Mu­si­cal.ly is the lat­est bit of tech to take off while the older play­ers look on in won­der

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

Many dif­fer­ent ser­vices have claimed to be “the fu­ture of the mu­sic busi­ness” since On the Record be­gan.

Ev­ery so of­ten, some­thing along the lines of Spi­ral­frog, Lala and PressPlay would come along, and we duly kicked the tyres. A few months later, most of us had com­pletely for­got­ten about them and had moved on to the next fu­ture-of-the-in­dus­try pitch. The pages of Wikipedia are now lit­tered with the painstak­ing minu­tiae of these ap­pli­ca­tions, from their brave ini­tial claims to their short shelf-lives.

One of the things most of these failed ini­tia­tives have in com­mon is that they heav­ily in­volved the mu­sic busi­ness. While there’s also a tech com­po­nent to con­sider, the fact that the mu­sic busi­ness had un­der­writ­ten the process was akin to the kiss of death.

Most were dead on ar­rival be­cause the mu­sic busi­ness has never tra­di­tion­ally both­ered to lis­ten to mu­sic fans, the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally buy mu­sic and sup­port mu­si­cians in the first place. It’s al­ways been top down, al­ways “we know bet­ter than you”. Even when they’re in­volved with a win­ner – say Ap­ple’s iTunes store or Spo­tify – there’s whing­ing, moan­ing and back­bit­ing from the gallery be­cause some­one else is in­volved.

In the case of the mu­si­cal.ly app and its 90 mil­lion users, the peo­ple who are in­volved are young mu­sic fans, and they’re not overly con­cerned with the mu­sic busi­ness. Of course, now that the app is prov­ing to be a suc­cess, the in­dus­try are all over it like a rash.

There’s lit­tle re­motely ground­break­ing or sci-fi about the mu­si­cal.ly app, which be­gan life as an in­struc­tional tool called Ci­cada be­fore chang­ing course. It al­lows users to cre­ate videos where they lip-synch to tunes of their choice. The clips are short and snappy (15 sec­onds or there­abouts) and a won­der­ful mess of youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and gid­di­ness.

Over the past few months, ar­ti­cles such as this one have be­gan to ap­pear to try to suss out why the video-mak­ing app has been boss­ing around longer-es­tab­lished and bet­ter-known prop­er­ties. Ev­ery sin­gle day, around 10 mil­lion videos are up­loaded by mu­si­cal.ly’s users, 60 per cent of whom are be­tween the ages of 13 and 20. That’s a se­ri­ous met­ric no mat­ter how you look at it.

But there should really be no sur­prise why mu­si­cal.ly has proven to be such a hit. While the tra­di­tional mu­sic busi­ness gate­keep­ers be­moan the fact that things are not how they used to be (HMV shut­ting up shop; peo­ple pi­rat­ing the new Frank Ocean al­bums; the charts in com­plete melt­down), ev­ery­one else is get­ting on with things, with mu­sic very much at the heart of so many dif­fer­ent ex­changes.

That’s some­thing that the tech folks were quick to see: the huge pulling power of mu­sic when it came to get­ting peo­ple en­gaged and in­volved. Again and again, we’ve seen tech play­ers us­ing mu­sic as a short­cut be­cause they know peo­ple are deeply im­mersed in mu­sic as a badge of iden­tity or as a sound­track to project a cer­tain im­age to their so­cial net­works.

When mu­si­cal.ly came along, of­fer­ing a sim­ple and easy way for mu­sic fans to show off the mu­sic they like or love, it was no sur­prise that peo­ple flocked to it. The app has cre­ated a com­mu­nity of like-minded souls who want to goof around with videos and cre­ate their own snap­shots of their favourite mu­sic.

It’s the lat­est it­er­a­tion of some­thing that has been hap­pen­ing for decades. This time, though, it’s mu­sic fans rather than the mu­sic busi­ness who are do­ing all the heavy lift­ing. It won’t be the last time we see that ei­ther.

There’s lit­tle re­motely ground­break­ing or sci-fi about the mu­si­cal.ly app. Yet eEvery sin­gle day, around 10 mil­lion videos are up­loaded

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