Billboard Latin Music Conference Panel: 'Liquid' Songs App Means Endless Possibilities with Jorge Drexler's Music

Singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler showcases the "n" app during Billboard's Latin Music Conference (Michael Seto)

Speakers:
Jacobo Bergareche, CEO, Wake App
Jorge Drexler, Singer/Songwriter
Anton Reixa, president, SGAE

A mix between an app, video game and mp3, “n,” is an interactive musical creation that allows users to create an infinite amount of variations on Academy award-winning singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler's music. This cutting-edge, user-collaborative app was a hit at SXSW last month and was the focus of the “Liquid Songs” lecture today.

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Making up for time lost to a previous presentation, Anton Reixa, president of SGAE (General Society of Authors and Publishers, a Spain-based private company that protects the intellectual property rights of artists), began his panel swiftly. Introducing the two other speakers, Jacobo Bergareche, CEO of Wake App (a bourgeoning technology company that merges musicianship with apps for smartphones,) and musician Jorge Drexler, Reixa -- in his thick Castilian accent -- gave an overview of how the music industry has tried to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the listener’s experience.

“Nothing has changed [with regards to] the end-user experience; they still press play, pause, stop,” said Bergareche. The “n” platform, however, gives users the ultimate control on the outcome of the song. Due to music industry's precipitous decline (from $14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion in 2009), music executives have long been hustling to keep the revenue stream flowing. Bergareche feels the “song-as-app” concept presents a revolutionary new product to the music industry, with new income potential. 

Uruguayan singer Drexler, who is also a trained medical doctor with a love of science, was the perfect fit for the artistry-meets-technology concept of “n.” Drexler asked if the audience was familiar with Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same.”

“Well in this case it doesn’t,” joked Drexler. Since the cavemen, language has been set to rhythms, explained Drexler. But, as he pointed out, the art of songcraft has always been in flux. The format the song is presented in changes the song’s content. He cited the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper as an example, an album that had direct interface with each of the record’s songs, and Michael Jackon’s “Thriller,” which came with a visual component strongly intertwined with the essence of the song.

“n,” is the next step in that evolution, according to Drexler.  “n,” is not entirely random, each version begins the same, with two strangers meeting in a hotel room by the number 316. The users though will get to decide what happens in this chance rendezvous. With over 2.9 x 10 to the 27th power -- that's a lot of zeros -- possible outcomes, Drexler stated, “It’s the closest to infinity I’ve been to in my life.” 

Drexel then sang a few verses from the song, with the app itself playing behind him.  Upon pressing play, the user chooses between multiple verses that come spiraling and growing in size from a sphere-like object.  Drexler here sang each choice live and random though they were; each verse somehow came together logically.  The user can save then save their creation and share it on social media.

There are also two more interactive songs, titled “n2” and “n3”.  “n2” uses GPS to locate the user’s location and then develops regional instruments to construct a song. The consumer can choose which instruments are used as well.  “n3,” gives the user the opportunity to pick the singer, one of the options being Rene Perez from Calle 13.  

The gifted Drexler views the “n” app as more than just an mp3, but a completely new experience for both the songwriter and the fan. “Everyone wants authority over something, here the songwriter gives the end-user the ability to craft the song, and make of it what they wants, put a seal on the song,” explained Drexler.