Our Motivation for Entrepreneurship
A Sonic Bloom Story
Sonic Bloom is a music technology company founded by two lifelong friends: Eric Robinson and myself, Justin Stanizzi. Our friendship was founded on a shared awkward, geeky love of movies and video games. Embedded in a group of other like-minded friends and fueled by Mountain Dew and Bagel Bites, we spent many long nights watching hours of B horror movies, Die Hard marathons, and filmographies from edgy new directors. Our weird corner of the world enabled us to be nerdy intellectuals (well... perhaps by high school standards). By having a non-judgemental place to be ourselves, we were provided with a surprisingly thoughtful forum to talk about what we found interesting in the writing, directing, cinematography, and music across all of the media we consumed during those long nights.
As our group of merry misfits slowly disbanded under the pressures of college life, one common thread remained true: a passion for the creation of media. Many of us went on to direct films, become playwrights, and create video games. Eric and I were in the latter group. While we took different paths, we both found our way into top music game companies, albeit on opposite sides of the world. Eric went to work for Tokyo-based iNiS, the creators of Elite Beat Agents, LIPS, and The Black Eyed Peas Experience, while I went to work for Boston-based Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Central.
It didn’t take long before we began to compare notes about our experiences at these companies. Slowly but surely, we began to realize just how underutilized music actually was. Here is this powerful tool for setting mood; for driving impact and emotion… why is it so frequently relegated to simple “background noise”? In this we saw an opportunity to reshape gameplay experiences by using the music as timing for gameplay rather than vice versa.
We envisioned a product that would allow the game to change music and the music to change the game - to make the music fully interactive, if you will. This product would allow space for full player autonomy and agency while simultaneously supporting music that adapts and reacts to action like it was scored for the player’s experience. We built this product and called it Koreographer. Koreographer is a proactive music system that enables game developers to build music into their games in new ways. We were satisfied with the success of Koreographer and then turned our attention to the rest of digital media.
Licensing music wasn’t just a challenge for video game developers. It was a challenge for anyone trying to work with music. So, we took a step back and looked at what it took to license music for adjacent industries. We interviewed video creators and discovered that finding and licensing music was a constant point of contention. Our suspicions confirmed, we set out to figure out how to improve music discovery and licensing for games, video, podcasts, and more.
Our research revealed that production music licensing is a crazy, fractured state of affairs. Veteran companies such as APM would cater to film studios while Pond5 was a service nearly tailor-made for the new explosion in live streaming and YouTube content creation. The quality of the music between the libraries were not drastically different, but the licenses certainly were. This wasn’t an isolated result, either, but turned out to be indicative of the greater industry. The options for shopping number in the thousands: a handful of large companies corral music tracks by the hundreds of thousands, while numerous small libraries serve niche tastes and needs. We estimate that there are at least 5 million pieces of music from just the largest libraries out there. The icing on the cake? Every one of these libraries has its own licensing structure and most don’t make it easy to find the details.
Finding music - finding the right music - in such a landscape is an overwhelming challenge. Not only do you need something that fits thematically, but you need something that then fits your project legally. That said, the wealth of music out there shouldn’t inhibit anyone from finding the perfect music for their projects. This is why we built Bard: to make it easy to find music from across many different libraries while taking the guesswork out of the licensing. Bard is our love letter to media creators. We’re striving to reshape how the music industry deals with new media: to improve the discovery, licensing, and, eventually, the utilization of music in media from games to videos and beyond.