OK, so Lady Gaga might not use Music Mastermind Inc.’s software to record her next album. But someone without much playing or recording experience can sing a melody into it and then turn that tune into a fully produced pop song.
How? The Calabasas company has developed an audio-processing technology called SoundBetter that helps people add background music to a vocal recording without ever having to pick up an instrument. The software using the SoundBetter technology, which will launch later this year, has investors paying the piper.
Music Mastermind announced last week that it raised $10.8 million in a funding round led by Intel Capital, the investment arm of Intel Corp., and telecom company Liberty Global Inc. That brings the company’s total funding to $15.8 million.
Bo Bazylevsky, president and chief operating officer, said in an e-mail that the company will use the recent funding to develop its software and launch its first product.
Music Mastermind, which has more than 40 employees, has been tightlipped about exactly how the new software will work. But after the company showcased an early prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2010, a Los Angeles Times review of the show said the software combined elements of music composition programs and music video games such as Activision Blizzard’s now-defunct “Guitar Hero.”
It works like this: A person sings into a computer microphone or special device and the program records and adjusts the song’s pitch. Then the person sings background vocals and mimics the sound of a background instrument, for example a drum, that the program turns into a real drum beat. The software can also generate background guitar and bass tracks to fit the tune.
Bazylevsky said Music Mastermind’s new software will be an updated version of what was shown at CES.
“The product we will launch later this year will have some similar elements to what was shown at CES,” he said, “but it will be a full evolution of our early prototype.”
The software will also include a feature that will let customers publish and share their music.
When the funding was announced last week, Dave Flanagan, managing director of investor Intel Capital, said the company was attracted to Music Mastermind’s technology because it allows people to create music in a new way.
“We believe that their products will help transform the way we think about music creation and interactive entertainment across PC, mobile and set-top platforms,” he said in a statement.
Music Mastermind didn’t provide a price range for the software.
It’s unlikely that people who want to start a career in music will use the company’s software, said Steve Cunningham, an assistant professor of practice in music industry at USC’s Thornton School of Music. But it could have value as an educational tool or as an entertainment product, drawing on the same audience that likes to pick up “Guitar Hero’s” plastic guitar and play the game with their favorite classic rock songs.
“It’s really interesting technology and, you know, it might generate more musicians,” he said. “But will professionals use it? Nah.”
Cunningham said lagging interest in music-based video games could hurt Music Mastermind’s chances for success. Activision Blizzard shuttered its “Guitar Hero” line in February and sales of “Rock Band,” from Cambridge, Mass., developer Harmonix Music Systems, have swooned.
“The ‘Rock Band’ and ‘Guitar Hero’ thing is pretty much done,” Cunningham said. “But if Music Mastermind’s product is good enough, you may see a resurgence.”
Bazylevsky, formerly a Wall Street bond trader, founded Music Mastermind in 2007 with Matt Serletic, a music producer and songwriter who won two Grammy Awards in 2000 for his work with guitarist Carlos Santana.
Bazylevsky said the pair wanted to develop a product that let anyone create music despite a lack of previous training.
“Music Mastermind was formed to break down barriers to creativity and give everyone the joy of creating and sharing their music,” he said.
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