As we move into this new era of how music is consumed, enjoyed and shared, an exciting part of our world is discovering the most extraordinary people doing incredible things. I have the honor of collaborating with one such innovator – Michela Magas, (nicknamed – The Blonde Geek), who is a wizard in conceptual design, systems architecture, iconography and new education methodologies. She has her own design consultancy, has helped establish new creative tech degrees for the University of London which are now being franchised around the world, runs tech projects at London’s Goldsmiths University and has recently created an MIR (Music Information Retrieval) project she calls mHashup – a visual interface to large music collections for discovering musical relationships among tracks, using sound not words.

Michela has just created a mHashup for AWAL, allowing thousands of users to browse the catalog of tracks as a tool to discover new music. This innovative tool creates more interactivity for the catalog, new music search for the user, and ultimately, more sales for the label and artists. Another business use for the tool is on AWAL’s new licensing & sync platform, allowing one to plug in a well known track, and having the mHashup search the catalog finding similar sounding tracks within seconds. Both Michela and I would like to do away with the word “World Music” and we both share an intense passion for music of the world, so mHashup is being used in a non-commercial example of ethnomusicological field recordings where info about artists is missing (see video below). The only way to find this type of music is by geo location and through sound. So yodeling will be matched between Mbuti Pygmies, Georgian Choirs and Alpine singing. The location-tracker version of mHashup provides a marker that moves around the world map as you listen to the tracks, and shows you the links between the distant locations.

Musical geo locations from Michela Magas on Vimeo.

Michela has also featured on BBC click in a piece about new ways of music search, together with Shazam, Midomi and Pandora. During SIGGRAPH 2008 several composers working with the film and advertising industries approached Michela in view of testing their compositions against a comprehensive catalog. Commercial composers are often at risk of breaching copyright. She was told: ” Sometimes I don’t know if this catchy tune, which I am about to propose for a jingle, was something I heard in childhood or something truly original.” Testing commercial compositions before releasing them enables composers to modify their compositions if in any way at risk of copyright infringement. Composers felt mHashup was an indispensable tool in this context. This also applies to animators, games designers and anyone working in media music.

mHashup on BBC Click from Michela Magas on Vimeo.

Challenging the Long Tail Phenomenon, Michela says “When the concept of The Long Tail was published by Chris Anderson in October 2004 in Wired Magazine, it immediately hit a nerve. It addressed a new phenomenon in the music industry overloaded with easily stored digital music files, but with no means to promote all of them. Anderson proposed that lesser-known artists, who sell fewer copies of their recordings, are still economically viable in large numbers. This creates a “Long Tail” of consumers, each a fan of a virtually unknown, and ‘hard-to-find’ or ‘non-hit’ artist. In order to benefit further from the Long Tail phenomenon, marketing relies on a crucial element of social behavior – recommendations. Witness the subsequent proliferation of social media networking, each avidly encouraging personal recommendations. Marketing directors’ work has been delegated to the general public and peer-to-peer networking.”

This comments on the direct relationship between the publishing of the Long Tail and the subsequent success of media sites like MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and others. However it will be very interesting to observe the impact of a tool like mHashup on these social networking platforms. When all music becomes accessible via sound search rather than recommendations, the notion of “customers who bought or like this item also bought or liked ..” becomes a secondary recommendation source.

Other future benefits of mHashup will be; finding duplicates in a large library, detecting copyright infringement, ‘finding the riff’ case scenario, tracking musical influencers, searching through film and video via sound, environmental sound (matching birdsong to drills), collecting statistics on usability, plug-ins for blogs, PDA’s and social network sites etc…

So when one encounters such a body of work coming from one human, its quite inspiring. Please also see Michela’s website to see more. She is currently working on the branding of Pele, the football legend, and has prviously branded companies like Truphone and FAB. I first met Michela in 2004 after she had just created an innovative online showcase for Luke Hughes & Co in 2003. In her ‘spare time’, she recently worked with Oliver Stone on Wall Street 2, has performed with Protein Dance and Laban Center for Modern Dance.

Extraordinary people doing extraordinary things…..


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