Blend.io is a new collaboration system for music producers that works by connecting any Ableton Live or Maschine project in your dropbox, to an online profile at Blend.io, where anyone in the world can then discover and collaborate on your work. Pretty neat right? To get an idea of how Blend.io works, imagine if Soundcloud had a “download project” button on every song and that you could also see who has downloaded it, who has worked on it,  who was the originator and who previous collaborators were – this is one dimension of what Blend.io (currently in Beta phase) already is… but it’s where it’s headed next that will be interesting to watch.

The team behind Blend.io – part of the Betaworks stable of tech innovators – have a long list of features still to be rolled out. We’ve compiled a quick outline of the main features currently implemented , set-up an Ableton project for you to try out, and we caught up with the company-founder Alex Kolundzija and community manager Nigel Sifantus to get some insight into the project and where they’re taking it.

Try Blend

Click on the link above to try out Blend.io by collaborating on a project which is based around the Liveschool + Studios 301 Korg Volca Beats which we recently released. We’ve uploaded the project with our new Free Drum Rack in there, so you can either pull it down and modify our rack, write a beat with the rack, or just grab the samples by saving the Drum Rack!

What you’ll need: 

  1. Ableton Live.
  2. A Dropbox account.
  3. Our special link to join Blend.io (Blend.io is invite-only at this stage – so let us hook you up) 

What is Blend.io?

So, what exactly is Blend.io and how does it work? Below is a summary of the current features available on Blend.io

Explore the Blend.io community and projects

  • Find and preview songs
  • Comment and give feedback
  • Pull the project into your dropbox
  • Make your tweaks or take it in an entirely new direction
  • Re-publish the project on Blend.io for feedback from other users, including the originator

Discover, follow or work with interesting Blenders (each person has a count of how many people are following them and how many projects they have published)

Share your projects

  • Start your own profile
  • Share your works-in-progress
  • Get feedback from the community
  • Build a following
  • People are free to publish their variations on Blend.io and you can choose whether or not to start a dialog with them, maybe see a single project to completion or develop an ongoing working relationship.
  • Project lineage means you will always be credited as the originator

Push notifications and republishing means that, as you (the originator) make changes and improvements to a project you can republish it to update everyone following.

It’s also important to note that Blend.io’s unique Dropbox implementation means your files are protected against any changes that other people make. Likewise, any version someone else is working on in their own Dropbox cannot be harmed or changed by other Blenders working on the same project.

Follow and collaborate

As you can already tell, collaboration is a huge part of Blend.io, whether it be getting people to work on your material, or contributing to other people’s projects

  • You can pull a project from someone’s profile, add to that work, or remix it completely.
  • If a project is so good you couldn’t improve it then commenting, following or just downloading the project means there’s still room for meaningful interaction.

Profile

Perhaps the least obvious aspects of Blend.io is that your profile can be more than just an account – Blend.io’s founder Alex Kolundzija said in our Skype interview that they’re exploring the possibilities of developing this part of the platform as a reputation marketplace for creatives which, along with the ‘Cred Board’ that shows stats on the most followed / heard / active users, looks likely to provide a robust platform  for peer recognition and value.

Q&A With Blend.io founder Alex Kolundzija

Blend is such a fresh concept it would be easy to make assumptions about it based on some of the more familiar elements. If you had to tell people one thing that Blend is not – what would it be? 

Blend is not a DAW or a replacement for anything. It solves a problem which was previously unsolved.

Do you feel Blend is a disruptive product, or an enhancing one?

Both, actually. We want to enhance music composition and production workflows for new and existing collaborators. For single users frustrated by project files scattered on discs and drives, we provide cloud

Alex Kolundzija's Blend Profile.

Alex Kolundzija’s Blend Profile.

backups of consolidated audio projects; annotated, tagged, preview-able and easily shareable. Blend is disruptive as it gives artists a new platform to be discovered, establish themselves and grow their audience in a way that doesn’t revolve around “hits”, but around an accurately informed and cumulative reputation mechanic. An artist’s abilities and credibility are represented through their creations and how they’re received by their peers and fans.  Blend also eliminates the constraints of present day collaborations (location, time, network, etc.) by making cross-geo collaborations (often among complete strangers) simple, rewarding and fun.

Tell us a little bit about the team behind Blend.

We’re small and somewhat distributed but are growing quickly. The engineers are not only super talented and with highly relevant prior experience, but are also passionate Blenders themselves. Our community team includes established musicians with lots of studio and touring experience, and valuable networks in the music space.

Do you have a favourite Blender? Someone whose work you get excited to work on?

I have favorite projects, many of them. I love this remix by Tyler Elsasser not only because its one of the first collaborations between people who have never met, but also because it sounds awesome. I’m really enjoying the stuff from Eights Everywhere. I’m working on some projects with a Brazilian producer Lauro whose work I’m a big fan of. Dienaked and Stllegend is are excellent emerging producers. Thom Nagy’s Heights is one of my favorites and I’m trying to find the time to add to it. Time Lapse and Steveswivel are not only very talented but have also provided a ton of constructive feedback for the product, since the very early days.

