Songsmith – Intuitive Music Creation Tool or Just Plain Creativity-Zapping

Songsmith (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/songsmith/), a supposed creative tool for music novices and professional musicians alike, is the latest arrival onto the computer music scene. However, unlike samples, loops, and other instrument tools, Songsmith auto-generates a musical track to your singing. Sounds pretty cool, huh?

Now, anyone who can hold together a tune, or has a musical idea in their head, can quickly find the chords to their musical thought — all without a lick of musical theory knowledge or performance experience.

My first inclination was to gag. But maybe it’s just the videos that Microsoft put on their site to show off the product. After all, this is the holy grail of song-writing — it’s as close to writing what you hear as you can get without having to spend 10,000 hours of cultivating musical expertise. I can see a product like this leading to musical innovation in a time when creativity has seemed to stagnate.

I can also see our creativity stagnating further as a result of complete stupification… Just rely on the computer to do the creative work for you. Soon we’ll have thousands of “new” songs where the emotion and creativity has been thrown out the window and replaced with computer generated algorithms. So much for personality and originality.

So how do you feel about it? An incredible music composition tool in the beginning stages? Or the complete and utter demise of the craft and creativity involved in creating new music?

Will The State of New York Kill The Music Industry?

“Gov. David Paterson has proposed a so-called ‘iPod tax’ on downloaded music and entertainment services to help his state close a $15.4 billion budget deficit.

However, Apple Inc.’s products aren’t Paterson’s only targets. He has proposed 88 new fees and taxes that go far beyond, including on movie tickets, taxi rides, soda, beer, wine, cigars, massages, cable and satellite TV.

That’s just one aspect of Paterson’s proposed $121.1 billion budget released yesterday. The budget attempts to make state government leaner while relying on a wave of new taxes and fees that will be passed down to businesses.

The proposed budget is balanced and holds state spending just under the inflation rate. The budget also erases a combined $15.4 billion in budget gaps over the next 15 months.

Paterson revealed his budget amid the unrelenting shake-up on Wall Street that has already depleted state tax revenue and triggered tens of thousands of layoffs. Before this recession, the state’s financial services sector had produced 20 percent of state tax revenue through income taxes, year-end bonuses, real estate deals and initial public offerings on the stock markets.”

I hope all people in the internet and music industry will speak out against unfair, unrealistic, and economically damaging taxes such as this one. While we’re not located in New York, their recent taxation policies have been a source of concern for not only businesses in the music industry, but every business that has a website and sells online (see their sales tax law currently being fought by major online retailers: http://www.newrules.org/retail/efairny.html)

How Amazon and Overstock responded to New York:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/overstockcom-throws-new-york-affiliates-overboard-to-avoid-sales-tax/?ref=nyregion

Time To Build

I was reading a blog about how most people tend to panic and focus on the one thing (or multiple things) that are causing problems during difficult times. I’ll quote Seth to make it a little easier… He says, “We talk ourselves into hysteria about how, ‘none of our customers have any money,’ or, ‘in this bleak economy, we’ll never make a sale.'”

This couldn’t be any more true. Take a look at Cramer’s recent advice to everyone to take their money out of the stock market. Wall Street is going through some tough times as our economy adjusts to some irresponsibility in the financial markets… and what do most people do? SELL SELL SELL. They panic and take all their money out. I think they’re missing an opportunity. Why not ride it out, and while the market is down, BUY BUY BUY? The market is down over 40% from a year ago. Sure your portfolio might take a hit SHORT TERM, but it’s an INVESTMENT, remember? That means growth over time. Time…. Short of a Third World War and the obliteration of all man kind, I think it’s safe to say that the economy will eventually cycle back and move forward. Too many people have too much riding on it for it to fail — so why panic? (Now that I think about it, a Third World War may just be what we need to get this place on a fast track to growth).

And why not apply the same principal to your business or your life in general right now? Sure times are tough financially — but now is the time to really take a look at all of the other opportunities out there.

Instead of focusing on lower sales or income, why not take some of that cash you’ve been sitting on and upgrade your studio equipment. Have a lot of free time at the office because your custom music clients aren’t calling as often? Write new songs and build up your library. Look for ways that you can produce more efficiently. Explore different means of personal productivity. Learn new technology. Rewrite the track descriptions that you rushed through at 2am last year. Research different potential markets where your services might be needed. Catch up on that pesky accounting project that would really give you a clear picture of where you are right now. CLEAN YOUR DESK.

Personally, I’m looking at this time as a time of growth, and an opportunity to get into more markets cheaply and effectively because other businesses are panicking and offering their services for DIRT CHEAP just to make the sale. I’m starting new projects, taking on new “inventory” that will ultimately enhance our business’s bottom line, and getting in at ground floor rates.

And you should, too. The point is to stop whining and focusing on the one negative that you think is holding you back, and find the 5 positives that you can build on to ensure your success in the future. Be forward thinking, and don’t get stuck on today.