Monday, April 5, 2010

Instant jam session- just add iPhone

Musicians, have you ever felt the urge to have a jam session with some friends, to try out new ideas, or just commune with the muse, but found it too much hassle to get everyone together?  Well, check out LaDiDa, a new iPhone app that applies some old technology in new ways, to let you throw an instant "pickin' party."

Years ago, when I was playing a lot as a singer-songwriter, I missed the sound of a full band, and the chemistry of trying out new ideas instantly.  Digital recording systems are great, but they are very solitary affairs, and require you to not only know how to play your instruments, but also those of the musicians you are replacing with a computer (usually the drummer).

A clever piece of software called Band in a Box (PC only) used pre-programmed styles and (terrible) MIDI sound files to provide a backing band, complete with notation and arrangement options, but you had to do at least a little pre-planning, entering the number of measures, chord changes, tempo, key, and style for the program to do it's thing.

LaDiDa is different.  You hum.  That's it.  Literally hum into your iPhone, and LaDiDa figures out everything else on the fly, as you can see in the video.  Very, very, very impressive.  I'm curious to see if it responds to instruments as well as voice.  But even if not, it gives you a great starting point as a songwriter, allowing you to make changes on the fly, and it also gives you motivation to finish the song, since you can easily imagine how great it will sound when complete.

Check it out, and post some feedback of your experience here on this post.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Futures of Hollywood

A sample of movie futures soon to be on offer from the Cantor Exchange.
The Hollywood Stock Exchange has been around for 15 years.  It's a game where players bet on the "securities" of Hollywood properties, including make-believe stocks, bonds, and even derivatives.  In a truth-stranger-than-fiction move, Cantor-Fitzgerald, a Wall Street investment brokerage and consultancy, bought the HSX.  And now they are hoping to make reality out of fiction.

On April 20, 2010, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) expects to tell Cantor whether they will allow the new company, called the Cantor Exchange, to actually trade movie titles as securities (specifically, as futures).  This means we'll all be able to bet, literally, on whether a movie will make money or not.

This is an interesting twist on the "internal prediction markets" that are happening at companies like Google, who run an exchange to bet on the delivery dates and health of a particular project or product.  Movie returns have always been wildly unpredictable, so it will be interesting to see if commercializing our predictions adds any accuracy, and really makes anyone money (other than the Cantor Exchange, which takes a cut of every transaction), or, if William Goldman was right when he famously said, "Nobody knows anything."

If, like me, you predicted that Hot Tub Time Machine would have stunk up the box office, well, you probably would have lost your retirement fund.  Who knew?