Music Tech Fest - Day 2

The second day of the amazing Music Tech Fest was full of surprises. Here are some of our highlights including new instruments such as The Seaboard Grand, music economy inspiration from Brazil, performances and very practical band help. All the while Music Hackers were mixing top bands’ stems, cocktails, and coding. Our report from Music Tech Fest - Day 1 is here.

The Seaboard Grand Instrument - “It’s really weird, it’s brilliant!”

The Seaboard Grand instrument has been exciting musicians and technologists alike, with its malleable, expressive keyboard that features individual effects for each key. It’s made by ROLI Labs who say it “bridges the gap between acoustic and digital music by putting the control of pitch, volume and timbre right at your fingertips”.

The idea is that instead of losing a hand to the pitch wheel, you can change pitch, timbre and the rest, through pressure, explained ROLI’s Head of Technology, Jean-Baptiste Thiebaut. Jean-Baptiste studied composing and computer science, and is a founder member of Music Hackspace.

Jamie Cullum - “A sensory experience between piano and food”.

The Seaboard sound is quite different and extraordinary, a cross between keys and strings at times. We heard it demonstrated on everything from Satie, played live by Hao Chen, to Jamie Cullum’s electronic experimentation in a video made by Riff Raff Films.

We loved watching Jamie exploring, playing and prodding and going all Aphex Twin as he got increasingly interesting music out of it. He described the experience beautifully.

“It’s really weird, it’s brilliant!” Jamie said. “A sensory experience between piano and food”.

Andrew Dubber - Music For Social Change

Andrew Dubber is a Professor of Music Industry Innovation, writer, producer and on the board of advisors for Bandcamp. He talked about the Music Basti music project in New Delhi, that educates street kids and enabled them to record an album. In Columbia and Venezuela ex gang members have been setting up afterschool music programmes, despite the dangers involved in keeping kids out of the clutches of criminals.

The most eye-opening initiative he talked about though was Brazil’s Fora Do Eixo - a whole economy and currency based around independent music. With huge distances to cover, it was hard to set up an indie music sector and there was no money to pay musicians, especially for touring.

Musicians collaborated to “build something mighty” he explained. They started by gig swapping, and grew a barter economy style network, bringing in labels, studios and festivals. They now have their own currency, ratified by the Bank of Brazil, and a lot of bands have health care that they did not have before.

For every dollar spent in the indie sector, six dollars are generated in economic outcome, making the whole scheme sustainable. There is now a bank, university and political party.

“The value of the music is not just the price, but the power to create meaning for human beings”.

Andrew has published a great e-book called The 360 Deal full of tips for musicians from industry leaders, to raise money for Music Basti.

Meta-ex - Live Music Hacking

Meta-ex took ‘Live Hacking’ to new levels. The duo, Sam Aaron and Jonathan Graham, make ‘open-source’ electronic music by live coding and generating sounds in real time. It’s all built on an open-source platform, Overtone. Their kit includes Korg Nano Series MIDI Controllers and Monomes - adaptable minimalist interfaces - as well as laptops. They perform everywhere from music and tech festivals to club nights.

DizzyJam - on-demand band merchandise

We loved hearing about Dizzyjam, who offer on-demand band merch, and were part of the Technology Strategy Board Fast Track Showcase. Merch is a perpetual problem for bands - having too many or too few t-shirts, and the wrong sizes in stock. It’s also hard for a new band to stump up money for a bulk order. Dizzyjam has an easy-upload no minimum order system and looks like a winner to us. You can even throw in an MP3 download to the purchaser.


Crewsdon’s new instrument was a real work of wonder. An LED Sampler MIDI Squeezebox is our best attempt at a description, and we heard some super phat bass. This piece of kit was so new he hadn’t got a name for it and was asking for suggestions. We offered up “Squizzi”, but maybe “SquIDI” might be more appropriate.

Cocktail-making Robot - MusicBrainz founder Robert Kaye’s Bartendro

When we visited the Music Hack Camp there was a lot of serious hacking going on, ready for the next day’s awards. In one corner though, we saw furrowed brows, due to a pretty tough technical problem that was holding up the Bartendro cocktail hour.

The local Tesco didn’t have the right tropical cocktail ingredients and limes were a real issue. In the end the hacking mindset won through and the menu was tweaked to make best use of local produce.

Bartendro is made by Party Robotics, and is designed to give you the perfect cocktail every time. Wifi ordering means you can choose a stronger or bigger cocktail and then it’s one click and your cocktail gets made.

We can report that the Mudslide, slid down very well.