Are there any famous blenders in the community already?

Interestingly, a couple of artists whose music we listened to while building Blend have since joined. Satoshi Tomiie, whose records I have (on vinyl!), recently joined Blend. A few folks from accomplished bands are working on side projects on Blend. And we’re growing pretty quickly; its becoming very hard to keep track. We’re starting to reach out to established acts, some of them our idols, and can envision a number of ways to get them involved in the product and community. Many of these folks are experimentalists and music hackers always looking for the next new thing to try out and incorporate.

Are you aware of any Blended projects that now have a life outside the Blend.io community?

We’ve had some unofficial remix contests which could result in Blends released with the originals. Hexy has started one such project. We’ve also heard back from DJs who’ve played remixed Blends at events and contacted us raving about the response.

What was the eureka moment for putting Blend together?

I’m not sure there was one; it slowly accumulated over time. But at some point I realized that the technology has advanced to a point at which this necessity and possibility meet. At that point, it became very clear to me what I should be spending my time doing.

Any hints as to what’s in the pipeline next for 1.0?

The exact order and timing is still to be determined, but the new Cred Board, updated user profiles, private projects, and opening this up to fans as well as producers, are all on the horizon. We’re also looking to improve cross-user communications, the first step of which will be support for user mentions. You’ll (pretty soon, actually) be able to mention another user in a comment or description and they’ll be notified of that in real-time.

What might 2.0 look like? Would it be a new set of extra services or deeper functionality on the existing service?

That would largely be influenced by what we learn between now and then. That said, I envision most of what I’ve described being live and robust. DAW integration is an interesting area worth exploring. Native apps for touch devices are on the horizon. Getting closer to a model where Blenders can be hired and paid for session work on the platform is one of the ultimate goals.

Q&A with Blend community manager, Nigel Sifantus

“How much of what you do is community management, and how much is community development?”

Up until now I’d say the majority has been on the community development side. When I started with the team the site was still so new and of course still is so the prospect of helping build a community from the ground up was not only needed but also a very exciting opportunity for me personally since not only do I have a digital marketing/social media background, but I am also the archetypical target Blend.io user in about every way. (I’ve been using Ableton since it was version 4 and have been completely hooked ever since).

Soon after I started it was apparent that some of the most valuable work I could do, along with spreading the word about Blend.io, was helping to establish ways in which people could get the most out of their experience making them want to come back for more and actively contribute and become a part of the collaborative process. Thinking as a new user, when I sign up for Blend.io and take the leap to put my work out there for people to not only comment on but actually collaborate with, the thing that would make me most excited is to see that project  (especially those that might be just a great loop that just needs help being fleshed out into a song) being re-worked and published on the site by other blenders. It gives you such a uniquely great feeling of a real community in a process of modern music making that can often be so lonely.

Nigel Sifantus' Blend Profile

Nigel Sifantus’ Blend Profile

“The social sharing aspect is a unique part of Blend and in many ways could be seen as an arts experiment in itself. How is this being used? Are there any surprises so far?”

I wouldn’t say surprises exactly in this area. Many of the social sharing aspects of the site are tools that people are already familiar with from the existing social networks and the evolution of the concept of social networks in the past decade. The difference with Blend.io is it’s not a passive experience but an active one because it is artistic content. Not to say it’s a surprise as I had faith in the potential from the beginning but it is a great experience to see people translate their social sharing behavior with things that actually take work to produce. It’s one thing to snap a picture and post it to Facebook or Instagram, or even make a comment on a Soundcloud track, it’s another when you are actually taking a project and trying to do something with it. As producers we all know you can spend hours just getting a kick drum track to sound the way you want. So when people share work they do on Blend.io, especially collaborations, you know they have really put something of themselves out there which is special and inspiring. It just get’s me to want to contribute more!

“How do you take such a fledgeling community and help it realize it’s potential?”

It has been a balance of thinking big, while also valuing each individual new user’s experience one at a time. The need for a platform like Blend.io has been there for a while. I myself as recently as a few months ago was struggling with the familiar logistical problem of sharing projects with other producers and film composers etc. when we were’t all in the same room let alone city or country. Over the past decade the technology was suddenly there, especially with tools like Ableton’s “collect all and save” function, but actually getting online collaborations to work smoothly was still a struggle. In order to help Blend.io reach it’s potential, the need is already there, it’s about creating the right environment along with continuing to develop the platform in the best, most innovative way so that people get the most out of their experience as a user.

Don’t forget to try out collaborating on blend.io with our Korg Volca Beats drum rack, which you can download here. For more information on how the Korg Volca was recorded, head over to our blog post detailing the recording process of this awesome new drum machine.

 

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