Tomas Uribe is a music and media entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Stereotheque, the first AI-powered educational platform to help emerging musicians and students advance in their careers. His greatest passion is the intersection of music, design, and technology. He holds a BA in Music Composition from Javeriana University, Colombia and a master's degree in Media and Technology from The New School, NY. He has been a frequent speaker at conferences including SXSW 2017, LakeFX, Music Biz, MIT Innovators Under 35, Techweek among others.
This post is part of the NYU Summer Launchpad 2017 blog series featuring NYU entrepreneurs’ first-hand accounts of challenges faced in starting a business and the lessons learned along the way. Learn more about the NYU Summer Launchpad 2017 participants here.
After completing the NYU Summer Launchpad accelerator, the Stereotheque team has incorporated the ethos of prioritizing data, insights and customer feedback on a daily basis. We’ve learned how to live and breathe this information, we now know how to extract it from our customers, and how to make sense of it.
As a music-tech startup, we’ve been touching upon these elements almost religiously, to a point where we obtained enough confidence to make a pivot in our business. Music is an intangible product where it’s almost impossible to quantify its value. For instance, unlike other products where their price tag is based on the raw materials used and man-hours invested in the product, music doesn’t have these capabilities. A song recorded in just a few hours with only a guitar and a microphone cannot be compared in effort, instruments and time to an entire orchestra piece. The latter may have taken more time and money to create and record, but perhaps had less effect or impact on audiences. But yet, today’s industry has commoditized music consumption to a point where music is just that, music.
Being cognizant of the way the music industry is positioned to adapt to technology and its commoditized business models, we are confident in saying that if we want to change and improve the music industry, we have to bring real value to the source: musicians. They are constantly looking for ways to advance in their careers in a sustainable yet competitive manner. Sustainability in music can have many perspectives, but we believe it starts with empowerment through education and technology.
Serving the adequate set of customers
Pivots within startups can happen as frequently yet as unpredictably as possible. In our case, after a few weeks of talking to hundreds of music fans, musicians, and industry professionals, we finally made the decision. We refocused our energy to catering to a particular group of customers: music students and emerging musicians. Musicians as a whole are a group of highly knowledgeable and creative individuals who spend the majority of their lives studying to stay ahead of their competition. They truly value the stories behind music scenes and the content we’re able to surface thanks to technology. But one of their major pain points, besides feeling unattended when it comes to music streaming services and platforms, is the lack of options to connect with each other and find relevant music information.
We unraveled several pain points across the board. For example, musicians are by default avid music listeners: they basically depend on discovering and listening to new music. Sometimes, for over 12 hrs every single day. Yet they encounter what we call music information overload. Multiple discovery options created for the passive music listener: the average user who wants to press play and go along their usual routine.
Part of the challenge these musicians have is having to balance the time they spend practicing and learning, with marketing their music and preparing for professional life. In fact, music education and immediate access to reliable and trustworthy content is top of mind for them. They need to advance as fast as possible in their careers with as little effort as possible.
Artificial Intelligence in Music: A Data-Driven Approach
Based on our musical backgrounds, we’ve experienced how music education is usually biased. It depends on the teacher’s method to instruct and pass along the knowledge. We believe that in order to help musicians and music students advance in their careers, we need to democratize this knowledge. In doing so, technology can help scale this process and personalize knowledge for each of these musicians. Existing artificial intelligence theories of music are far from complete, and music education usually emphasizes factors other than the communication of knowledge to students, as pertaining to the point made above.
Going back to the first iterations of AI applied to music education in 1970, there were three basic components focused on domain expertise (imagine a professor that knows absolutely everything about a single aspect of music); student modeling (knowing everything about a student’s skill set and weaknesses); and teaching (imagine a person that knows several teaching methods and employs the best depending on the situation).
If we think of the available data out there, we are able to think that a more robust, fourth component to this equation would be context. Traditionally, AI has been applied to music composition but while musicians are reluctant to the use of this application, we believe that AI should provide better tools for musicians to advance in their own creative process. At Penn State University, a virtual reality classroom was created with artificially intelligent students, to teach apprentices to practice with students. This is another example of how AI has evolved and has been used in music education.
At the moment, part of our efforts is bringing value and knowledge about music in general from artists’ points of view. We’ve launched our content Hub which precisely serves that purpose. While we continue to gain additional feedback from customers and the value they obtain from our product, we’ll implement new tech-powered features. To stay up to date with what we’re building, please visit Stereotheque or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.