Taking monotony out of music in Madrid

MADRID -- Music is getting scientifically more monotonous and unoriginal, but maybe turning dejaying into an interactive game could help.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID -- "It's just the same old song, but with a different meaning." The Four Tops were before their time, as song composers have become more and more unimaginative and conformist. And yes, this means, technically, your parents are kind of right when they say that music today is just noise. If nothing else, Spanish researchers have proven that songs are becoming more boring, more monotone and much louder.

Folks at Spain's national center for scientific research and investigation CSIC listened to and analyzed more than 464,000 songs that have been produced and released in the last 50 years. They discovered that the same instruments, pitch and tones have been increasingly used. Researchers at CSIC said that "the transitions between groups of notes have declined steadily" since the 1960s. It seems the experimental sounds of the sixties and seventies have turned to more contrived sound patterns at a much higher volume. We no longer live in a society, where George Harrison is sampling a sitar or Alaska is giving birth to the punk movement. CSIC defines contemporary music as made of "simple chord changes and the same instruments, at a heavy volume," almost always falling into the 3-minute radio- or iPod-friendly time slot.

Of course, they programmed a computer to process this empirical data because, otherwise, it would take every moment of 16 years for the human ear to hear.

So, if the music we listen to day after day is getting plain, what can we do? As usual, there's an app for that.

HivePlay turns music into gaming

The purpose of HivePlay is "to take the jute box to the smartphone, so anytime you go into a bar and you don't like the music, you can just change it," says founder Luis Javier Alvarez.

Bar patrons get to choose from a playlist that the bar sets, and then everyone gets to vote for what music the bar plays.

SmartPlanet met at a bar that was using Spotify, which turns out to be illegal. (Overlooked, kind of like the prohibited Sky Sports playing on every TV.) Not only is HivePlay legal, but "We are giving them a service that's similar to Spotify, but it's even better because they get to interact with their customers," Alvarez says.

HivePlay is under a partnership with a music channel provider, which will cut out the very expensive cost of playing rights and that is similar to America's Pandora, with music channels, like "80s rock." In fact, they even already have an agreement with a well-known, but undisclosed, company that is giving them the rights to the music and legal needs, along with a sales force that will help them sell to venues. It also means that, when their Wayra season is finished, they are certain of Telefonica's long-term investment.

Of course, this also means that incessant pop songs could become even more so without careful handling.  "What we want is that the venue sets the limits," he says. "If they want just one song of Rihanna all night, they can either limit 'one song of one artist' or only put one Rihanna song on the playlist." The venue -- whether club, bar, restaurant or maybe eventually El Corte Ingles -- defines the limits.

According to Pulso, Telefonica's magazine for the key accounts, only 4.5 percent of Spanish aged 16 to 74 listen to music on the radio. Remember, Spaniards have been addicted to Spotify for years now. "That's great news for us" says Alvarez, "because that means that society is going to change how people listen to music." While this change could possibly limit their exposure to new music, it seems technology is enabling folks to create their own soundtrack.

They are in the beta stage right now, testing it on the public, at the huge Calle Mayor discoteca "Joy Eslava," on the "JoyLite" teen nights. Next step is to release HivePlay one of the most popular "100 Montaditos," known for its menu of a hundred one-euro, small sandwiches.

"Once [these customers] like Hiveplay -- that they will do -- we will do it across Madrid," and beyond, Alvarez says.

Alvarez admits that HivePlay has only one real competitor: RoqBot from the United States. "They are doing basically the same, but there's one thing that we want to do that is different than what they're doing. We want to create a very powerful gaming user experience that our users aren't just going to choose the music and vote, they can get points to vote," Alvarez says, to create challenges, like "I'm going to get more songs played than you do, for 150 points." The bar can offer free cervezas or copas to the winners. And, as we know, gamification like this is going to grow into one of 2013's biggest tech themes.

In Spain, technology and entrepreneurial spirit aren't necessarily considered synonymous. As SmartPlanet has repeatedly heard from dozens of start-ups, Spain doesn't exactly welcome the idea of starting your own business -- though it's surely one of the only ways the country can climb out of crisis. "Spain doesn't embrace the mistake culture," and people think it's "crazy," to start your own business. We hear this time and again. But with small programs like this project that's coming out of Complutense University's Master of Entrepreneurship, it's clear that mentality is changing.

Talking about IT folks versus emprendedores (entrepreneurs,) Alvarez says, "I think I'm both and that's one of my personal strengths because I can understand both the technology and drive the business." Alvarez is embracing the idea that the time is now. "I know it's crazy, I haven't finished my [bachelor's] degree [even though] I have a master's degree and I have my start-up running." He's hoping in February to finish his last couple exams to finish his engineering undergrad degree, but, who knows, if his company continues to take off.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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