Motivation (This should be a blog post)
The following is an explanation, for musicians, of the motivation for building the TuneLings business. To learn more about the product, please explore the rest of this site.
There are only a few ways for musicians to make a living in music; none are easy. Internet technologies have irreversibly damaged musicians’ earning potential. This will probably worsen, because compensating musicians fairly is not part of the business models of the large corporations who reap the profit from their talent and hard work.
We therefore believe it is incumbent on musicians themselves, to create businesses that will provide them with new income opportunities; we see no evidence that anyone else will.
The TuneLings eCommerce platform aims to be such a business. Any musician can make the product, as much as they like, on their own time, and as creatively as they desire. The business entity develops the technology of TuneLings, and operates a digital marketplace (the TuneLings Store), enabling commerce.
The TuneLing product itself is a novel hybrid: while it’s a learning tool, some might see it as a form of “digital merch”, yet it bears a royalty stream, much like a song. Unlike many products (e.g. vinyl records), a TuneLing is relatively easy to produce, and does no harm. Its only societal side-effect is positive: it increases the number of people who play and appreciate music.
Novel concepts can be challenging to explain, even to those who may benefit from them. Once understood, however, musicians – especially independent artists, who stand to gain the most – usually decide that the TuneLings Project is worthy of their support.
Current status: The TuneLings technology ecosystem is a combination of powerful, wholly original software, and a necessarily unique eCommerce infrastructure. As daunting as this sounds, a fully-functional “Version 1.0” of TuneLings is built, working, and usable today. Development is ongoing, but current functionality is strong. There hasn’t yet been any real marketing activity, which will change, but the initial (very small) user population has reacted very positively.
Ambitions and Goals: The TuneLings initiative is ambitious. We’ll consider it successful when all music industry stakeholders, and consumers, understand that a TuneLing is a logical companion product to recorded music, and musicians know that they can use TuneLings to increase their income, in a noble way.
In short, we’ve proven that we can make TuneLings good. Now we need to make it big, which suggests the following three goals:
- Increase the catalog of TuneLings, especially from independent artists who control their copyrights, so that we may sell their recordings as well. (We will also sell TuneLings for any other music – see the optional reading below).
- Increase our user population.
- Ideally, attract external funding in order to bring development to the next level. This may come from strategic partners (within the music industry), angel investors, venture capital, or crowd-funding – or a combination thereof. However, in all cases, the first two goals are prerequisites for the third.
Accordingly, we are asking musicians – who stand to benefit the most – for their support. Please consider joining with us by spreading awareness, and if you’re able, by participating directly.
Optional Reading: Respect For Copyright
Recap: What’s a TuneLing?
A TuneLing adds an instructional animated visual display to a listening experience. It’s not a video, because what you see in a TuneLing is generated in real time, in sync to audio playback. That lets the TuneLing user control what they see, so the experience can be highly customized for many reasons, like skill level, dexterity (right or left-handedness), chosen instrument(s), and so on.
- To use TuneLings, you need the TuneLings App, an audio file, and a TuneLing for that audio file.
- A TuneLing is always separate from the audio file it describes. This allows us to sell TuneLings with or without audio, and to respect copyright without being fatally constrained by it.
- Our approach to copyright enables crowd-sourcing – any skilled musician can make and sell TuneLings, for any music.
To understand the copyright issues, we’ll examine the best case and worst case scenarios:
Best-case: we have licenses for both the sound recording, and the composition. We include the audio file with the TuneLing, include synced lyrics, and any melody that’s appropriate – content is not constrained. Our Store currently emphasizes music from independent artists, because they often control their copyrights, so their TuneLings are very full-featured. They also get paid two royalties: one for the recording, and one for the TuneLing.
Worst-case: with no licenses at all, we can still sell TuneLings. The user must provide the audio file (which we assist via purchase links), so we not only don’t infringe, we actually promote a sale. To avoid infringing the publishing copyright, we display lyrics from licensed web sites, instead of our own, and we omit melodic information that would infringe. There’s a lot of nuance to this topic, but we can always incorporate chords, some form of lyrics, and any other useful non-infringing information (annotations, etc.) – and this actually satisfies most users’ needs.
Because we have implemented crowd-sourcing at the core of our technology, and useful TuneLings can always be made without infringing copyright, we can honestly claim that any skilled musician can make and sell TuneLings, for almost any song that has ever been recorded.
Music copyright law is complex, and negotiating licenses with copyright owners requires resources that we don’t have. Unlike other Internet music startups however, our aim is not to avoid royalty payments to anyone, including labels and publishers. We have, by necessity, designed our technology to be potent, with or without licenses, but we will eagerly engage in good-faith discussions with copyright holders, and we welcome that.