When Mater Dei High School issued iPads to every student last year, the music department began looking for a way to integrate the device into the classroom.
That’s when the Santa Ana Catholic school found Chromatik, a Santa Monica music technology startup that had yet to launch its first product. But Chromatik was developing software for musicians to download sheet music to their computers or iPads, make notations, record themselves playing and then send those recordings to others.
By the end of summer 2011, Chromatik had more than 300 Mater Dei music students testing the free software for practicing their lessons at home and sending recordings to their teachers.
“It was really interesting to see the app being used in a classroom on a daily basis,” said Matt Sandler, Chromatik’s co-founder and chief executive. “It was worth testing the product to see if it had viable scale.”
Chromatik – which is named for the 12-tone chromatic musical scale – launched its software to the public last month. In the year and a half since it was first used at Mater Dei, it has raised $2 million in funding from a range of technology and music investors, including pop artist Bruno Mars, and it has signed customers such as UCLA, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the “American Idol” backup band.
Chromatik, which is free to use online or download to an iPad, allows musicians to upload digital versions of sheet music, including chord changes, guitar tablature and lesson books. Once in the system, that music can be used for practicing, recording what you play and sending it to other musicians for critique.
The company could eventually monetize its customers by selling sheet music, instructional information or advanced performing and recording tools.
Although Los Angeles is a hub of the music recording industry and wannabe musicians, there are few technology startups in the region focused on building products for musicians. Chromatik provides an update of the relatively fixed process of practicing and performing music, said Sam Teller, managing director of Santa Monica accelerator and investor Launchpad LA.
“We’re seeing a lot more being done around video than around music,” said Teller, who’s Launchpad LA has mentored and invested in Chromatik. “Music is a really challenging business to break into. The way that people play and practice music hasn’t changed in centuries.”
Music, of course, is at the center of Chromatik. In fact, the company’s co-founders built a small recording studio in the office on Second Street in Santa Monica in a hub of tech startups. The company has 12 employees.
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