MI Guitar

What do you think about this?


One of the Apple bloggers that I follow (Steve Sande) posted about this product.

I’m personally a little hesitant about it.  While I like the idea of a full size guitar, I am not crazy about wires and the need for 8 AA batteries.  It also seems that the instrument is contingent upon the app, at the cost of $0.99 per song or a monthly fee to unlimited songs.

And when all is said and done, you don’t actually learn how to play the guitar.

I’m partial to the JamStik because it gameifies the learning of a guitar and you leave with a transferable skill.  And if you want to play without being able to play, they are now offering the AirJamz as a Kickstarter.  But then again, I am a music educator who taught class guitar and is currently teaching ukulele…so I am always going to have a focus on the real-world application of such a product.

That said, you may be interested in the MI Guitar, as a fun product or even for students with special needs or for music therapy.  Either way…check it out as a product of interest.

The health of the music publishing industry?

Earlier this week, the news broke that Alfred Music, which I consider the #2 music publisher in terms of size (this might be incorrect, but it is how it feels–particularly in comparison with Hal Leonard), was acquired by Peaksware, the company that owns MakeMusic.

Philip Rothman wrote about the acquisition at the Sibelius Blog, and this quote from his article has been percolating in my brain the last few days:

Peaksware assumed the role of creditor by purchasing Alfred’s outstanding debt from its lenders and then exchanging it for Alfred’s assets.

I have already stated that I don’t understand the financial aspects of the music publishing industry.  I don’t know how much it costs to print music.  I don’t know how much it costs to store unsold music.  I don’t know how much it costs to ship music.  I don’t know how much is paid in royalties for arrangements of pop music (back to the original artist).  I don’t know how much is paid to the arranger.  I don’t know how much is paid to the music store that sells a title.  I don’t know what it costs to record a demo track.  I don’t know what it costs to produce a parts and accompaniment CD for a choral octavo.

Most of my professional life has been spent on the choral side of music education, although I attempt to stay up to date with band, orchestra, and general music (not to mention other forms of music education such as guitar and electronic music).  Right now the average choral octavo costs $1.95 (or more), and an accompaniment CD is typically $26.95.

From the teacher’s standpoint (and budget) this is too much–from any publisher.  You can buy an audio recording of a song for $1.49 (or less).  Why should a paper copy cost more than a “real” recording?  What ends up happening is that schools don’t have the budget to buy music at those prices.  

But things cost what they cost, and nobody would ever guess that the publishing side of music might not be as lucrative as it seems–and that is what the Alfred acquisition is telling me.  While financials were not disclosed about the acquisition, Alfred had debt that was purchased, and the debt was exchanged for assets.

We are entering a period of time where some of the costs of the publishing industry should be decreasing, by offering music directly via PDF, moving the costs of printing to the purchaser (or onto a digital device).  This should allow publishers to lower the cost of music while increasing their cut, and potentially increasing the cur to arrangers as well.   Paper copies could be offered for a premium to those that desired them.  This will impact some positions in companies (printing, shipping, storage) as well as the role of the music store. 

I would also love to see an “Apple Music” approach to published music, giving you full access to everything for a set price per year–with special pricing for education.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a set formula for music when it came to funding from your school–as well as the ability to get rid of music libraries and all of the hassles of processing, distributing, collecting, erasing, replacing, and storing music?

I fully understand that music publishers have been fearful of copyright infringement in the move away from paper.  However, it is time.  Photocopiers have been abundant for more than 30 years, and if you haven’t seen the scanning ability of phones these days, check out Readdle’s Scanner Pro on iPhone.  I have been using Scanner Pro for personal documents in the past weeks, and I cannot believe how well it works.  This could be used for music, too.  Just saying.

 Peaksware is situated in the ideal place to lead the music publishing industry in a new direction, as the business is already focused on technology and its use with music (and music education).   And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alfred begin to add some other music publshers to its portfolio, as it modifies its business practices under Peaksware.

Hal Leonard also has the potential with its connections with Noteflight and Noteflight Learn.

I’m hoping the “big boys” of the music publishing industry can use these changes as a way to lower prices and to make their companies profitable.

Alfred Music joins Peaksware

You can file this in the category of things that I never considered: Alfred Music is now a part of the Peaksware family.  Nearly two years ago, MakeMusic went private and was acquired by Peaksware.  Since that acquisition, a lot of good things have occurred at MakeMusic: regular updates to SmartMusic, a much more stable system this academic year, an expanding catalog, the acquisition of Weezic, the export of MusicXML to the W3C committee, an upcoming new version of Finale, and a truly “new” version of SmartMusic based on the Weezic acquisition with an entirely new pricing scheme.

