audio, music, sound design

Pump Audio – a truly fantastic tool

Pump Audio Logo

I am going to do a presentation about new media for Universal Music in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to ask them some questions about what I bring up in this article…

So you want a huge selection of music for your professional productions? Not stock music but something from quality artists. Uncompressed and with no DRM. Cheap and with a simple license model? And you want a fantastic search tool for all that music? And help when filling in the cue sheets? And updates to your library as new music is released? Look no further. I have found the solution. But stuff that is truly great usually solves a problem. So I’ll start with the problem.

I have been working as a professional sound designer and editor. An important part of that job was to find, edit and use music as a part of the sound track. Work that includes a well developed interest for and knowledge of music. Hours spent at the music library listening to CDs. Looking for that perfect track. The right genre, mood and tempo.

Actually walking to the library of music at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, bringing huge amounts of plastic CDs back to the editing suite seems like a pretty old fashioned way of doing things. Still, that’s the way it is done most places even today.

Now, fill in your suggestion for a web site or service that provide a huge catalog of professional music. Uncompressed and with no DRM. For use by professionals that edit television shows and documentaries. Yes, uncompressed and with no DRM. Because that is the only files that can be used with good enough quality in all kinds of editing software.

If I want to use the latest album from Rammstein in my production. And I find plastic CDs awkward, slow and not very practical. What’s the alternative? Actually I don’t know any alternatives. But I am not completely updated on this scene and maybe there are services out there that I don’t know of.

Or have the music industry completely forgotten the professionals?
Or do they think that the professionals will stick with plastic and don’t want anything else?

Okay. So I have spent my time at the music library. Found my Rammstein track. Included it in my documentary. Filled in the cue sheets (the paper that states what music and how much I have used). The record labels and the unions have systems so we can pay for use in the documentary that will be broadcasted in Norway.

Now I want to make that documentary available on the internet.
New documents. New payment. Then I want to make it available as a video podcast. New documents. More payment. Or maybe a simple: “Sorry, you can’t do that”. Video podcasts are unencrypted. You can’t distribute your production unencrypted with that Rammstein track in it. No go.

At this point I guess you understand where I am heading.

I have a problem with the current model.
Slowly the music industry has understood that people want their music delivered through online services. We now have a couple of options like the iTunes Music store and similar offers. But they’re completely useless for professionals.

Low quality, encryption and a very difficult business model make me look for alternatives. Good bye Rammstein and all other music on big labels. Welcome Pump Audio!

Founded in 2001, Pump Audio is a new kind of agent for independent musicians, digitally connecting them with buyers in the mainstream media. With Pump Audio, artists can license their music into productions without giving up any ownership, while TV and advertising producers can discover new music ready for use. With a growing catalog of tens of thousands of songs, all by independent artists from around the world, customers access music through Pump’s innovative search software and delivery device, the PumpBox™.

The system is simple. You contact Pump Audio. You get a 300 GB external Pump Audio hard drive on your desk after a couple of days. The PumpBox. You start using it. And OMG what a fantastic system. The disk contains thousands of tracks. Instrumental, and with lyrics and huge amounts of readymade stingers (small tracks of just a couple of seconds for use in transitions etc). Everything is unencrypted, uncompressed and of very high quality.

The business model is simple and easy to understand.
You don’t pay anything for the disk. You pay for the music that you use. And here comes the nice part: a flat fee pr. second of music used. Then, broadcast, stream, podcast and do nearly whatever you want. One price for editorial use, another for commercials. Simple as that.

Then, add the fact that they have made the search tool from heaven.
Search by genre, mood, tempo and instruments. Because the database and music is on the drive a search is nearly instand and serves you tracks to listen to at once.

Here is a quick video I made showing the search system. Featuring some music from Pump. I start the search tool for instrumental music. Do a search for some fast, agressive industrial techno or indie rock music. Then I do a search for some more positive blues or jazz. And ends it with a search for some blues and jazz stingers.

Then, add the fact that they have made a system that lets you create the cue sheets automatically. Simply feed the Final Cut or Avid edit list into the system and your list of music used in that production is calculated.

What about updates? Well, they are working on a system for online updates of your PumpBox with new music.

You can read more about Pump Audio in this article over at Wired.com.

…and remember to use the comments to fill in the service that gives me big label music in a similar deal.