Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A sneak peek at music-based Facebook game, Songster

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

So full disclosure up front on this one: I grew up with Mowgli co-founder and COO Adam Kunz, who provided all the info I'm about to share below.

We're good friends, but he provided no incentive for me to do this blog; I requested the info because it's something I thought Indy readers might find interest in.

Kunz did, however, provide an exclusive backstage pass (see code in graphic below) for Indy readers to check out Songster Beta before the site goes public on March 12.

Get in on the ground level of this new Facebook game with this exclusive pass.
  • Get in on the ground level of this new Facebook game with this exclusive pass.

Now that I've dropped all the names, let's get to the goods: What is Songster and how do you play?

Simply put, it's a free, Facebook-based music creation game (with an option to buy extra song packs and purchase a download of what you create if you wish to take it outside the game) where the player works with original music stems (think: direct from the soundboard channels) to build his or her own songs.

The "game" element comes from designing one's own character (kinda like creating an avatar on home gaming systems) and, according to a press release, taking said "fledgling musician ... up through the ranks of the music industry. From playing gigs at frat houses and proms to launching a worldwide arena tour, players make great music while leveling up through the game. Songster allows users to post songs they’ve created to friends’ walls, encouraging gamers to spread the word just as they would a new hit song."

Kunz emphasizes that it's more than just entertainment:

What we want to do is give people that are playing Facebook games more value out of their games. We had a great frustration with the market and everything Zynga, who makes FarmVille and CityVille, was doing. With people spending fortunes in money and time in these games and at the end of the day, they have nothing to show for it. Our entire concept was based around actually allowing people to create something real in the game that they can take outside the game, so at the end of the day when they’ve played these games for hours, they have something to show for it.

Select your instrument and drag and drop loops; its easy and quick. Becoming your local guitar hero takes much more time.
  • Select your instrument and drag and drop loops; it's easy and quick. Becoming your local guitar hero takes much more time.

Mowgli works with Big Fish Audio, who has thus far provided them "about half a million loops" from which Mowgli builds its song packs.

As the company — which raised $550,000 in seed money from 13 Atlanta Angel investors — grows, it plans to work directly with artists as well to incorporate more song packs as well as revenue shares.

As explained to me by Kunz:

You can't get these stems anywhere else, so when an artist puts their stems in the game, this is the one place someone can go to make a remix of the artist's song. They can't just go steal it on FrostWire ... It sounds great because we’re working with the original stems — mixing loops of those original stems — it’s a really great sounding song. You're not just putting music over an existing song, or putting lyrics over something. You're working from the master tracks.

This is not SongHi or Breakout Band, insists Kunz, who finds those less game-like in their interface and inferior for sound quality.

For those more into the gaming element, Kunz says the incentive to play is that the further you take your character, the more levels you unlock, earning more rewards, which get you more song packs. From there, you make more and more of your own songs.

This is the game area where one buys more songs with which to play, or energy to continue playing on a given day.
  • This is the game area where one buys more songs with which to play, or energy to continue playing on a given day.

And with them, says Kunz:

It’s being at a party and hooking up your iPod and playing a song and saying it's your mix of it, when you would otherwise not have the tools to do that. Or it's riding in your car and having your iPod on songs that you made your versions of. It’s that social experience past that point: putting it up on your Facebook page and saying 'this is my remix.'

Past the free, energy-based game play (as in you can only play so much in a given day without buying more "energy") and Facebook sharing, it costs nine Facebook credits, the equivalent of 90 cents, to actually download a song and take it outside the game.

As Songster remains in its Beta phase, Kunz says they are grateful for user feedback, adding that they intend to evolve the game based on user demand. Whether people want more game play functions versus more functionality on the music side (the ability to mix song packs, add effects, etc.) will all be taken into account as the company moves forward creatively.

Lastly: Anyone headed to SXSW next month can meet up with some of the Mowgli team as part of Quantum Collective's showcase.

Now, go get your rock on.

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