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Tucked away inside a converted loft somewhere in Gastown, a young startup has made it dead simple and really fun to mix your own beats just like a professional DJ.
But first let’s do a little modern music history. Breaking apart a song into its separate components, such as keyboards, drums, vocals, bass and so on, and then remixing them to create a new beat isn’t new. DJs were starting to do that inside night clubs back when Olivia Newton John and dancing while wearing roller skates were all the rage.
In the 90s, electronic dance music and techno helped usher in the age of digital to the dance floor. By the new millennium, DJs were not just mixing it up using old school vinyl records, they were fusing together the components of a song, called stems, to produce their own sonic mashups. Mixing software dropped in price and increased in quality, while the star factor of DJs and the popularity of song mashups rose in the mainstream.
It was a perfect time to build something disruptive and awesome. The perfect time to make Indiloop.
The Idea Takes Shape
Back when “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” were becoming hugely successful for gaming consoles, Erik Ashdown had an idea: why not take the experience of building your own beats and make it as fun to do as playing one of these games? Why not give people that love music the ability to create their own unique works using the components of the songs they like, and make it as easy to do as dragging and dropping icons on your iPhone?
“People were more willing to pay for ‘Guitar Hero’ than they were for the actual music,” explains Ashdown at a coffee shop a few blocks from Indiloop’s modest offices. “Like, people were willing to pay $3 dollars for a song that lives on your Xbox, but you can’t put it on your iPod or Soundcloud or anywhere else. The disconnect for me was not being able to be creative and have the interactivity part with your music.”
So Erik did some field research. Drawing on his background as a musician in a band, he asked around his circle of acquaintances: would you be willing to pay a buck or two to download a song, like on the iTunes store, if you could then play around and mix it into something else that you liked? The response gave Erik the confidence to begin thinking on how to make this idea be a reality, but only “if the software was easy enough and the music was altogether in one place.”
Here Comes Indiloop
But before Indiloop could start being coded, Ashdown had to make himself familiar with the intricacies of copyright and licensing music online. How could he secure permission from both the performers and the authors of the songs (often different people) to post their stems online and pay them a royalty? That itself took a year of preparation and education until he and his co-founder could assemble the 5-person Indiloop team to start developing the software and site.
While the team built the first iteration of Indiloop, chasing down permission from record companies and the rights owners became a full-time task for Erik. Even with the difficulties that came with explaining the concept to legal departments and songwriters, Indiloop found an enthusiastic response from many artists and companies, including several big names.
Right now you can mix tracks from bands like My Chemical Romance, James Brown, Sons of Jezebel, and old school favs like The Jets (“Crush on You”) or Mr. 90s Cool himself, Vanilla Ice (“Ice Baby”). Dig video game soundtracks? Go remix the soundtracks to “Doom” or “Bioshock Infinite” with some trip-hop trance or European house tracks. Want to see how cool a fusion of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” sounds with “I Got the Funk”’s bass sounds? Do it, and then upload and share your creation with other Indiloop listeners.
Vans Warped Tour Takes Interest
Indiloop just relaunched their site, making the whole process to create your own song ridiculously easy. Sort through artists until you find one that you like, click on “Stems” and the drag-and-drop what you need onto the bottom of your screen. Press play.
Really. That’s it.
Register for your own account and you can share your tune on Indiloop’s remix list. You can also take part in unlocking achievements and enter contests to win tickets to shows and special events.
Right now Vans Warped Tour is taking note of the rise of Indiloop and its’ ability to turn anyone into a remix master in seconds. As the Warped Tour plays shows across North America this summer, Indiloop is making sure that the Vans’ musicians they have onboard have all their tracks available on the site. If someone in the crowd hears one of the performer’s tunes and digs it, they can go online and mix up the same track, or hear different remixes from other fans of the artist.
That partnership with Vans has the potential to expose Indiloop to 10 million fans this summer, but there’s still a long way to go before Erik or his team will count Indiloop as a startup success story.
Wisdom from a Startup Founder
So Indiloop is a great concept and has a fantastic execution. It’s growing and shows signs of being a trendsetter. I asked Erik how it feels to be a startup founder in Vancouver, doing something unique and that has the potential to reach fans across the world. After asking such similar questions to many people working in Vancouver’s startup and tech scene, his answer didn’t surprise me.
“I didn’t think that it would be as tough as it’s been.”
Asking these questions to startup founders is part of why I’m doing DigiVan. Living in Vancouver, it’s been drilled into our heads about what an amazing city it is that we live and work in. Certainly that’s true, but on several levels Vancouver needs to be better.
Bootstrapped startups like Indiloop need better support from Vancouver’s startup ecosystem. They need more visibility from the press. I’m not just talking about well-read blogs like Vancouver Is Awesome, but Canada and North America exposure. TV. Newspapers. Magazines. Startup events that get the word out to everyday people that can benefit from and use their innovative solutions right now.
How many garage bands could benefit from exposing their songs on a platform like Indiloop? How many musicians could make more money from selling their song’s stems, letting the masses remix and come up with a new way to listen to a popular favorite? How many radio stations could benefit from playing remix tracks that their listeners made?
“They always say go with your demographic. My demographic is musicians and music fans, and that’s it,” Erik tells me back in his office. “That’s where we focus our energy. It’s by having content that people care about, and by having bands and music that people want to hear.”
So how can Vancouver’s politicians and its’ established tech companies and superstars help the rising talents like Indiloop break through? These guys could become the next Spotify or Pandora, but with content that’s not found on the other sites. How can we support innovative companies and individuals that could bring us the next billion-dollar tech idea and hundreds of jobs to our economy?
“How much further can we take it?” It’s a question that Erik asks me aloud about the potential of his company, but it’s also a question that I’m also asking about our city’s digital industries and its leaders.
Area of Expertise: Digital song content creation & music entertainment
Company Motto: Mix. Love. Share.
DigiVan covers Vancouver’s burgeoning start-up, technology, new media and digital scene. Work at a local company that’s developing something cool? Contact Patrick Sauriol on Twitter @ Arcane_Bimmer.