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Music app is 'magic meeting technology'

Date: 09/07/2015

University researchers are launching a new interactive app which could help deliver a solid financial future for the music industry – as well as fun for the listener!

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, academics at Anglia Ruskin University, and Justin Paterson at the London College of Music (University of West London) have developed the new album app, which allows the listener to explore and ‘remix’ the music as they listen.

The academics have been working with the music artist Daisy and The Dark to create the new format, which has a number of touch screen functions which allow the user to manipulate the playback and sonic structure of the music.

With record labels being squeezed through cheap digital downloads, online streaming services and illegal file sharing, the academics believe they have produced a format that consumers will be happy to pay for and will prove difficult to pirate.

Dr Rob Toulson, Director of the Cultures of the Digital Economy (CoDE) research institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “With so much ‘free’ music now out there, we wanted to develop a commercial format that the music fan would be happy to buy.  Therefore we needed to create something unique, something that wasn’t already available through conventional platforms.

“Secondly we wanted to design a format that allows musicians to connect more closely with their fans through recorded music.  We wanted to allow fans to ‘get inside the music’ and explore the building blocks of the songs.”

The album app includes artwork, song lyrics, production credits, artist biography and other visual media that was previously synonymous with the vinyl format, allowing the musician to showcase their creative vision within a single digital platform. 

However, the feature Toulson and Paterson believe will most appeal is the ability to manipulate the playback and structure of the music, allowing users to switch to acoustic, electric, electronic, or even karaoke versions at the swipe of a finger.

Paterson added: “Listeners can modify the playback of a song, for example to hear a stripped back acoustic version or maybe a more upbeat dance version, but the focus is always on music playback rather than a more ‘novelty’ multimedia experience.  The interface is intelligent and seamless, giving the user a unique experience that can change with their mood – it is user influenced, but machine controlled.

Listeners can mute the vocals and enjoy an instrumental version, or take away the drums and play along, or solo the piano so they can focus in and learn to play the song.  The app also sends us reports on the way people are using it. We will use the public launch to test which interfaces and app features get the best user response.”

Dr Toulson also said: “We think it will lead to people engaging with the music at a deeper level – and make listening an active as opposed to passive, background experience – meaning they will return to the app and listen more often.  The album app could prove to be an important development for the commercial music industry.”

The app uses the alternative-pop music of Daisy and The Dark, and is a key distribution platform for the release of the new Red Planet EP.  The music is produced by singer/songwriter Sarah Kayte Foster who describes the app as “magic meeting technology”. 

For the interactive features, Sarah produced 12 alternate versions of the four EP tracks.  She said: “We wanted to create an experience where the digital listener feels like they have a visual and physical relationship with music again.”

Other collaborators on the album app project include Script Ltd and Grammy award-winning mastering engineer Mandy Parnell (Bjork, Aphex Twin, The XX) of Black Saloon Studios.

The Daisy and The Dark Red Planet app can be downloaded for free from www.tinyurl.com/RedPlanetApp. The developers are encouraging music fans and academics to download and trial the app, so they can gain feedback on the potential benefits of this future music format.

Click here for further details and an app user guide. More information about Anglia Ruskin’s CoDE Research Institute is available, and information about London College of Music research activities is here.

For further information contact Jon Green on t: 0845 196 4717, e: jon.green@anglia.ac.uk Jamie Forsyth on t: 0845 196 4716, e: jamie.forsyth@anglia.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

  • Anglia Ruskin is a modern, global university with 35,000 students from 177 countries studying with us across four continents. 12 of our research areas across our five faculties were classed as world-leading by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. Our graduate prospects are among the best in the UK, with 9 out of 10 starting their career or in further study within six months. We have three main campuses, in Cambridge, Chelmsford and Peterborough. Anglia Ruskin University is the Times Higher Education’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year.
  • The University of West London (UWL) is The Career University; 96% of our graduates are in employment within six months of graduating. * A leading modern university in London, UWL provides a high quality experience connected to the world of work, underpinned by a guaranteed work placement. For more information, please visit www.uwl.ac.uk or follow @UniWestLondon on Twitter. (These are the latest figures according to Employment Performance Indicators (EPI) released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency HESA in 2015)
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk
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