Ian Cox (DigiClef) – Interview (Part 1)

I have the immense pleasure to share with you the interview I conducted wth Ian Cox from DigiClef, one of the companies that were chosen for this year’s’ MidemNet Lab event. Part 1 is found below, and this is part 2.


Full Name: Ian Cox
Age: 38
Startup: DigiClef
Position: Technical Director



Tell us a little about your startup. How was it conceived? What are its most distinctive features in your opinion?

DigiClef was conceived by Will Lovegrove and I, founder members of Release Consulting Ltd. Release Consulting was formed at the beginning of 2008 by members of Universal Music’s Digital Initiatives team. We provide IT services and consultancy to the music industry. Later that year we started a new initiative called Release Mobile that provides bespoke mobile application development. Will had the idea one day to provide guitar music on iPhones. As a guitarist myself, I instantly realised the potential of this idea and so embarked upon a proof of concept that eventually became the early version of DigiClef.

As well as the technological challenge there has been a business challenge in getting hold of content from copyright owners. We have partnered with Faber Music using their ePartners programme to get European rights for major publishers. This catalogue has formed the basis of our initial releases. We hope to extend this to worldwide rights in the near future.

In the guitar tab on mobile devices space there aren’t many serious competitors. Where DigiClef differs from is that we are selling legal content and giving away the technology for free where as competitors are selling the application but you have to hunt for your own content on the internet. By keeping the price of the content low and guaranteeing quality (as these are official tabs) we hope to provide a compelling offering for the guitarist.

What was the original launch date?

Our first songbook (The Magic Numbers eponymous album) was published on iTunes on 1st September 2009. We have since launched about 20 songbooks for major bands. We have also launched a free app worldwide called Easy Guitar Buddy that is going to provide educational material to guitarists.

What has been the response so far? In which countries has it been more successful?

There has been a slow but steady flow of sales of the paid for apps. But bearing in mind that so far we have a very small catalogue and have not actively marketed the applications we are encouraged. We believe that once we reach a critical mass of catalogue and have completed all our planned updates that we will have a valuable offering.

The response for Easy Guitar Buddy has been way above our expectation with almost 40000 downloads so far. I think this really shows that there is an appetite out there for tools to help musicians on mobile devices.

What can those who attend the MidemNet Lab event expect to see?

You can expect to get an understanding of how DigiClef works and to see how DigiClef can help guitarists and music publishers alike. For those that are interested I will also be taking along the latest version as a sneak preview.

What features can we expect to see implemented in future revisions?

Coming up very shortly we have:
•    Audio playback. Listen to the notes as you play the app. This really helps the learning process.
•    An integrated fretboard which highlights the notes as the song plays.
•    More free educational material such as licks and scales added to the Easy Guitar Buddy.

This will be followed by:

•    iTunes integration. Play along with songs in your music library.
•    Migration to a storefront business model. We will have just one app but the content can be purchased within the app.
•    An expanded catalogue.
•    Rollout to other mobile devices.

There is a certain tendency to demonize the Internet in the music industry. I think it is all a matter of perspective – it all depends on the uses it is put to. What is your opinion? In which areas has the Internet left an unquestionably positive mark?

I think the internet has enabled grass roots musicians to really connect with each other regardless of geographical location. There is a large and vibrant collaborative community out there which I think is really wonderful.

More music is listened to now than ever and I believe this is largely due to the internet coupled with excellent new playback devices. This can’t be a bad thing. The challenge for the music industry is in changing its business model to make the most out of this huge interest in music. I think we are seeing that now with free services such as Spotify and the removal of DRM from many online stores.

For the music publishing industry I think DigiClef represents one of these new ways of working that could help increase revenues and also benefit the consumer.

What advice could you give to anybody who is launching a music-related startup in the future? What are the obvious mistakes that should be avoided?

•    Be prepared to work hard.
•    Don’t underestimate how long it can take to deal with music companies.
•    Copyrights and royalties are very complicated beasts.
•    Try and connect with your customer as early as possible.
•    Believe in your product.

Continue to Part 2: “Music & You”