Historically there’s been a pretty high barrier to entry when it comes to making electronic music. The standard tools used to create beats are things like Traktor and Ableton Live, desktop programs aimed at professional music producers that have tons of complicated features (and pricetags that start in the hundreds of dollars.) They’re great tools for pros, and in the past decade they’ve made music production much more accessible than it used to be, but they’re still not exactly beginner friendly — how do you know you have a knack for making music if you have to spend so much money just to try?
That’s where Beatlab, a San Francisco startup run by Jonathan Baudanza, has come in with a much more lightweight and low maintenance option. Beatlab is a website with a completely browser-based beat creation app built with HTML5 and a bit of Flash that lets people make their own music and collaborate with others.
Baudanza, who started his career as an early employee at Napster and later co-founded gaming startup Rupture with Shawn Fanning (which they subsequently sold to Electronic Arts), started Beatlab as a side project in 2010 when he started “tinkering around on something that could make sounds in the web browser.” It soon evolved into a full-time effort, with Baudanza leaving his full-time job at EA and raising a small angel round from SV Angel, Shawn Fanning, Richard Kain, Auren Hoffman and Seth Kenvin.
Beatlab has slowly and steadily become quite popular in its niche, particularly for younger people in their teens who are just starting to get interested in the electronic music space. But this week, the site is having its first brush with the big time: Beatlab is partnering with famed electronic music producer and DJ Paul Oakenfold to hold a remix contest.
The contest works like this: This past Monday, Oakenfold uploaded the vocals to a new, unreleased track, called “Come Together” to Beatlab, and invited everyone in the Beatlab community to create a beat to fill in the song. The beats are being voted up and down by the community in a Reddit-style voting system that will run up until the contest ends tomorrow, August 26th — that’s when Oakenfold will log into Beatlab live from Ibiza and give his personal feedback to the top 10 or 15 beat creators.
According to Baudanza, some of the submissions are coming from some people as young as 13 or 14, and some are coming from seasoned musicians. For all of these people, getting detailed feedback from someone like Oakenfold would be huge.
It’s also pretty huge for Beatlab as a company. “We’ve been getting a lot of exposure from word of mouth and on the Google Chrome webstore, but this is the first thing we’ve done with a real professional artist,” Baudanza tells me.
Going forward from here, Baudanza says he has bigger ideas for Beatlab. “I’d love to evolve Beatlab into a full, professional production level software app” that still retains the core simplicity and lightweight feel of what he’s already made. “Most music software is too complicated.” Making creative tools more accessible to more people is always a good thing in my book, so it’ll be fun to watch how Beatlab grows.
Also, Paul Oakenfold was in San Francisco earlier this summer and he stopped by TechCrunch TV, which was pretty cool. You can read about our interview here and also watch it in the video embedded below: