Linkin Park Teams up w/ Open Labs to Create New Software

Posted by: ♥ Pinky
on November 29th, 2012

The band just announced via their twitter account that the’ve teamed up with Open Labs to create StageLight, a music program. You can read all about it below as well as read what Mike Shinoda has to say about it.

The developers of new music software StageLight might describe their creation as “GarageBand for PCs,” but their real goal is actually more ambitious than that: They want StageLight to become the go-to music program for the Windows-using masses.

The $9.99 program, which will be announced today by Open Labs, is designed to appeal to all musicians, from novices who have never played an instrument to professionals looking for a simple method of bringing their creative ideas to life. StageLight‘s sleek design has been optimized for touchscreen displays, with an eye toward simplifying even the software’s most complex functions for musicians — at home, in the studio or onstage.

“Whether you play a musical instrument today or not, whether you’ve used some of these tools in the past or not, we are the easy way to create music — specifically on a PC,” said Jeff McMahon, Open Labs’ vice president of business development and strategy, in a phone interview with Wired.

While Windows dominates the desktop, Apple computers are still the machines of choice for musicians and other creative types. Recording studios invariably run ProTools on powerful Macs, and the introduction of GarageBand nearly a decade ago put streamlined music-making tools in the hands of anyone with an Apple.

Ever since then, the question has been asked: What’s a good PC alternative to GarageBand? There hasn’t been a good answer up until now, but if StageLight could capture the imagination of beginning musicians who use Windows machines, Open Labs could gain a foothold with the next generation of music makers.

To make it happen, the software company is working with leading PC manufacturer Dell and with Grammy-winning rockers Linkin Park. Open Labs, which is based in Austin, Texas, hopes to hook new users with instant gratification fueled by ease of use. It also plans to take a page from the videogame industry by selling an endless array of downloadable content to superfans, all while providing a clear pathway to Open Labs’ pro-level software, Music OS, which is being retooled to look more like StageLight. In that way, StageLight could serve as a sort of gateway drug for musicians getting into digital production.

“We’ve created a usable tool that teaches musicians and wannabe musicians essentially how to use a [digital audio workstation] interface,” said Open Labs product manager Matt Presley.

Wired has not tested StageLight but was given an online demo of the software prior to its announcement. As can be seen in the screenshots above, StageLight is designed to take advantage of the touchscreen-centric nature of Windows 8, although it works just fine with a standard QWERTY keyboard and mouse. Regular instruments like guitars or drums can be used as well, as long as the user’s computer has the the proper inputs. And StageLight can handle as many tracks as the composer’s hardware can handle hardware. (“The only limit is your CPU and your RAM,” said Presley.)

 

Linkin Park rapper/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda helped Open Labs tweak the user interface of StageLight into the slick, user-friendly version seen in the screenshots above. (You can download a free trial version of StageLight now.)

“If I’m brand new to this, I want something that’s intuitive,” Shinoda told Wired. “I want it to feel like a tablet. I want it to feel like something that, like, an 8-year-old could open it up and do it.”

The trick is making a complex and deceptively powerful piece of software feel simple, said Shinoda, who has a background in design and has used Open Labs’ Music OS and hybrid hardware creations for years to help him bridge the gap between the studio and the stage. He estimated that half his suggestions about StageLight came in the realms of user experience and user interface — and he’s happy with the results.

“If you were to compare the two side by-side, I think the UI of StageLight absolutely destroys Music OS,” he said.

StageLight is also engineered to do away with the setup hassles sometimes faced by PC users looking to make music with their computers. It’s set up to cater to each user’s level of experience in digital music creation. From the StageLight start screen, three paths are presented: Song Builder Lessons for beginners, Demo Project for advanced users and Fresh Start Project for pros. “A big part of where we differ from all of the other applications is that the Song Builder is going to guide you through what to do,” said Presley. “There is no reading the manual to figure it out.”

Both the Open Labs reps and Shinoda say StageLight has shined in user testing.

“We’ll grab people who have a basic knowledge of GarageBand, and they pick it up right away,” said Presley. “More impressively, we’ll take new users — and they’ll take a little more time, because it’s so new to them they want to dig and explore the interface — but all of them are able to make a basic eight-bar to 16-bar song that they can loop over and over again within five to 10 minutes.”

Such out-of-the-box usability honors Open Labs’ “core tenets,” said McMahon.

“First of all we want to make it fun, right? We don’t want to make it intimidating,” he said. “We want it to be fulfilling, so we want people to really be able to create something that’s usable in a short period of time. And we also want to make it social — to make the song available for sharing.” (Any music created in StageLight can be uploaded in one click to SoundCloud.)

And while Windows machines — including a Linkin Park Edition product line coming from Dell on Dec. 10 that will include StageLight software along with a library of customized sounds, loops and kits that will let users “create their own songs using signature sounds created by the band themselves” — are the first target, Open Labs has plans to expand to other platforms.

“The PC is a great place to start but that isn’t all we’re gonna do,” said McMahon, with tablet versions, and even mobile apps, possible in the future (a lack of processing power in these smaller devices is the major sticking point right now).

The instant accessibility promised by StageLight is one of the key factors that draws Shinoda to the project.

“The charge I get out of making music is like nothing else, right?” said Shinoda. “So, if we can give that to somebody … that’s a great first step for me. And if it ends there, fine. But for me, I love the feeling that this potentially can get people who have never really experienced that — that sensation of the excitement of creation. If it can give that to them, then I’d be really thrilled about that.”

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