Online Collaboration – Propellerhead Interview

Propellerhead is linking together its desktop and mobile apps with a new cloud component called Discover that lets users work with others around the world on a variety of devices. We get the inside story from Kalle Paulsson and Leo Nathorst-Böös, who helped create it…

MusicTech: Give us an insight into your goals?


Kalle & Leo: We want to make it easy to share and collaborate no matter what ambitions, tools and platforms a user has. For a long time, music technology has been completely focused on the studio – whether it’s at home or in a professional facility, it has always been about the producer.

We’re changing that. With Take, as an example, we want the people who just love to sing to be able to make music, without forcing them to learn a DAW first.

MT: Do you see a time where internet connections are fast enough to remove every barrier to actual real-time recording and collaboration over the web? Is this something that’s possible now on a superfast network?

K&L: There are many different ways to collaborate on music. The classic way is, of course, four dudes getting together and jamming in the same room. And that is certainly possible to do over the internet with a fast connection today.

Our approach is that collaboration can be unplanned, unstructured, and can even be between people who actually don’t know of each other. A vocal hook I record and drop to Propellerhead can be picked up by many different people, sampled or reworked into something new.

We’ve already seen examples of this happening between our users. Jacob Haq’s Figure piece Nebula Rasa is a great example. It’s been turned into over 100 new pieces already


MT: What are the biggest technical challenges in building an online collaboration system?

K&L: The biggest challenge is all the different situations that people are in when making music, and making sure you build exactly the right experience for all of those. When we’re using our phones for music making, we’re often in other situations than when at the computer, and that requires different approaches. We want to make the experience of using our service and apps right for the multitude of devices, ambitions and situations music makers are in.

MT: Are we likely to see a kind of “Reason in the cloud” one day? Is this technically possible?

K&L: Sorry, we can’t comment on our development plans for Reason!

MT: It would be ideal to combine functions of Figure and Take together into a single app. Is this something that could happen?

K&L: That’s exactly what our service does: making all our apps work together while keeping each app experience tailored to what you want to do. Keeping focus is very important to us when designing apps.

We believe combining things in one single app actually limits how good each experience is and who will want to use it. But putting them together using our sharing service gives you more than the sum of their parts.

MT: What tips would you offer to users of the Propellerhead service to really get the most out it?

K&L: Drop your music early and often. It’s free – don’t be bashful! And invite your friends to work on your pieces – it’s more fun to make music together.
Make sure you explore various pieces on Discover, and follow how they’ve been used, for what and by whom.

This is super inspiring and we bet you’ll open one up and contribute your own stuff before you’re through.

MT: Is mobile technology likely to replace desktop DAWs any time soon? As good as iPads are, most people still turn to the desktop machine for really serious production work, as evidenced by the fact that systems such as Propellerhead usually end up in a desktop project.

[Most pieces dropped to Propellerhead actually don’t end up in Reason—most collaborations happen between users of Figure and Take.]

K&L: We think that mobile and desktop platforms will keep co-existing. Some stuff is perfect to do on a mobile device, while others benefit from big screens and lightning fast processors. Think of it as like using your camera app, Instagram and Photoshop. Sometimes you want to go in and make it perfect and other times you just want to share.

MT: How do you think the internet and technologies like yours are changing the way people make music?

K&L: More people are making more music than ever before, and they’re having even more fun doing it. People now can participate who before didn’t have the means, skill, ambition or desire to. DAW users will now have tons more collaborators out there. It’s really starting to get to be fun.

MT: Do you plan on supporting mobile devices other than iOS devices?

K&L: We want everyone, regardless of platform, to be able to make music with our apps. Just like everyone else, we’ve been challenged by device fragmentation and latency on mobile platforms, but we hope we’ll be able to get there soon.

MT: Figure is very EDM-focused at the moment: would you like to see it, or a similar app, cater for more diverse musical styles?

K&L: Yes, Take is one way that we’re doing that! Stay tuned!

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