MusicDNA: New digital file that is son of MP3 unveiled

A new way of experiencing music — billed as the most significant development in digital music since the invention of the MP3 — was unveiled at the biggest ­conference in the music industry calendar today.

MusicDNA, a digital music file, could help the embattled industry by encouraging music lovers to pay for the latest hits, according to developers.

The team that first worked on the MP3, which turned the music industry on its head, have revealed what they hope will become its successor at the Midem industry conference in Cannes.

MusicDNA files will not only contain music but bring together a range of artist information, from artwork and song lyrics to tour dates and Twitter feeds.

A fan buying a MusicDNA file of Florence and the Machine’s Lungs, for example, could watch — on their computer screen or music player — videos of recent performances, pore over artwork and sleeve notes, find out about concerts and buy a tour T-shirt, while following any blogs or tweets the musician might write.

“Out of a rusted old VW Beetle we are making a Ferrari,” said Stefan Kohlmeyer, the chief executive of Bach Technology, which has developed the file.

“We are taking an existing idea, giving the end user a lot more and making that file much more valuable — like transforming a tiny house into a huge villa.”

The file is one of a range of ideas being proposed by technology companies as they clamber to meet the needs of the rapidly developing digital music market. Technology giant Apple released iTunes LP last September, a format which includes interactive album artwork and bundles multimedia elements alongside the music. A similar format, known as CMX, is being developed by the four major record labels. Meanwhile MXP4, another music tech company, has created a file that provides multimedia content as well as interactive music applications.

Which of the formats will come out on top remains to be seen, but they are a step in the right direction, according to Paul Brindley, of digital music specialists Music Ally. “It is difficult to recreate the value of a physical product digitally but we are going to see a lot more artists offering a premium product to real fans that are special and higher value,” he said.

The MusicDNA technology could prove key in the fight against piracy, said Kohlmeyer. The information given with the legally downloaded files will update automatically with tour dates or releases, but pirated files will remain static. “At the moment there is no real incentive to buy a legal file. If we concentrate on making the legal file, we can help the entire music industry,” he said.

It is not known how much the technology will cost. Bach says the price will be set by record labels and retailers, but hopes it will be in a similar range to current digital files. It will be launched this spring.

The company has joined forces with independent labels including UK-based Beggars Group — home of Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead — as well as Tommy Boy Entertainment and Delta records in the US, though no major labels are yet on board.

Tom Silverman, the founder and CEO of Tommy Boy, said MusicDNA would provide a much-needed boost to artists and fans because it would connect the two long after the initial sale.

“It is a boon for fans as it can offer multiple levels of artist stuff based on the fan’s passion level. It’s a boon for labels because this high-value consumer experience is not clonable, yet highly viral, and gives them full content and pricing flexibility. Their imagination is their only limit … If MP3s were the cassette, MusicDNA will be the CD.” –

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