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Public Enemy Bassist Brian Hardgroove to Open ‘World’s Biggest Audition’

"This is the world's biggest audition," said Hardgroove, speaking at Barcelona's Future Music Forum on Sept. 18.

Public Enemy bassist and producer Brian Hardgroove is teaming with Police alum Stewart Copeland and “digital jam” app WholeWorldBand to invite singers to collaborate on a track in five languages.

The two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will pick vocals submitted via the web-based app, which allows anyone to put up a song and let other people collaborate on it.

“This is the world’s biggest audition,” said Hardgroove, speaking at Barcelona’s Future Music Forum on Sept. 18. “We’re going to find singers in Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese. We’re inviting people to come and sing over the tracks on the app, and Stewart and I will select who we want.”

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The digital audition will open on Oct. 1, when more information will be posted at Vocalists selected will later perform at live shows with Hardgroove and Copeland, Hardgroove said.

Gibson Brands is also involved in the project. Harmony Central, a web site for musicians that the guitar manufacturer acquired earlier this year, will track the auditions’ progress and post notable entries on its YouTube channel. Hardgroove is a longtime Gibson artist.

“What’s exciting about this is the ability to use the internet to cast a net across the entire world and be able to hear and see the vocalists through WholeWorldBand as well as provide dialogue, discussion, and feedback through Brian’s forum on Harmony Central,” Craig Anderton, Gibson brands evp and the editorial director of Harmony Central, said in an email to Billboard. “There’s also some nervousness because nothing like this has been done before, so we have no idea what to expect — but that’s what makes it interesting.”

Sennheisser, another frequent Hardgroove collaborator on diverse music projects, will provide microphones for a presentation of the World’s Biggest Audition at the Namm Show in 2016, and possibly future performances that will include the chosen vocalists.

“For us, it’s not just about the equipment, it’s to be part of the the art,” Sennheisser’s David Missal said, connecting via Skype during Hardgroove’s keynote presentation at the Barcelona conference. “We thing that art and technology go hand in hand and we’re interested in partnering with great musicians [like Hardgroove] who are trying different things.”

Hardgroove hailed gear manufacturers as the “new record labels.”

“Manufacturers of instruments benefit from our loyalty to them, and they are healthy for one reason: because of what we do,” he told the crowd at Barcelona’s Antigua Fabrica Damm, a historic brewery turned concert and conference venue. “I’m using your gear, this is what I’m doing for you.

“With ‘sugar water’ companies, or whatever, you’ve got to taper yourself to the message of what they want,” he added. “If a company says, ‘I want to sponsor you but you can’t do this or that, I say ‘I don’t want what I don’t need.’”

Anderton, who also joined the conversation via Skype, noted that “different companies have different attitudes. At Gibson, there’s a real emphasis on taking care of the artist. We are primarily there to support what the artist needs…The artist can provide valuable feedback about a product [and] Gibson exposes the artist through YouTube channels and social media. [We perform] a publicity function that record companies used to do, but now it’s up to people like us. Our function is to raise the level of making music generally, and that’s something that record labels have forgotten.”

“Gibson never asks to control the art,” said Hardgroove. “Manufacturers are going to step into the role that’s been vacated by record labels. That to me is the future of music.”