Music recommendation system in works

Promises consumers a precise method to discover music

LONDON -- The inventors of the MP3 format are offering an enhanced music recommendation and multimedia content system they claim will become just as universally accepted.

With offices in Germany, Norway, China and India, Bach Technology's solution is centered on its Bach Music DNA, which became commercially available earlier this year.

The system promises digital music stores and portals more precise methods for customers to discover and recommend new music, plus interactive multimedia content that is not just tied to albums, as with Apple's new iTunes LP multimedia content.

Bach's credentials stems from its co-founders: company president Dagfinn Bach pioneered the MP3's music application, while CEO Stefan Kohlmeyer is a veteran of German media giant Bertelsmann. Bach's technology partner is Germany's Fraunhofer IDMT (Institute for Digital Media Technology), where the MP3 was invented. Investors include Karlheinz Brandenburg, the MP3's inventor, and Shigeo Maruyama, ex-CEO at Sony Music Entertainment.

"Last year, music recommendation was difficult to sell," Kohlmeyer tells "This year, everyone wants it. But every retailer has the same products, which are millions of tracks, and price points. And because their consumers are using the same old search methods, they are finding it difficult to access music they want."

A solution is for Bach Music DNA to analyze consumers' music choices and help them find precisely what they want at a digital store or in their own digital music collection. The technology offers 13 "descriptors" (description categories), ranging from genre, mood, tempo, and aggressiveness to density, to help pin down the type of music wanted.

Established recommendation services like Pandora or use "collaborative filtering" by relying on both technology and human editors; others are based on music-purchasing behavior. Bach argues that digital retailers' recommendations tend to promote current releases.

Bach, on the other hand, aims to offer a personal radio DJ that is scalable because it scans every track in the inventory. "This will help increase sales of both current and back catalogs," Kohlmeyer says.

The recommendation uses consistent categorization instead of relying on editors' individual tastes, and it takes into account the musical genres of other regions worldwide.

Among the Web music services already using Bach are U.K.-based People's Music Store, China's R2G, German music-sharing service, and U.S. online-media service provider Catch Media. Agreements with major international music services are set to be announced soon.

As a result of Bach's use of the MPEG-7 technology, Kohlmeyer says the company is also able to offer customized multimedia content to go with whatever music package the consumer wants, whether albums or individual tracks. The full details will be unveiled at Cannes-based international music conference and trade fair MIDEM next January.

The recently unveiled iTunes LP is currently limited to offering multimedia content (artwork, lyrics, liner notes, videos, photos, among others) attached to only albums.

Once retailers adopt the Bach system, the digital retailers' database is automatically updated and they control the use of the system. Additionally, customers can transport the discovery and recommendation system and interactive multimedia content to any device, including cell phones and digital players.