn’t going to only hold production music, or even major-label music. Clio was started by two indie musicians, and they want to help out independent artists. They have plans to partner with companies like ReverbNation and Bandcamp to make large quantities of indie music accessible to Clio, too. That means when the music director puts in one tune he likes — say, a number from post-rock instrumental act Maserati — it will spit out an entire suggested soundtrack — perhaps something by Explosions in the Sky, something by The Non (pictured).
“That will help independent artists stand right next to established artists based on the quality of their music,” Wilder said.
People who haven’t played a single show could be queued up over U2, as long as their contribution sounds more like the chosen starting song than “Where the Streets Have No Name.” When Clio powers your listening portal of choice, you’ll easily be able to find new things you actually want to hear.
With the processing power that Clio has (remember: tens of millions of songs at a time), it is not an overstatement when the founders compare their endeavor to a musical Google. Clio has the ability to categorize almost every piece of music ever written and make it streamable to you.
Streaming music may never be the same.
While you’re here, grab these MP3s:
“Lower Away (Unplugged)” — Sunshine Factory. Surprisingly mellow and graceful piano piece.
“Big Sick” — Big Pauper. I guess you don’t need guitars for druggy psych anymore.
“How Does It Feel to Be in Love?” — The Bynars. Probably something like this power-pop gleefest.