I don’t know how Alfred’s new “sibling” relationship with MakeMusic will play out, but I am hoping that the future-minded aspects of MakeMusic will have an effect on the publishing side of Alfred.

It should be noted that Hal Leonard owns Noteflight, and now their Hal Leonard’s largest competitor, Alfred, is a sister company to MakeMusic.

I’m excited for the changes in this industry in the coming year(s)!

The New SmartMusic–see their webpage for updates

I have been putting this post “off” for a while, as MakeMusic has been in the process of defining how the “New” SmartMusic is going to work.

Since my previous post about the pricing of the “New” SmartMusic, MakeMusic has revised the plan–basically simplifing things.  Where there were going to be two levels, they have simplified the plan to one.  To see the details, check out their website at: http://www.smartmusic.com/new/

They are constantly revising and improving the “New” SmartMusic and how they talk about–even terminology is shifting.  Therefore, if you have feedback about the coming product, please contact them.  As has always been true of MakeMusic, they are listening because they want to provide a product that you want to use.

Finally, just some scattered thoughts:

  • Some colleagues were worried about the “set of 50” pricing.  The latest plan addresses this in groups of 5 additional students.
  • If you are an individual user of SmartMusic (e.g. A home-schooled student), the “old” SmartMusic is going to be your option for 16-17.  There will eventually be solutions with the “New” SmartMusic for you, too.
  • I asked some questions to MakeMusic which they are going to include in a FAQ.  Watch for that document (They can speak for themselves on those questions).
  • Be aware that you have to make the choice between “Old” and “New” as you cannot do both.  I would also advise that in time, the “New” will become the “only” SmartMusic, so it probably makes sense to get on board in the fall of 2016.

Again, if you were the teacher using SmartMusic in 4 practice rooms for 200 students (about $300 a year)–the “New” SmartMusic represents a price increase.  I understand that.  At the same time, if that was you, you have to acknowledge that your past use didn’t cover the annual cost of improvements, server space, or literature licensing (Note: this comes from my perspective, and does NOT come from MakeMusic).  The new pricing of $399 for 50 students (plus 3 teachers) guarantees the sustainability of the product (in this era of new competition) for $8 a student; plus you will find that your students won’t be locked into the practice room (although they can do so) and will be able to use SmartMusic with any device.  Think about it…students can get SmartMusic for the price of less than 2 beverages at Starbucks.  Or less than the cost of a lesson book (Yes…I said that).

We know SmartMusic can significantly improve the playing ability of a student–can you imagine any other activity where an $8 investment could yield so much potential growth?

And of course, the full subscription (all literature, not just assignments from the teacher) is available for $20 per student.

Which is still a bargain.

Again, visit SmartMusic for the latest details (which continue to change) for this exciting new product.

A new Kickstarter project: AirJamz

Here is a fun new product for you: Zivix, a company in Minnesota (and the creators of the JamStik and the PUC) have started their latest crowd funded project: AirJamz.  Simply put, AirJamz is wearable device that allows you to “air jam” and have an iOS or Android device follow those movements.  Zivix showed off the device at SXSW this past winter, and it was a hit.

In terms of music education, this isn’t a device that you are going to directly use in your classrooms.  However–it does have the potential as a product for reward days, music therapy, and some other uses that I haven’t thought of yet.  

What if they could tweak their app to allow for the training of conductors–direct a symphony orchestra or choir from the AirJamz?  That could revolutionize the instruction of conducting.  

Zivix isn’t a music education company–it is a company that makes products so that music is fun for all people.  It is just fortunate that Zivix products often “creep” into the world of music education–I wouldn’t want to teach a guitar class without a JamStik.  

It is easy to see how this product would be popular with a lot of people.  After all, if you are willing to drop the money on Guitar Hero–why not AirJamz?  I believe that, like their other products, Zivix will provide free software which works with the device (which sounds a lot like Apple’s strategy of providing at least basic versions of the software with the purchase of hardware).

There are a lot of things I don’t know about the AirJamz at this point, such as how long batteries last, if it could be potentially used as a step-tracker, and if there is any chance to make a (paid) Apple Watch app in place of buying the AirJamz hardware.  However, the price point of AirJamz (and their small speaker, MiniJamz) is extremely affordable with the KickStarter.  I like this company a lot, and it will be fun to see what comes from this device.  I encourage you to support their efforts and to join the KickStarter campaign.



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