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Will Online Music Production Ever Take Off?

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I spend more of my time working online every year. I communicate through Gmail, Twitter and Facebook online. I write documents and balance spreadsheets online. I take notes and highlight important information online. I keep my appointments, tasks and contacts lists online. And I can access them from any computer I happen to be using - as long as it’s online. Will I ever be able to do that when producing music?

I’m not alone. Recently Mashable summarized a Nielson Company report that found that “in September 2009, the average U.S. Internet user spent an estimated 68 hours online.” During that 68 hours, users visit almost 2700 sites, averaging less than a minute on each site.

Sites are becoming services rather than static information, with Google, Zoho, Adobe and Microsoft releasing online application suites, and many other sites providing specific services from organizing your finances to project management. And Envato have recently launched a new site called WebAppStorm to keep track of it all.

Will music production go the same way? Can you imagine recording and producing audio using web applications? Koblo is a company who have been working hard to make it a reality for a while, and recently Aviary launched an online audio editor called Myna. How compelling are they?


Koblo online audio collaboration

Koblo excited me when I first heard of it around a year ago. They had open-sourced their software, and were creating an online service for music collaboration. Here is their description of the service: “Koblo Studio has some unique online collaboration features, because it’s connected to the Koblo cloud. You’ll be able to work together with other musicians or band members across the planet, reviews changes, and grow your music in creative ways. It’s the power of open source, now for musicians.”

Bandwidth is one of the challenges of producing audio online. Their solution was to store high-quality versions of each track on your computer, and compressed versions on their server to share with other musicians. That way the high-quality tracks were available for mastering in the future, and musicians could play along with the low-bandwidth versions online as they recorded the next track. That sounds like a plan.

The project received a lot of press. I heard interviews with the developers on both open-source and music podcasts. The future was looking promising.

Yet when you visit the Koblo website today, it simply contains the following message:

Goodnight and good luck.

Thank you

To the community and the fans of koblo we would like to thank you for your support.

What happened to Koblo? They closed for financial reasons. A previous message on their site read: “Due to the financial plug being pulled on Koblo, development has stopped on this site and Koblo Studio. It’s not surprising it happened in this economic climate and Koblo was bleeding money. We are firm believers on the concept of music collaboration on the net and will strive to rebuild the Koblo community and continue to develop tools for collaboration.”

I don’t think they closed because the idea of online music collaboration is unpromising. There is plenty of speculation around the forums about bad business practices and copyright infringement. I don’t know. In any case, because the project was open source, the code is still out there. Who knows what will happen in the future.


Aviary's Myna audio editor

Aviary’s online graphics editing software is widely regarded as the best there is. The fact they have now turned their attention to online audio editing is very exciting.

The product description on their website reads: “Use Myna to remix music tracks and audio clips. Apply sound effects and record your own voice or instruments!”

They have also released a video introduction to the product:

Unlike Kobla, Myna’s emphasis is not just online collaboration, but real audio editing online. Here are some of the features of the software listed on the website:

  • Powerful Clip Editing
    Trim, Loop, Stretch and Reverse your audio clips, width editable loop points, and interactive time stretch capabilities.
  • Automation
    Easily add fade-ins, fade-outs, pan from left to right, and modify gain over time, with editable control points.
  • Effects
    Add non-destructive effects to your audio clips including Pitch Change, Reverb, Delay, Parametric EQ, and more.
  • Import / Export
    Import your own audio files, or search one of our provided libraries. Mix it down and export directly to your desktop or publish back to your account.
  • Share and learn
    Collaborate with other users. Follow step-by-step tutorials to learn new skills.

Rafe Needleman from Cnet News sums up his review of Myna: “Myna is a hobbyist’s tool now … but there are pro-level features coming in future releases. I found GarageBand more capable, but Myna is more approachable… Myna is a free app. It’s impressive and it’s a ton of fun. It might even be useful.”

How promising do you find the idea of online audio production? Where would it fit in your workflow? If you get a chance, take Myna for a test drive, and let us know how you find it in the comments.

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