From Concepts to Products in Under 48 Hours

Published Jun-17-11

Crowdsourcing music technology initiative generates 72 new ideas in one weekend.

Music Hackday, United Kingdom

The Story:

From Concepts to Products in Under 48 Hours Take a few hundred artists, musicians and hackers and squirrel them away for a weekend and the end result is a neat demonstration of the power of the crowd. The Music Hack Day Series is a turbo-charged idea generating open innovation and crowdsourcing initiative that results in a remarkable output of functioning digital music technologies.

They started out in London but sessions take place in a number of different cities across the world and in February 2011 Music Hack Day New York stopped off in the Big Apple. For 48 caffeine and pizza-fuelled hours participants organized themselves into groups or worked on their own to come up with the next generation of music apps.

During this time they had to conceptualize, create and then demonstrate their ideas. It’s difficult to imagine that any company would be as nimble enough to go from idea to functioning technology in such a short space of time. But this notion barely raises an eyebrow amongst open innovation practitioners.

Prize Winners

There were three winners of the New York hack who received top prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000. They were selected by the official judges and by every single attendee.

The overall winner was Tim Soo who delighted the crowd with his collection of invisible instruments that he played using a Nintendo Wii controller in one hand and an iPhone in the other. His musical ‘orchestra’ included an air guitar (of course), a violin played with an invisible bow and a phantom drum kit. He had previously presented the idea at another hack day, but since then had worked on a number of refinements. His ‘visionary’ system takes physical inputs from the Wii controller and iPhone and applies them to a customized program to create sounds.

The second prize winner was an innovation called dj.txt, an app where partygoers can text request songs using their cell phones or Twitter account to a computerized jukebox. And the third prize went to a project called Stringer that allows users to paint invisible lines in 3D space that can then be plucked like strings. The pitch is determined by the length of each invisible string.

During the course of the weekend 72 ideas were generated and the events sponsors also handed out prizes; for participants who used their products or who just created something intriguing.

The hack days are not just proving to be popular with musicians, programmers and developers; the music industry is also taking note of these crowd sourcing events. According to the organizers many major and independent labels send representatives to the hacks.

Embrace the Chaos

There is no commercial agenda to the hack days. A few of the ideas may become commercial projects or be launched on the App Store, and some may spark off future ideas, but many will disappear from view. “But that’s okay,” said David Haynes organizer of Music Hack Day to one interviewer. “To allow true innovation to happen you have to remove as many barriers as possible and see what sticks. You have to leave your prejudices and the agenda of the status quo behind and embrace the chaos.”

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