Sheet Music Direct
Innovation: PlayAlong app
As the Internet continues to change industries and consumer behaviors, businesses are forced to find ways to adapt or risk losing revenue and customers. That was part of the motivation in 1997 when Hal Leonard Corp. and Music Sales Group formed Sheet Music Direct as the first provider of digital sheet music.
That venture, which was started before high-speed Internet, iTunes and streaming services, continues to search for ways to adapt to the new opportunities offered by technology. The latest version is its Sheet Music Direct PlayAlong iPad app.
In a world where YouTube tutorials and other websites offer versions of popular songs for free, the app seeks to distinguish itself through accuracy, features and promise for publishers and songwriters to receive their royalties.
“I think it’s exciting, too, that we as a business can stay a step ahead of what’s out there for free,” said Chris Koszuta, general manager of Sheet Music Direct.
The Milwaukee-based company began developing the concept for the app a few years ago. The idea of using printed sheet music with a backing track already existed as an interactive experience for musicians.
“We wanted to transform that into a cutting edge digital version,” Koszuta said.
It made sense to work with tablets because of their size and Koszuta said Sheet Music Direct had worked with Apple before, so the iPad and iOS platform were chosen.
The app is free to download and comes with a built-in music store. A complete song costs $4.99 per title. Users can get just the backing track for 99 cents and upgrade to the full song later for $3.99. The royalties on each song go back through the proper channels.
Through the beginning of April, there were roughly 1,500 songs available in the library and the number is growing every week. The library features contemporary hits along with popular older songs. Koszuta said the most frequent downloads are songs by Adele and Coldplay, but older songs by Lionel Richie and Bill Withers have also proven to be popular. Other available artists include the Beatles, the Eagles, Taylor Swift, Pink Floyd, Bruno Mars, Lynyrd Skynrd, One Direction, Frank Sinatra, Christina Perri and Queen.
The app works with 17 different instruments including piano, voice, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, accordion, flute, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet, horn, trombone, violin, viola and cello. The idea is to offer more than just which notes to play when.
“Our company mission has always been to help people learn and perform music better,” Koszuta said. “Sheet Music Direct PlayAlong allows us to continue on that path and use the latest music technology to help musicians of all levels sound amazing.”
Users can control the tempo, transpose parts of the song and loop certain portions. They can also record themselves, mix the resulting audio file, save it and then move it to Dropbox. Songs can also be organized into set lists or viewed as an entire library. There are other apps out there that offer some of the features PlayAlong has, but Koszuta said the goal was to go beyond most free offerings.
“What we wanted to do was take the top-end content and align it in a sophisticated offering,” he said.
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