In this article, Dubspot contributor Rachel Dixon talks to Blend.io founder Alex Kolundzija about this unique new service, and how it helps producers connect and collaborate online.
Blend.io, a fast-growing collaboration network for music creators, is still invite-only but our invite code gives you instant access: BLENDSPOT Go here to sign up now: http://blend.io/vip/dubspot
Blend.io is a new music sharing service for producers. It’s a social networking platform that also solves some of the thorny problems of online collaboration. Instead of only sharing completed songs, Blend.io makes it possible to share an entire multitrack project, so other producers can download the source files and work with them. Blend.io sits at an intersection where a revolution is brewing–it has never been easier to produce music at home, and an increasing number of people want to interact with music instead of passively consuming it. As this trend continues, the service that Blend.io provides may become as essential as SoundCloud is for many listeners today. Rachel Dixon speaks with Blend.io founder Alex Kolundzija to find out more.
What is Blend.io?
Blend is a community of producers and musicians collaborating on, and learning from each other’s music projects. It’s a place where you can establish and grow a reputation for your production and composition skills, and connect with other producers to share feedback, as well as create new music together.
What happens after a new user joins Blend.io?
Blend uses Dropbox for quick and simple project syncing. Once you’ve signed up and connected your Dropbox account you can start exploring artists and their projects, and by clicking “Pull” instantly get a copy of an entire project to remix or add to.
What is the benefit to using Blend.io instead of just sharing a session file on Dropbox?
Blend.io is a social network for producers, DJs and musicians. We’re keeping things simple by leveraging familiar paradigms and popular file sharing solutions, like Dropbox. So, you could think of it as a hybrid of Dropbox, SoundCloud, and Facebook, sprinkled with mad science.
Dropbox is a fantastic tool for sharing project files across computers, between collaborators as well as between your own computers (if you use more than one, or when you upgrade). This is why Blend.io is built on top of Dropbox. But we keep hearing stories from music producers using other products in conjunction with Dropbox to make collaboration happen, and using very different ways of archiving their projects. Blend.io combines, simplifies and enhances all of those: cloud storage, project sharing, communication, version tracking, audio previews, discovery, etc.
Is there a story behind the creation of Blend? Did one of you have a need that the market just didn’t fulfill?
Managing music projects and collaborating with others is not simple. We’ve heard lots of stories of artists using some mix of email, FTP, SoundCloud, Dropbox, and even shipping drives back and forth to make collaboration happen. Blend.io solves this elegantly and opens it up so that distant strangers can collaborate and make music which previously wasn’t possible. And in the process, they expose each other’s work to a broader audience. It also provides a great way to archive one’s own projects with consolidated files, audio previews, tags, and threads that show progress and feedback from other producers and fans. I have way too many projects scattered on disks, drives, with no previews or record of their current and past states. Publishing all of my projects to Blend.io is something I now do right after saving them. I want them all to be heard and I want them to be complete. Often what’s missing is some input from others.
Blend.io founder Alex Kolundzija
What have your users been looking for in collaborative music making? How did you research their needs?
An artist’s DAW of choice is their instrument. Asking them to switch to something different just to collaborate is asking a lot, so we’re staying out of that. On Blend.io, you continue to use the tools you’re already using (currently only Ableton Live and Maschine, but support for other DAWs is in the works) and we just handle artist discovery, networking, and most importantly, file transfer between collaborators.
We’ve spoken with producers and musicians, including folks from the Dubspot crew, and their early feedback helped us make Blend.io what it is today. As our community grows, we’re learning more about where we should take it. Some of these are lessons that we’re also presenting to DAW makers and are hoping will influence future versions of their software.
How does this benefit me as a musician?
Blend.io is already a unique community of music producers collaborating on new music, but its also a place to improve and evolve production techniques, provide and receive insightful feedback from other producers, learn about remix opportunities, etc. Discovery is a very important feature on the Blend roadmap. We want to help producers gain their reputation for their skills and grow exposure–not just among other producers but among music fans as well, which is why we’re actively exploring different distribution models.
We’ve also got a couple of exciting production contests in the works with really cool prizes from our partners.
Is this is intended to change or improve workflow as well as general collaboration?
Absolutely. We’re already seeing best practices emerge from “Blenders”–techniques for organizing and consolidating projects to make them more compatible and compact, while preserving all source flexibility. Some of these are familiar techniques, like Freezing tracks, but others are more nuanced, like always using Ableton’s “Remove Unused Media” and “Edit Info Text” features, removing silence (dead bytes), etc. We’ve also noticed some interesting templates that we’ve started to collect on http://blend.io/templates
Can you elaborate on the workflow for the end user of blend? What do I do after I sign in?
