Composing Music Collaboratively

Sites for posting and sharing music have democratized the music business to the point where any aspiring artist or band can get their music heard. The downside, of course, is with so much music freely available, full-time musicians are finding it more difficult to make a living. The NY Times has written a state of the industry piece, “Songs from the Heart of a Marketing Plan,” about how more musicians are creating tunes designed for licensing in commercials and movies, rather than taking chances on developing a unique identity.

There is another exciting, and growing, upside to music sharing on the web ? the ability for musicians to collaborate online, with others around the world to create new sounds, songs and even bands. I heard the creators of Indaba speak recently. Founded by a pair of modest early 20-somethings, Indaba has put together an easy to use and compelling site for posting tracks – a bass and drums groove; a piano and voice demo, etc; – and inviting others to layer on more sounds – guitar, a better voice, electronic percussion – to build music across borders. Now that the site has become more intensely useful with online track editing and project management, contests with the Berklee College of Music, plus negotiation over copyright use, it’s gained thousands of users and support of artists such as Third Eye Blind who are allowing musicians to remix their basic tracks even before their album comes out.

Then there’s Share My Lyrics, which is encouraging people to post complete lyrics or just snippets, get feedback on their skills, write lyrics together and sell them.

Music could be the easiest art form to create collaboratively online, given the way one person can layer a musical concept on top of the framework of other people’s tracks within minutes. But the same concept can be applied to any art form that can be digitized – manipulated digital photography, video, fiction, poetry, even dance – with the right editing tools. See NPR Radio’s Jan.5 story on wovels– novels on which readers vote an direction for next weeks’ chapter installment and DanceForms for PC-based dance choreography software that no doubt can be translated to a Web 2.0 platform.