Music formats that let the latest generation of fans manipulate music the way they do just about everything else in their lives represents a promising bright spot on the digital music landscape — an all-but-inevitable next step for the industry. But it’s easier said than done. Nearly a year ago, we took a peek under the hood of MXP4 and decided that while it was “pregnant with possibility,” it wouldn’t matter much unless it saw adoption by the industry and more traffic from fans.
Since then, other interactive music formats have sprouted in the form of iPhone apps and, to a certain extent, full-album packages like Apple’s Project Cocktail, and the major labels’ CMX project, which present new challenges to MXP4 before it has even gotten off the ground.
But the company’s technology — about three years in the making, and having gone through several permutations — could yet make good on the promise to let fans play with, rather than just playing back, their favorite music. And in addition to reaching out to Apple and the labels to provide its technology to Project Cocktail and CMX, MXP4 hopes to capitalize on the iPhone the way later-comers to the party already have.
Former Vivendi general mobile manager and founder of the Microsoft-purchased MusiWave Albin Serviant took over as CEO of MXP4 in January to solve the company’s main problem: getting artists and labels to actually use this new format. No matter how good the idea of interactive music might sound, it doesn’t matter unless you like the music it contains.
“The idea of building an interactive format was part of the initial vision,” admitted Serviant. “What we learned since [then] is that to drive mass-market adoption of a format takes time.” Complicating the issue is that creating an MXP4 file requires getting separate tracks for each song – the bass part, the drum track, the vocals, and so on – and the labels often have a hard time providing those in a scalable way.
Still, under Serviant’s leadership, MXP4 is closing in on one million total streams and currently averages 200 thousand listens per month to 60-plus artists, including Pet Shop Boys Dave Stewart, Ministry of Sound, Michael Jackson/Jackson Five, Sliimy, and other (mostly European) acts.