Please Join Us!

Support a new business, designed to pay musicians!

 

Step one: Subscribe to our email list using the form below, to build a community of people who care about music. We’ll never sell or give away your email address, and unsubscribing will always be easy.

Step two: If possible, please try to recruit two or more other music-lovers, to do the same. Please communicate with them directly, not via social media (yet).

Learn more about TuneLings:

Please peruse the other pages of this site to learn more, but we’re planning to improve and streamline our messaging soon, so stay tuned!

The Nanofesto and Backstory pieces (below) are works-in-progress too.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick and easy way to understand the basics of TuneLings – watch our cute little explanatory cartoon:

Additional Information

The TuneLings Nanofesto

(Like a manifesto, but much shorter)


“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” — John Cage


1 – Preamble

The Internet permanently changed the music business. The winners have been listeners, who now enjoy almost instantaneous access to most of the world’s recorded music, and technology companies, who provide that access to those consumers at artificially low prices. The losers have been recording artists and musicians (and recording engineers, producers, songwriters, and others), whose livelihoods have consequently been decimated. Unless mitigated, this economic hardship will only get worse.

For the vast majority of artists, the income lost from these changes will not return. In response, the wisest recourse for musicians may be to embrace, and even to create and control entirely new businesses, which compensate them fairly.

The TuneLings eCommerce platform is such a new business. It gives the world a compelling and powerful new product, which can only be made by musicians (any skilled musician can participate), and an eCommerce architecture designed to pay them when they make and sell that product.

(To learn more, please visit the other pages on this site, watch our videos, ask questions, and if you can, use TuneLings.)

2 – The Participation Market

Despite the challenges brought by the Internet, there will always be a substantial population, across all demographic boundaries, who value music highly and pay for its goods and services. A large portion of this population is made up of amateur musicians, who aspire to make music themselves, whether as songwriters, instrumentalists, singers, or even as recording engineers or producers. This is the participation market.

It is now clearly logical for professional musicians to increase connection and commercial offerings to the participation market, and to encourage its growth. TuneLings is certainly not the only path forward, nor does it solve every problem, but it’s viable, and its target market is large. It’s the first new business of its kind, and while still a work-in-progress, it can be used today. We aim to see it not only succeed on its considerable merits, but also to serve as a catalyst for more new businesses, similarly dedicated to the support of musicians.

Success for this initiative will require support from artists and other musicians, and music lovers in general – even if they don’t immediately use TuneLings or any other similar new business themselves.

We need to capture “hearts and minds”, and help them think about the value of music and musicians, in a new way.

3 – The First Step: Joining our community

You don’t have to be (or want to be) a musician yourself; you just have to care about music. If you agree that supporting new businesses that support musicians makes sense, here’s what we’re asking you to do:

Please subscribe to our mailing list. We’ll never share your address with anyone, and it’ll be very easy to unsubscribe. We’ll also make it easy for you to comment, and we want to hear from you.

Lather, rinse, repeat! Please try to get two (or more) other people to read this nanofesto, to do the same as you’ve done: subscribe to the list, and try to recruit two more.

Please try to make it personal!  Rather than just posting to your social media feed, please choose your first two (or more) recruits: friends or family members who share your love of music and appreciation of musicians. Explain why this matters in any direct way you like: email, a text message, a phone call, an in-person conversation – any tactic that lets you express your support for musicians on a person-to-person basis – and ask each of them to do the same.

Announcing your support on social media is not bad, and we won’t discourage it. But social media platforms are a mixed bag of good and evil, and they can seriously injure the human attention span. Music deserves better, and we think that personal connections will be more enduring, so please try to start by talking to people who will listen to you.

4 – If you can, please try TuneLings

If you have a MacOS computer, and a guitar, ukulele, bass or mandolin, you can use TuneLings today. (We do plan to add support for other instruments and other platforms, like iOS, Android, and Windows.) You can download the TuneLings MacOS app from this site, and use it to acquire both music and TuneLings from the TuneLings Store, within the app. We have the support of some extraordinary independent artists, so we have excellent music available right now, with more on the way! Please try it, and let us know what you think.