Signing up for Blend is super quick. You enter your artist name, claim your blend web address, and connect it to your Dropbox which automatically creates a new Blend folder. This is where you save your music projects for publishing to Blend, and where projects you pull from other Blenders are saved, ready for you to open and tweak them.
Once you’ve signed up, you can follow other Blenders, like and comment on projects, and get the complete source files for them by pulling them into your Blend folder. You can discover interesting projects and Blenders to team up with through browsing by project type (e.g. Ableton, Maschine), genre, tag, or by searching. You can also promote your productions through your own (and soon to be enhanced) Blend profile page.
Blend.io staff in NYC
How does blend.io deal with the variety of different plug-ins used by musicians in their chosen DAWs? Is there a technical solution to this and other such potential sticky situations specific to musicians?
Great question. We see this as an interesting opportunity for Blend to solve a pre-existing problem. We’ll be able to detect which plug-ins a project uses (from entered tags, but also by inspecting the project file itself) and let the collaborators know what third party plugins they’ll need. We hope to team up with plugin makers and offer links to their products (perhaps with free trials) at the best possible time–the exact moment when a producer who doesn’t have one needs it.
How many people can collaborate on a project at a time, and does it get confusing?
We’re currently not limiting the number of producers who can get involved in a project but two-way collaborations are a bit more exclusive. You can choose to team up with someone if you like their additions to your project and finish it up together, or you can provide feedback to a Blender who has taken it in a very different direction. I love getting notifications that someone has published updates to my project. If you like their updates you just pull their version, see exactly what they’ve done and how, and can keep working on it.
Soon we’ll be begin to offer private projects that will allow specific Blenders to collaborate on a project before opening it up, but are frankly more excited about collaborations we’re hearing on the open side.
What is a “dream feature” you’d like to add to Blend.io in the future?
We don’t have a “dream feature” list; we’re confident that we can build everything we and the Blend.io community decide makes sense to have. What might fall into the “dream category” are things that would involve other companies, for example, integrations with DAWs. So, something like an “Export to Blend.io” feature which would intelligently and automatically consolidate, tag and publish a project, and notify artist’s followers and collaborators. Also, having Blend.io be a tool for music schools like Dubspot would be fantastic.
Ultimately, we want Blend.io to become a place where talent is not simply discovered, but can be hired for session work, placements, etc. We’ve also been talking a lot about different distribution models; a Blend Label is a very real possibility.
Are there any notable early adopters of the project?
Blend is growing quickly and it’s hard to keep up, but some of my favorites are users who are really starting to make the platform their own and are using it in interesting ways. Gray joined very recently and has already hit the ground running. Billy Blaze is working on some really cool stuff. Hexy posted a completed project and is looking for remixes. Lauro posted a track from his upcoming EP in need of remixes as well. Botstein’s Big Wave has been in my rotation lately. Eights Everywhere posted a cool 14 minute long track. PLP_noises just published some updates to a project started by Costas Papa. I love the dark vibe of Go Go Go by Sprkzrz. TekMonki figured out how to use the Ableton Push to drum sequence the Maschine, a technique which he covered for our blog.
What is the ultimate goal of Blend?
There are a few, but among them is the ability to discover, hire or book talented producers or remixes directly through Blend. We could help on the transaction side and ensure that artists are compensated first and foremost. Helping artists distribute their music and gain a following is also a very important goal. Improving the collaboration workflow between users of different DAWs, plug-ins, etc. would also be a big win.
Blend.io + Loop Loft Music Production Contest
The Loop Loft and Blend.io are teaming up to bring you a unique opportunity to create new music with performances from legendary musicians including Omar Hakim (David Bowie, Sting, Daft Punk) and Mino Cinélu (Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock).
Best productions will win cool prizes from The Loop Loft, Grado Labs, Modern Drummer, PSP Audioware, Blend.io and more!
Dubspot blogger Rachel Dixon was a Handel and Haydn Vocal Apprentice, studied at New England Conservatory, briefly sang lead vocals for the Phoenix punk band Scrimshaw, managed the guestlist at Boston nightclubs Avalon and Axis, and was on the design team for the Dance Central video game franchise. She is a published fiction writer, bedroom songwriter, and poet who lives in New York City with her dog.