Last week I spoke with Alison Conard COO, and Greg Wilder CSO from a dynamic new machine based recommendation start-up called Orpheus Media Research. They will be in attendance at SXSW this week in Austin Texas demoing their music search and discovery platform to all who are interested. We’ve also been promised an inside look at their engine which will result in a service review just prior to Clio’s official launch onto the market. Without further ado…
Please introduce yourselves and your recommendation engine?
Greg: Orpheus Media Research was founded by me in 2004. I am an academic/composer and pianist. I grew frustrated with how computers deal with music. So I quit teaching and struck out on my own and protected the IP of the MYNA platform. The company was founded by musicians – we approached the problem of music recommendation, search, and discovery differently than computer scientists. We took Myna to market and now we’ll be launching Clio in the next few weeks.
Alison: I started a year ago and was studying for a PHD in music theory and composition at McGill University in Canada. I decided I would rather be working and applying the principals that I was learning.
What is the key Myna USP?
Greg: The software looks at the music the way a musician does and listens to. For example; how the bass line interacts with the vocal line and how the drum groove feels and changes over time. It looks at all the musical elements including the accompaniment (the background). Myna adapts to whatever the piece of music requires. What I mean by that is: if you have a very static and trance like techno piece of music it is very smart. Myna, just like we do as listeners, becomes sensitive to very small changes that occur.
But if Myna is listening to a Beethoven symphony, with 80 instruments in the orchestra and all kinds of emotional states Myna also addresses that. It is an adaptive technology that is specific to music. This means Myna can understand ABBA as well as Indonesian music. It is not limited to western pop music.
Alison: On a grand scale, this is what we see: Clio needs to be everywhere where music is. We think that Clio is useful in ways that we have not even started to think about yet. Essentially what you have is a disruptive technology that will make finding music easier everywhere. Imagine you work at a Casino and your walking the floor and you can see and feel that there is not enough energy in the room and you really wan to bring that energy up. Well with Clio, you can say in this hour I want the energy level in this room to rise by about this much, and Clio will automatically generate that. It will keep the music consistent and so it will be seamless and feel natural.
We can, not only automate the music genome project (al la Pandora), we can do it better and we have more control. The data that Clio collects is a very different sort of data.
Greg: There are two major advantages Clio has over the Music Genome Project. The first is that instead of basing the analysis on a human’s opinion, Clio is processing an objective and quantifiable understanding of music. That means Clio is not biased about genre or other socially influenced opinions. That means we are making music-to-music matches. Now that means Clio can offer a much broader range of interesting and relevant results. For example if you were a fan of 70’s folk and you put in John Denver, you will generally get back 3 – 5 artists who charted. But what about the really interesting fringe music? With Clio users can customise the experience so if they only want to be recommended music that is similar to a certain track from a particular era (time period) they can accurately carry out that recommendation request.
What are the key benefits for end users of the Clio platform?
Greg: Clio can bring back much broader and really interesting novel matches. That also means that when we partner with internet radio we can provide a more customised service. Say you’re a user who only listens to the music from the 2000’s.Clio can be customised so you are only provided with results form the era you noted you were interested in. The second important advantage is that Clio can analyze tens of millions of tracks in an automated fashion. This means that, for all the indie bands and indie labels that don’t have the huge budgets and all the marketing to get into the Pandora system, suddenly their music is standing on its own. It democratises the playing field.
Who are Myna’s current better testing partners and clients?
Alison: Obviously for commercial reasons we have to keep most of those quiet for the time being. We can give you the name of our first client, the Vanacore 24/7 library, which does lots of reality TV. They’re using the Myna service in their online site now.
What about investment have you had any seed funding? As obviously moving forward for your launch to get these things moving, off the ground and running there are significant costs before you see the payback?
Greg: I quite teaching seven years ago and I had a career as a musician, a beautiful grand piano, a recording studio. I sold all of those things, piece by piece, and did a lot of gigging and composition work. We boot strapped like that for years, but in 2010 our first seed investment came on board. At the start of 2011 we closed a seven figure Series A round of funding. However we cannot disclose who that was funded by at this point.
When is the official launch scheduled for?
Alison: April first 2011. What that means is that on that date Clio will have an open API. We already have a functioning API, but we wanted to incorporate a lot of client feedback we received from our beta testing. We will be announcing lots of cool new features that let you control the software if you want to.
So what is the one-year goal from launch?
Alison: We would like to be powering at least two streaming services, to be part of their discovery and recommendation systems and for our service to really have taken hold in the production music industry.
Greg: Where-ever there is music, we want Clio to be making personalised custom choices. Ultimately the goal is to index the world’s music and really change the manner in which we find, use and discover music.
You can check out www.mynamusic.com. Keep your ears to the ground for our service report in early April about Clio.