Israel’s MeCanto pioneers a technology that lets you stream your entire music collection via your mobile device, while protecting music rights and promoting sales.
Convergence is all the rage these days, but despite the “urge to converge” – and engineer the various devices that we use for communication, entertainment and information into a single device – one major component of the computing/technology mix has been left behind. That would be your desktop computer, and the music collection you’ve built up on it. However, Israeli startup MeCanto has a solution – in the form of a unique technology that allows you to stream all your music to your cell phone.
“It’s a boon for both consumers and the music business,” MeCanto CEO Uri Keren tells ISRAEL21c. Users get to hear the music on their PCs – the music they legally own – anywhere they like, via their cell phone devices, while music companies will finally have a technology that will allow them to earn money from streaming music.
“The music companies have finally come to realize that the old sales model – where they made money off the sales of CDs – is gone, and they are ready to embrace new models,” Keren declares. “Our platform offers a proven model that can help companies distribute their music profitably,” he says, adding that the idea of duplicating the computer entertainment experience on a mobile device was one of the things that inspired MeCanto.
Until now, says Keren, the home computer has been at the heart of digital music. You would store your MP3s on your PC and upload them to your iPods and digital music players.
Sign up and start listening
Applications like iTunes were created to help manage music, providing playlists, album information and more, but it was a lot of work, with numerous decisions about which songs you wanted to listen to, how to set them up in a playlist, and so on. Then you had to tether your device to your computer, and decide how much of your collection to download to it. Granted, some devices have lots of storage space – there are iPods with 160 GB of space, for example – but these days many of us have even bigger music collections.
MeCanto eliminates all those issues, claims Keren. You sign up, begin uploading your music to the MeCanto servers, and start listening. Once you install the application on your PC it starts streaming your music to your cell phone directly from the computer. When your music is uploaded, the stream comes from your secure account on the MeCanto servers (so you don’t have to keep your computer switched on while you listen to streaming music).
Using the MeCanto cell phone application, anytime and anywhere you like, you can play back the music you uploaded on your device, using its WIFI or 3G Internet connection, says Keren. And of course you can log into your MeCanto account on the Internet to log into your uploaded music and even listen to it on another PC on the other side of the world.
For cell phone companies, the MeCanto platform provides them with new ways to earn money from streaming music by offering customers server space for their music collections, and it also provides music companies with the opportunity to offer new music services to customers – like providing unlimited streaming of music over cell phones using a dedicated platform, and offering online sales of tracks, a la the iTunes store.
Protecting music rights
“There are other applications that offer streaming music, but all of them have problems that MeCanto resolves,” asserts Keren. “I personally like Spotify, which lets users stream music from their servers. But it takes them years to negotiate content deals in each country they operate in, and they are still not represented in the US. Then there are the applications that use the web to stream music collections through browsers, but you have to share resources with other web applications – and in addition, it’s not a model phone service providers and music companies can use to earn money.
“MeCanto is the only service that protects music rights and promotes music sales for music companies, providing them with a platform they can use to reach consumers – music is accessible only via the owner of the music with no distribution and sharing capabilities – while providing users with a solid, dedicated application to listen to their streaming music,” he claims.
In addition to the streaming service, the platform includes a recommendation engine that allows music companies to promote sales according to taste and listening habits. MeCanto also integrates with social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to allow users to share their choices and playlists, without infringement of intellectual properties. And companies are beginning to notice MeCanto’s unique features. The application was recently awarded first place at this year’s Nokia Developer’s Contest, and MeCanto was chosen to present at a major upcoming Microsoft tech event.
Currently MeCanto is available as a native application for iPhones, Symbian platform phones, and Android platform phones. “We have tens of thousands of users in 127 countries around the world,” Keren reveals, adding that they are developing native applications for other phone platforms as well. “We eventually intend to develop a native version of MeCanto for nearly all the phones out there.”
Pioneers in both product and place
Besides being a pioneer in the area of streaming music, MeCanto, which Keren established in 2007, is a pioneer in its choice of location. It’s one of the few high-tech companies situated on a kibbutz. MeCanto’s eight-strong development team has its offices on Kibbutz Sa’ar, near Nahariya in northern Israel. You may have heard of Sa’ar – it’s the kibbutz where comedian Jerry Seinfeld worked as a volunteer at the age of 15 in 1970.
Still mostly an agricultural community, according to Keren, Sa’ar’s “country feeling” encourages creativity by allowing developers to focus on their work without the usual urban distractions. “Our staff lives in communities near the kibbutz, choosing to move out of the center of the country in order to live a more relaxed lifestyle, so they were very happy to find that we were operating in the area,” he says. MeCanto is an outgrowth of a project by a software company called Monfort that is also located on the kibbutz, so Sa’ar was already known as a place where high-tech workers could find jobs.
So far, all the money MeCanto has raised has come from private investors (MeCanto’s owners and Monfort), but now that it’s expanding, Keren says the company is seeking VC investments. The first “port” of the MeCanto platform for a phone company should appear in a matter of months, Keren projects.
“With MeCanto’s success, we hope that many other innovators – and entrepreneurs – will see the north as a viable alternative to the crowded cities of the center of the country. In this way we are doing our part to help bring talented people to the periphery of the country, thereby strengthening these areas and helping to raise the standard of living for everyone around here,” Keren says.
He expects the coming year to be a year of great changes in the music industry – changes that MeCanto is ready to take advantage of, by growing the company and helping to usher the music business into the 21st century.