It doesn’t hurt for a startup still in private beta to onboard a national television show like American Idol as one of its early users and testers. Santa Monica, CA-based Chromatik did just that in May 2012 when BetaKit covered the company last, and today it announced the public launch of its web and iPad application geared towards practicing, performing, and learning music. It now also counts the Los Angeles Unified School District, and hundreds of K-12 and higher education institutions like UCLA as users. Not to mention the backing band of musician Bruno Mars, who also came on board as an investor earlier this year in addition to 500 Startups and Launchpad LA, who together put $2 million into the company.
“The way that we go about teaching, practicing, and performing music hasn’t changed since the days of Bach and Beethoven. The problem behind that is that music is inherently social and collaborative, but the way you practice is you go into a room by yourself with a piece of paper, pencil, and instrument and we hope you come back playing beautiful music,” Chromatik’s co-founder and CEO Matt Sandler told BetaKit in an interview. “The idea behind [Chromatik] is that we provide the tools…ranging from sheet music you read all the way through lyrics, tablature, chord changes, audio, and whatever you may need to practice from.”
The app is aimed at everyone from elementary school students, to amateur musicians, to professional orchestras. Users can upload sheet music, annotate it like they would hard copy sheet music, record and listen to themselves playing, and lastly export those practice sessions and share with others. In most cases that would be instructors and peers, who can then comment and provide feedback, making it a full suite for musical practice and performance in a collaborative setting. “We don’t want you to feel like you’re sitting in a practice room by yourself anymore, you need a way to interact with others around the content you’re learning and practicing on a regular basis,” Sandler said.
The app is available to download for free, and Sandler said they have several monetization plans in mind, though he declined to share any details. “Musicians spend a tremendous amount of money on both content and instruction so we’ll be monetizing in a variety of ways around that,” he said.
With startups like JoyTunes, Rock Prodigy and Songsterr increasingly digitizing the music learning process, the company is clear about its place in the mix, and Sandler said that rather than being a provider of instructional material, it is instead focused on being a collaborative practice and performing tool that can better connect students with teachers, peers and each other. In that respect it goes up against companies like MakeMusic and MisoMedia, and of course offline instructors who might not use online tools to help their students practice.
“When we think of Chromatik, we’re not an instruction platform, there’s so much great content out there, instructional content specifically, that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. We are a performance and collaboration company,” Sandler added.
As part of the web and iPad launch, the company has also partnered with band GroupLove. Chromatik will receive a playlist of the band’s sheet music and tablature, so that they may record themselves and submit their music to the band for a chance to get direct feedback from the band. It also will be announcing a major partnership down the road which Sandler said would give the startup the ability to provide a great deal more instructional content for users to engage with. With high-profile celebrities and national media attention behind them, the startup is poised to make some noise and disrupt how music is both taught and made.