Laurent Tran Van Lieu, CEO of Antescofo, passionate although «mediocre» musician, at least in his own words, explains in this interview how their app Metronaut is going to change the way people play music when they are alone.
«My perception is that technology is changing dramatically pretty much everything that has to do with music. The magnitude of the change is so dramatic that it’s going to be both good and bad.
Metronaut is going to be a mobile app. The first version will be targeted at musicians who can read sheet music. We’ll have any instrument, any level and any kind of music. Beyond that we’re targeting anybody who likes to sing, it’s pretty much the entire karaoke market. It’s actually like karaoke, only it’s the exact opposite. When you do karaoke you are supposed to accompany the machine, which doesn’t even know you exist. The machine is the master, you’re the slave, we’re going to do the exact opposite».
What kind of instruments will users be able to interact with?
«Any form of accompaniment or vocals, so basically each time a musician wants to be accompanied, they’ll be able to find an accompaniment. If we’re talking classical music, in many cases the accompaniment is simply a piano, but it could be a whole orchestra, depending on what kind of music you play. If we’re talking pop music, it’s gonna be a pop band».
Technically how will this work?
«We’re going to partner with catalogues that are already offering accompaniments, later we’re going to produce our own catalogue. When it comes to pop and rock music then we’re partnering right now with a very large and successful karaoke international catalogue that will provide us with the audio accompaniment. If you want to play a song by the Beatles, if you want to sing we’re going to provide you with the instrumental accompaniment. If you’re a guitar player, we’ll provide you with everything else but the guitar and so you’ll be accompanied at your pace by instruments including the singer, but not the guitar.
Every musician involved in the piece of music can use the mobile app to do their part and still be accompanied. There will be all genres of music: we’re preparing a pop and rock catalogue, then there will be jazz».
What kind of feedback have you had?
«We had very important feedback, the kind you’d want. With our app users can also emulate a regular cd accompaniment, so they can compare and what they tell us is that it’s convenient to work with a recorded accompaniment but it’s fun to be musically accompanied by our app. That’s about fun and pleasure, really. We also had a lot of feedback about the fact that musicians are alone, playing music alone in their bedroom or their living room; using our app they’re still alone with their device, but it feels like it’s not because the app is reactive, adaptive to your interpretation. It’s really like a musical presence.
We’re also testing it in different conservatories, at first we used it with teachers and now with students and we have great feedback. For example, it makes it fun and easy to discover new pieces, which is critical for a student practicing an instrument».
Did anyone ask to try the app?
«So far we’ve been concierge testing, giving access to the app only to users we could test the app with, in our presence. We’re only about now to open it in beta test to anonymous users. The ones we’ve been working with spread for word of mouth, we’ve been concentrating on adult, amateur – medium to advanced - or professional musicians, and now we’re testing it with students».
What was your aim when you came up with this idea?
«We discover new forms of usage and new types of users every week. A few weeks ago we met someone who has friends playing chamber music at weddings and other types of parties. They had a problem, since one of the musicians couldn’t be there, and they wished they could have used our app. There was no way we could have anticipated this semi-professional usage.
Basically, all we know is we don’t pretend to be a teacher nor a professional accompanist. We want our app to be a musical companion that can help the student and the teacher or the independent instrumental musician, and accompany or prepare you for your next rehearsal. Say you’re in a rock band and there is one rehearsal every week only for an hour because everybody works. The app will help you prepare».
What kind of help are labs, incubators etc?
«I think they provide a dynamic ecosystem where you can meet others who have something in common with you, for example there are many startup companies focusing on either music or sound, we always share ideas. Even someone not having anything to do with what we do, in common with us they have being startup companies, facing all sort of strategic or financial problems. It can help to share ideas. In terms of fundraising it provides a one stop shop for financiers».
Have you already decided if the app is going to be free?
«Our goal for 2017 is to create the new usage, we don’t want to waste time thinking about the rate, what we’re gonna charge and how, we’ll think about it once we’ve proved we created a new usage. Our intuition is that the app would be free, although it’s not our priority now, but having access to the catalogue either on a piece by piece basis or on a subscription basis would be charged. There are many different ways to do that».
Do you think that startups in the music business are more lively than in other fields?
«There are a lot of them, for example in our incubator from a strictly musical point of view we’re the only one but there are many others in Paris.
Technological progress of the last years has made it possible to process music in a way that was not possible before. Technology alone opens up a wide angle of possibilities, for example time stretching (i.e. changing speed of an audio signal without affecting its pitch) is fairly recent and it really makes new things possible».
Is Paris lively as far as incubators go?
«Paris is lively for startups in general, maybe because economy in general is difficult, especially for young people, anyway it concentrates a crazy number of startups. It is stimulating to be a startup in Paris. As far as music is concerned, as in any big European city the music scene is intense».
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