"Successor to mp3"; MusicDNA founder interviewed

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bach Technology CEO, Stefan Kohlmeyer

At the end of January, Bach Technology announced their new music file format, MusicDNA, which was developed as an intended replacement for the mp3 format, which has been the dominant format in music since its inception. MusicDNA uses similar compression methods to mp3, but then also adds an xml file which defines other content that can be included. Wikinews reporter Tristan Thomas caught up with Bach Technology CEO Stefan Kohlmeyer to find out more.


((Wikinews)) Thank you for agreeing to answer our questions.

((WN)) Can you briefly explain what MusicDNA is?

((Stefan Kohlmeyer)) We believe that MusicDNA is the successor to the MP3, the MusicDNA media extension enables music fans to access from one application the wide range of music-related content they want alongside the music itself - from lyrics, artwork and tour dates to blog posts, videos and twitter feeds.

In addition to all this extra content, MusicDNA files are also intelligent, and include extensive audio analysis information for each single track. This means that search and recommendation tools or automatic playlist generators will be much more sophisticated and provide much better results.

((WN)) How long has it been in development and what role has Karlheinz Brandenburg, the man credited with inventing mp3, played in that?

((SK)) In essence MusicDNA in its current context has been in development since the start of the company in 2007. Bach has an important strategic partnership with Fraunhofer IDMT with its CEO Karlheinz Brandenburg who is an important person for us in all research projects and visionary discussions about the development of the music market.

((WN)) Is this just going to be another consumer hurting format war with iTunes LP? What makes MusicDNA better than iTunes LP?

iTunes LP is seen by many as MusicDNA's main competitor.

((SK)) Unlike iTunes LP, MusicDNA files have been built on open standards and are completely platform agnostic, which means that, unlike iTunes LP, you’re not tied to one device or media player. So it’s about the opposite of format wars really.

Whilst LP goes some way to adding value to digital music, it is still essentially a static file with some extra content bolted on. MusicDNA not only gives back all the things we lost when we switched to digital formats, lyrics, liner notes, artwork, but crucially it goes beyond that allowing fans to access everything from Twitter feeds and videos through to concert tickets, this will all dynamically update whenever you're online, so music fans always have the latest information to hand.

Importantly with MusicDNA you can customise single tracks, you’re not restricted to purchasing complete albums as you are with LP.

And because all the additional rich media is integrated into the file (unlike iTunes LP), that content can be easily transferred from one device to another.

Mark Mulligan, vice president and research director of industry analysts Forrester Research recently put it well to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper "innovations like the iTunes LP need to go further. People should pay just once to get everything that artist does over the next year in one file that is regularly updated."

((WN)) Is this really what listeners want-more clutter to distract from the music itself? What's wrong with mp3?

We developed MusicDNA based on how people interact with their favourite music and musicians today.

—Stefan Kohlmeyer

((SK)) A lot of people, especially those who grew up buying music on vinyl and CD, miss the packaging, the liner notes, all the things that went hand in hand with albums, so for them that ‘clutter’ is an important part of the experience. We developed MusicDNA based on how people interact with their favourite music and musicians today, so we’re just following the public’s lead in many ways. MusicDNA enables fans to stay constantly connected with the worlds of their favourite artists in a really convenient way. Importantly, MusicDNA files can be customised so that they contain as little or much extra content as the listener wants.

You have to remember the MP3 was developed over twenty years ago, think of how much has changed in that time. It has had a profound effect on the music industry, but beyond portability it doesn't actually add anything to the experience, the opposite in fact.

((WN)) Will MusicDNA be any less susceptible to piracy than other formats?

Do you think MusicDNA has a future? Will it replace mp3?

((SK)) As only paid for files will dynamically update MusicDNA should be an incentive for people to purchase legitimate files rather than downloading them from p2p networks.

Over the last decade a lot of effort has gone into trying to stop piracy through sanctions and enforcement, and, well, the results speak for themselves. We believe in a carrot approach, giving the public what they actually want and a great incentive to go the legit route.

((WN)) Many people argue that music is moving away from being owned and more towards models like Spotify; free, streamed music. Is MusicDNA not too late to the party if this is so?

Will MusicDNA be competing or complementing Spotify?

((SK)) Like many in the industry Bach are of the view that there is no one silver bullet to suit all types of consumer, rather a variety of services will serve different fans with different needs.

There are many occasions when a download is preferable to a stream, and MusicDNA files have the advantage of customised, at your fingertips, rich media available on- and offline. And that is before considering the impact of streaming on growing bandwidth and energy requirements.

((WN)) So when will we start to see MusicDNA and where?

((SK)) Rollout will be staggered over 2010, with the first beta versions available around Easter and the full commercial rollout expected over summer.

((WN)) And finally, your favourite artist at the moment to be released on MusicDNA this year?

Logo for Led Zeppelin.

((SK)) It's too early to say, but we're in talks with some very exciting artists. I would love to see all my old heroes on MusicDNA, starting with Led Zeppelin and The Clash.

((WN)) Thank you again for your time. Good luck with the launch.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.