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The Friday Five: Companies at the Core of Boston's SonicTech Cluster

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 20, 2009 07:15 AM

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The Friday Five is a list of five things worth knowing about... and a chance for you to build on the list and make it better by posting comments.

This week, it's the most influential companies in Boston's SonicTech cluster.

SonicTech is my term for all things music-related: tools, games, Web sites, marketing platforms. This list was triggered by two upcoming music-related events: Music Hack Day, on Saturday and Sunday at Microsoft NERD in Cambridge (it's sold out), and a much smaller "unconference" event that Charlie McEnerney of Musicians for Music 2.0 is organizing on December 1st in Harvard Square.

Here's my five:

    - Cakewalk: Hardware and software for recording garage bands as well as mega-stars. Boston, MA.
    - The Echo Nest: Helps record labels and musicians find bloggers who write about a given music genre, and analyze music itself to understand new trends and dynamics in the online music biz. Somerville, MA.
    - Harmonix Music Systems: Helped define the genre of music games with Karaoke Revolution (pictured in the image up top), Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. Cambridge, MA.
    - Nimbit: Helping musicians forge a new relationship directly with their fans, selling tickets to shows and CDs, managing mailing lists, and distributing music to iTunes. Framingham, MA.
    - MOTU: Like Cakewalk, makes hardware and software for digital recording studios. Best-known product is Digital Performer, software for recording, editing, and mixing audio; original version released was released on the Mac in 1985. Cambridge, MA.

What other companies do you see as instrumental parts (sorry, couldn't resist) of the SonicTech cluster around Boston? Post a comment, if you would...

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12 comments so far...
  1. Conduit Labs, Cambridge, MA

    The future of the music business: seamless integration of music discovery and social media

    (Full disclosure - I'm on the Board.)

    Posted by Steven Kane November 20, 09 08:44 AM
  1. Thanks for the shout out, Scott. Old music is a $5billion dischord. New music apps provide lively new harmonies. I have become an EchoNest board member - this is why.

    Posted by Don McLagan November 20, 09 09:41 AM
  1. I would add Conduit Labs (Loudcrowd), Sonicbids, the list.

    Posted by Keith Cline, VentureFizz November 20, 09 09:51 AM
  1. 8tracks - a way to build and share playlists that people can listen to legally. It's launching a new API at Music Hack Day. (Full disclosure - I work with an 8tracks partner.)

    Posted by Lynda Radosevich November 20, 09 11:09 AM
  1. You have to add Noteflight, out of Central Square. Compositions in the cloud.

    Posted by Daniel Katcher, Rocket Farm Studios November 20, 09 02:21 PM
  1. Noteflight, Cambridge MA, has applied the cloud computing model to the creation and sharing of notated music. We're participating in Music Hack Day too. (Yet another full disclosure - I'm the founder.)

    Posted by Joe Berkovitz November 20, 09 03:11 PM
  1. Thanks for the shout out, Scott. We're all thrilled at how well Music Hack Day Boston has come together. It should be an exciting weekend.

    Here are a few more companies to add to the list: Conduit Labs, Tourfilter, Bandsintown, Noteflight, MixApp, Bose and Sonos also has a presence here. You could also count PRX, though they're not strictly music.

    Posted by Jon Pierce November 20, 09 03:38 PM
  1. I would add Dympol (Cambridge, MA) to the list. With Dympol, you get cash-back rebates on your music purchases, musicians receive bonuses, and brand marketers get connected with consumers. Plus, their CEO is a rock star. Literally. (Full disclosure -- I've worked on their patent portfolio.)

    Posted by Kerry Kurian, Kixia November 20, 09 05:47 PM
  1. DYMPOL, based in Cambridge, MA and VT, joins brand marketers and consumers through sponsored discounts of online music purchases. (Disclosure - I've signed on as an Advisor)

    Posted by John Piekos November 20, 09 05:48 PM
  1. Some more: SonicBids,NextCat,ZebraTickets,TicketStumblr,LoudCity,MixApp.

    Posted by chris Marstall November 20, 09 10:41 PM
  1. And another: Allston's PureVolume/Virb, a MySpace-
    like tool for musicians

    Posted by Chris Marstall November 21, 09 08:10 AM
  1. Thanks so much for posting this Scott and for others' comments. I've been in a lot of conversations lately about bringing together the SonicTech cluster in concerted (no pun intended) way to address their needs as businesses and see what the State can do in collaboration to grow the sector in MA. We're still in the planning stages, but if folks are interested in participating please email me at!

    Posted by Jason Schupbach November 23, 09 12:36 PM


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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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