Backstory and Design Philosophy

This is stuff that some folks want to know, and others don’t. It’s the how and why of how TuneLings came to be, and a bit of the architectural philosophy (software architecture, that is) that guided it.

This is long, and it’s important, kinda nerdy stuff, but you don’t have to read it unless this interests you.

I (HS, creator of TuneLings) have a very long history as a technologist (hybrid musician/computer scientist) in the music industry, including 12+ years spent as an “executive” at Universal Music Group, starting in 1999, when the Internet became a thing. (I never executed anyone, by the way.)

During that time, it became obvious that the economic future of most musicians – never a sure thing – was becoming increasingly bleak. If your livelihood was based on the value of recorded music, then there wouldn’t be much livelihood around, if the commercial value of recordings continued to be reduced to where it is now – close to zero.

Devaluing recorded music was also a pretty bad idea for any record company’s bottom line, so I wasn’t just thinking altruistically – it was also my job to look out for my employer’s business interests.

So in all my years at UMG, I looked for ways to increase the value of recorded music, rather than decrease it. This didn’t fall on deaf ears – some of what I did was supported by top brass. But clearly, you haven’t seen any impact from that. My little voice was heard, but that wasn’t enough.

I left UMG executive-hood in 2011, and over the next couple of years, I returned to both my musician and geek (software developer) roots. I came up with a way for musicians to add value to recordings, and generate income for themselves, by creating a digital product called a “TuneLing”.

The name TuneLing, by the way, comes from the idea that ducks have ducklings, geese have goslings, and songs have songlings. But the domain songling.com was taken by a Chinese manufacturer of industrial drying equipment, so I chose the next best thing. (I make no pretense to know anything about “branding”.) 

As I started developing what eventually became the TuneLings MacOS app, I decided to incorporate some pretty ambitious features that would make it very powerful – much more than a “music education” app – though it certainly does that very well.

  • Most importantly, it’s an authoring tool – anybody can use the app to make TuneLings. This is critical, because it enables the entire crowd-sourcing business model. If you can make TuneLings, you can sell them – so the only barrier to entry is musical skill. Making TuneLings can and should become a cottage industry.
  • TuneLings can be made for any recording – literally anything that has ever been recorded, or will be, without infringing copyright. They’re better when the rights-holders participate, but they can almost always be made, with or without explicit rights, and even a minimal TuneLing is very useful.
  • The visual display is completely configurable by both authors and end-users. Anyone can adjust it to suit their needs, and have as many of these “Views” as they like. Practicing guitar at home by yourself? Easy. Playing in a band (or classroom) with standard-tuned guitar, uke, left-handed mandolin, 5-string bass, and open-tuned guitar? No problem. Views supporting both beginners and experts, at the same time? Easy.
  • Multiple ways to annotate songs, explain song structure and illustrate how songwriters think.
  • Infinite editing precision: every single chord, note and word in a TuneLing can be edited to show precisely what the author wants to show, and its timing can be edited to the individual millisecond.
  • Tools for teachers: ability to derive scales and arpeggios from chords, show multiple chord voicings at once, structured lessons, and much more.
  • Easy commerce: the Tunelings Store is built-in and works like an App Store. Buying and installing Tunelings and matching recordings is fast, cheap, and simple.
  • Most important: an equitable business model. A profitable and sustainable business can be built that shares its revenues with the creators who enable it. The goal is to help musicians and artists, not to rip them off.

…and there’s more, but you get the point. This is why TuneLings is not a “music education app”. It’s a “specialized  eCommerce platform for musicians”.

The app:

The TuneLings app (currently for MacOS) is a large and internally complex work, with an ever-growing feature set. It does things that marketing people would probably say it doesn’t need to do. (Musicians would disagree.) But it’s actually very easy for anyone to get, install and use. Authoring is by nature more complex than learning (end-use), and there are plenty of improvements planned, but I haven’t found a song yet that I couldn’t make a TuneLing for.

