My vision for MakeMusic

In a previous post about the departure of the CEO of MakeMusic, I jokingly added a paragraph stating that I would be interested in the job. Without any business experience, that isn’t going to happen. But if I were CEO of MakeMusic, here is what I would do:

  1. I would restore the relationships that have been injured in the last leadership change. A good leader doesn’t immediately change everything overnight (unless they were asked to do so), and instead takes a bit of time to learn the ropes, as well as who the real difference makers are in the organization. I’d make sure to recognize and perhaps promote the people who have been doing great work in the organization.
  2. I would personally be testing and using the software we were creating. I would want the ability to present the features at a tradeshow or clinic (or potential school). I would also get out into schools and see the products being used (preferrably with a team).
  3. I would review the current initiatives of MakeMusic as well as the timeline, assessing the reality of the timeline as well as the potential impact. This means making sure SmartMusic is on time for a summer release in advance of the 2012-2013 school year.
  4. I’d put a new focus on the presence of trade shows (not only NAMM, but all the national & state music education conventions) knowing that this is where we reach the most people (MakeMusic seemed to be in the process of reducing its involvement in those shows). I would attempt to attend many of these shows and to meet users of MakeMusic products.
  5. There is a lot of griping on the forums about aspects of Finale 2012. I would address each of those comments (perhaps these are being addressed, but I would go out of the way to get their individual feedback, make sure users were heard, and that realistic complaints were solved).
  6. I would double-down on the iPad, creating three new products, by in-house development or by acquisition. SmartMusic for the iPad would become priority #1. This would be followed by the acquisition of three existing iPad apps…forScore, SeeScore, and Symphony Pro. forScore is a PDF Music Reader with a lot of functionality; SeeScore is a MusicXML reader, and Symphony Pro is one of two music notation apps for the iPad (there are others, but Symphony Pro and Notion are the “biggies.”). forScore and SeeScore would be merged as a product into Finale Songbook. Symphony Pro would become (with revisions) Finale Notepad for the iPad.
  7. With the advent of SmartMusic for the iPad, I would change the subscription fee or format. I’m not sure schools or individuals would pay $30-$40 a year for an app (and Apple would get 30% of that).
  8. Regarding SmartMusic, I would also check into the possibilities of adding an (optional) video component to the program.
  9. Furthermore, with SmartMusic, I would begin a process of creating agreements with all state honor choirs, bands, and orchestras, and I would get their literature into SmartMusic, so that students could rehearse before their music camps. Students would need a subscription, but the service would be offered free to the states.
  10. I would create a component or spin-off for SmartMusic where states could use SmartMusic (with a video recording) for their All-State and Honor group auditions, including collecting the fees for the audition and sending those fees to the state. I would offer this service for free or at a very low cost (you would have to make up the credit card charges that would be accumultated in this process).
  11. I would make MusicXML the sole file language of Finale and SmartMusic.
  12. I would acquire SmartScore and simply incorporate it as part of Finale. SmartScore hasn’t had an upgrade since July 2010. Scanning is a critical component of music notation, and it is time for that entire feature to be in-house and included with Finale 2014.
  13. I would turn MakeMusic into the iTunes of the sheet music world. I would strike deals with all the major publishers, offering their scores as PDFs and MusicXML files, to be sold on a copy-by-copy basis, through MakeMusic. The cost of the service, which would track sales over time, would be sponsored with the same 30% to 70% split that Apple currently offers with App development or iBook development. The 30% would pay for storage of files, distribution, and design of the interface. I would also open this offer to independent developers. A guiding principal would be a price guide reflective of (declining) church and school budgets. Right now, a $1.95 physical sheet of music costs $1.95 digitally, too. The price would be set based on the price of the work. I would also offer an “upgrade” price, where a set of digital copies could be purchased at a tremendous discount (10% of the sale price?) with the caveat that schools or churches would send in their physical copies for recycling purposes (also guaranteeing that people didn’t lie about having physical copies just to get a lower price). Each school or organization would have a list of the pieces they legally had access to. I would also encourage the music publishers to place music in the public domain online, free. I’d even encourage them to add a specific number of pieces per year, free. And I would invite the CDPL and IMSLP to upload their files for free, too. The catch is that every piece would need to have its scores in both PDF and MusicXML formats. The MusicXML would allow a number of freedoms to the director, including easily making custom rehearsal parts, SmartMusic accompaniments and assessments, and even editing scores (for example, modifying a bass part for a younger bass singer).
  14. I would keep the work moving forward with the tracking of State Music Standards and Assessments (, as well as providing ways for teachers to use MakeMusic products as proof of improvement and growth for those states requiring such empirical data.

As a company, MakeMusic is strategically placed as the only music technology company with access to schools and the only company that could possibly bring a collaboration of music publishers into a universal “iTunes” for digital sheet music. The current models and pricing structures for digital sheet music are untracable, unrealistic and unsustainable. Therefore, by allowing MakeMusic to be the organization that not only provides tools for composing, practicing, and assessing music, but also distributing that music…MakeMusic becomes a crucical component in music education. The profits will follow.

And that is my vision for MakeMusic.


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