EMI Presses Play On Digital Innovation; Opens Its Catalog To App Developers

The music industry industry has taken some questionable stances on digital technology over the years. To call it resistant to change probably wouldn’t be stepping too far out of line. That’s why, as music fans, we love to hear about cases in which the music industry demonstrates forward thinking and proactively constructs policy that takes new technologies and distribution media into account. Maybe it’s unfair to paint the entire industry with a single stroke, but if this is true of any part of the industry, it’s traditionally been true of the major record labels.

The good news is that EMI, one of the big four, is taking some laudable steps to open its vault of music. The record label has teamed up with The Echo Nest, a music intelligence platform whose technology powers a number of music apps from big media companies to indy developers, to create an initiative that will put thousands of its songs and other music-related content (video, photos, and artwork, for example) into the hands of more than 10,000 app developers.

According to Echo Nest’s release, the collaboration represents one of the most extensive collections of licensed music to be made available in this way, giving developers a one-stop destination to create cool digital products for EMI’s artists.

Traditionally, the labels haven’t played nice with the developer community, bleeding them dry on licensing fees or shutting them out altogether. EMI has an amazing stock of content that is typically very difficult for third-parties to access without jumping through a ton of hoops or involving someone’s lawyer. But not anymore.

The new partnership is part of the record label’s OpenEMI initiative, which is focused on digital innovation and improving music licensing processes for new digital apps in a way that is flexible and adaptive for developers. Basically, it’s focusing on letting developers bring their products directly to market, without the requisite hoop-jumping. Man, this kind of stuff should be the norm for music labels, but just the fact that a major record label has created an initiative like this is enough to make me want to stand up and cheer.

As part of the new initiative, Echo Nest and EMI have created a sandbox that offers developers creative briefs and a chance to play around in EMI’s bullpen of about 12,000 songs. Only 2K of these are from the general catalog, but precleared content will be offered from artists like Gorillaz, Pet Shop Boys, Professor Green, and several more. The pair have also worked out a standardized fee for these songs, which will see the label take 60 percent of net revenue, with the remaining 40 percent split between Echo Nest and developers, though Echo Nest says that developers should see the majority of that money.

As to what will come out of this partnership, that remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a great start for developers looking to get legal, painless access to a great pool of music. Granted, if developers want to play with music outside of the EMI catalog, they’re out of luck, but if EMI can continue to approve more songs, this could have the potential for the development of some cool apps. Probably won’t see a Spotify or a Pandora, but really anything is better than nothing.