New Wave Music Making - Competition Week


photo by Coolcaesar

For those who believe the future of entertainment belongs to gaming, the next pioneer is quickly makes his way to the stage. Though the past decade has seen the rise (and sometimes fall) of video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the limitations between game and reality were always starkly drawn. Let’s face it – you were never Robert Plant, you just pretended to be. Nevertheless, these older models are quickly giving way to the new and fresh, and, where its predecessors merely allowed players to simulate music experiences, Zya, a new cloud-based music-making program, enables users to create them. Developed by Music Mastermind, an innovative, four-year old company founded by Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter, Matt Serletic, and his partner Bo Bazylevsky, Zya’s release was announced a couple weeks ago at the Billboard FutureSound Conference. The program, as projected, stands to change the way we conceptualize, share and perhaps even monetize music. Plus, now you really can be Robert Plant (well, maybe).

Currently in beta mode, Zya will officially launch in 2012 as a free program for users to create their own records. The extent of personal novelty bends in many directions. A player can record her own voice, or she can pull the vocals from one of her favorite artists. Similarly, she can make beats or raps from the tools offered, or conversely, extract hooks, guitar riffs and drum pieces from the songs of other musicians. For example, you could record an original chorus, set it to a drum part by Dave Grohl, and follow it with the guitar solo from “Stairway to Heaven.” Of course, some mixes will pan out better than others, but, if all the pieces are available, you could try it. The best part is the song you make is all yours. Copyrights, sample clearances and all the intricacies have been sorted out, so, once you make a song, you own it.

Oh, and surprisingly, the artists are into it too.

“We built the company around a deep love and understanding of how music is made, and the desire to give people who don’t necessarily have the ability a chance to experience that enjoyment,” explains Serletic, who’s produced on a slew of rock albums in the past, including Santana, Aerosmith, and Matchbox Twenty, and also served as head of Virgin Records. “You create music for free, and at the same time, the artist gets fairly compensated and stays involved.”

The way it works is that once you create a song using Grohl’s drumbeat, he maintains derivative ownership rights in your music, and receives royalty payments accordingly. It’s as if you sampled Nirvana, and Music Mastermind has taken care of getting permission for you. The professional tie to eminent work alone makes the project fascinating, yet subsequently, if you’re good at your integration technique, Serletic believes you can produce legitimately solid music.

“Zya reflects true music creation,” the producer remarks, who paired with developers himself to finesse the process and make it authentic. “What we’ve seen when we introduce this to artists is their reaction is ‘I want to use it.’”

Both a labor of love and creative foray into the unknown and promising, the foundation for Zya was first laid with substantial investment by Serletic and his close team of partners. It has since expanded from the support of “likeminded angel investors,” and later by financial contributions from Intel and Liberty Media. The platform already has a significant cast of artists on board, most of which will be announced next year with the launch. Serletic notes that while signing on is an elective process, the majority of musicians approached have been overwhelming enthusiastic. As a result, options available to players span the gamut of genres, and the drawing board is limitless. Every experience can be as unique as desired, and foresee-ably, it’s good for the industry as it fosters the growth and expansion of musical conception, and also reciprocally benefits artists and players.

Furthermore, while it may seem like an easy way out for rock n’ roll wannabes who don’t want to invest their energy in learning an instrument, Serletic feels otherwise.

“I have a Masters in music performance and I believe very much in working hard and having a music skill,” he comments. “It takes a lot of time and dedication, and I feel that if you find a love in Zya, you will find encouragement to keeping playing the piano or other instrument…I also realize not everyone has that time and dedication, so Zya alternately gives those people a voice.”

As the project unfolds, Music Mastermind has many more developments in store for the future. It’s all hush hush at the moment, but the central idea is to continue evolving the process of music creation. Serletic adds, “We have a sense that over time we will build a community of people making music together.”