It’s obvious that a TuneLing will make an end-user a better musician. But what I happily discovered, is that authoring TuneLings will make you a better musician too. And in fact, making TuneLings is surprisingly fun and satisfying. It’ll get easier as we improve the software, but it’ll always require a musician to do it. That’s what makes TuneLings better than the competition, and that’s why the musicians get paid. It’s symbiotic.

So here we are:

The TuneLings app is a work in progress, and probably always will be (I certainly hope so). But it’s more than good enough and complete enough to be used right now.

The eCommerce components of the ecosystem are not fancy, but they work too, and are safe and easy to use.

The next major chunks of work to be done are (not necessarily in any order):

  • Continuing the port to iOS devices (TuneLings on iPads, and probably iPhones too). This has begun, but there’s a lot more to do before it’s real.
  • Improvements to the authoring user-interface.
  • Better documentation and training materials.
  • Starting ports to other environments (Windows, Android, maybe smart TVs, etc…)
  • Adding support for other instrument families (keyboards are next). We currently support anything/everything with strings and frets, more or less.
  • Improvements to the website (minor) and the eCommerce back-end services.

Funding:

The elephant in the room is that all these improvements, and just running a real business in general, require people, and people need to be paid. So we need funding. This can come several ways:

  • We start selling enough TuneLings on the existing platform that we can become self-funded via our own profits. This is best, but not likely in the near future.
  • Investment by strategic partners (other music-industry companies). This is very possible, if we can establish even a modest user base to convince them that the business can work. We already have a lot of these relationships in place. They like TuneLings, but we need to show them “traction”.
  • Crowd-funding – also very possible, but this needs an active user base too, before a campaign can begin.
  • Investment from angel investors (private individuals) with a vested interest: e.g. wealthy artists, managers, et cetera. Feel free to bring them (or more likely, their “people”), if you know any of those folks.

Despite being an “Internet startup”, with serious growth potential, investment from traditional venture capital firms is pretty unlikely – we simply don’t need enough money to make us worth their time.

About streaming services:

There is no reason why TuneLings can’t work with streaming music, if the streaming providers want it to. The technical issues are minor, but the business issues are not. For starters, the streamers generally don’t have the rights from copyright owners to support interactive applications. They can play songs from beginning to end, but they can’t change speed or pitch, or otherwise support sophisticated audio playback needs. They typically need to go back to the licensors to get those rights.

But there’s a more important issue: streaming music is a terrible, terrible business! Apple, Google, and Amazon can afford to offer cheap streaming to the world because they don’t care if they lose money on it – it’s a loss-leader to drive sales of their other products and services. Spotify and Tidal (and others) are black holes for money – they lose it every day.

If a streaming service wanted to incorporate TuneLings into their offering, I’d be thrilled – but it would have to be in such a way that the benefits to musicians were preserved (including the income opportunity). This is certainly possible, but too long a topic for this already too-long screed.

On the other hand, the music download business is good for musicians – it pays well. Of course it’s shrunken greatly, thanks to streaming, but it does still exist, especially in the indie market. There are definitely people who want to continue to buy downloads, for all kinds of reasons – including their desire to support artists.

So if TuneLings actually helps to sustain the download business, is that really a bad thing? The income earned by an artist from the sale of a download and a matching TuneLing can be hundreds of times greater than that of a stream. So maybe holding onto the download paradigm is not such a bad idea. Time will tell.

And in conclusion…

There’s never a conclusion. This is an ongoing initiative, and whether it succeeds or fails is completely dependent on whether or not we can attract users to the platform. As good as it is – and it’s pretty darn good – getting people to pay attention is never easy.

So if you care, please help by using TuneLings, talking about how much you like them, and convincing others to do the same.

Thanks!

-HS