When we first caught up with BandLab – a cloud-based music creation and collaboration platform – the project was in its infancy. A lot has happened since early 2013, so a catchup is long overdue.
One notable change during the last 5 years has been the closure of JamHub, which originally developed BandLab with Singaporean agribusiness heir Kuok Meng Ru. The idea behind the free-to-use platform was that folks interested in making music together no longer had to gather in a single location to bounce ideas around and work on new material.
BandLab users tapped into the power of the internet so that it didn't matter if the drummer lived miles away from the bass player while the guitarist lived somewhere inbetween – all could log into a virtual space and build songs together, using hardware interfaces to upload different parts to a shared multi-track project.
The platform is designed with ease of use in mind so those new to music production can smoothly sail through idea sketching and project creation, while also including enough to keep seasoned creatives engaged. It combines an online DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) suite with cloud storage and a collaborative community. Tools include a MIDI editor, an arsenal of pre-built loops and virtual instruments, AudioStretch transcription capabilities, a looper/rhythm maker that includes sample packs with 24 loops in each, and automated mastering.
Now with over 4 million users from more than 190 countries, the service is being used to make a million songs every month. Though collaborating online has been at the center of the BandLab universe for some time, working on the same session at the same time has only recently launched in beta. More than a dozen individual musicians can each work on their tracks in a single session simultaneously, making timezone and border issues a thing of the past.
Last year, BandLab launched its hardware division – BandLab Machines – with the first device being an in-house instrument interface for smartphones. The Link Analog features a combo instrument/XLR jack input, 3.5 mm headphone output and 3.5 mm TRRS speaker output and comes supplied with a shielded TRRS cable. The built-in 350 mAh battery is good for up to 8 hours of use between charges over USB and it tips the scales at a weighty 378 g (13 oz) so that it doesn't just fly off the coffee table along with your smartphone when the instrument cable gets a tug.
And digital USB audio interfaces are on the way too. The Link Digital and Link Digital Duo both feature 48 V phantom power for microphones, with the Duo rocking simultaneous two channel recording as well.
Also in 2017, Tip Jar was added to the platform, allowing fans to financially support favorite musicians via the Stripe payment system.
BandLab bought acclaimed music production software Cakewalk from Gibson Brands earlier this year, stripped away its subscription model and made it a "pay as you like" affair. "Cakewalk has been an industry leader in professional music software, delivering cutting edge technology that has empowered producers and artists alike around the world for more than 30 years," said Kuok Meng Ru in February. "We are pleased to be supporting Cakewalk's passionate community of creators to ensure they have access to the best possible features and music products under the BandLab Technologies banner."
In July, a version of BandLab designed to unleash creativity in the classroom was launched, allowing students and teachers to make music together. Teachers can set tasks for students in their own virtual classroom space, keep track of progress and grade work. BandLab for Education will work with any internet-connected OS X, Windows, Linux or Chrome device and, again, the platform is free to use.
BandLab has steadily increased the size of its family over the years to now include a major stake in Rolling Stone magazine, ownership of Harmony Guitars, the Swee Lee music store, and the Mono instrument accessory studio. Music industry readables Music Tech and The Guitar Magazine are on the way in, too.
BandLab says that the future of music making is mobile, and its mission "to break down the technical, geographic and creative barriers between creators, collaborators and the music community" shows no sign of slowing down. The software is free to download, and works on Windows, OS X, Android and iOS devices.
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