With Depeche Mode iPhone App, Cambridge’s iZotope Boosts the Mobile Drumbeat

Last week I learned about a local music software company, iZotope, whose existence somehow escaped me back in 2007 when I was writing my story “Boston: The Hidden Hub of Music and Technology.” But the Cambridge, MA-based company has been making professional audio production software and digital signal processing hardware since 2001, and has gained special notice in the last year for a series of nifty music apps for the Apple iPhone.

The latest version of iZotope’s iDrum app, built around Depeche Mode’s new album Sounds of the Universe, came out May 11; the $4.99 program lets iPhone owners use touchscreen controls to assemble drum hits, synthesizer sounds, and vocal snippets from the album into original musical patterns or “instant remixes,” to use the company’s phrase. The remixes can’t be recorded or shared, but they’re fun the play with. (The whole thing is a little hard to explain—I recommend that you just watch the video below to see what I’m talking about.)

For Depeche Mode, the Sounds of the Universe edition of iDrum is an innovative way to market the electronica-heavy album to a tech-savvy audience of mobile device owners. For iZotope, it represents a new kind of foothold in the music industry, where labels are always looking for new ways to reach listeners and offset the seemingly irreversible decline in album revenues. Last week I interviewed iZotope’s content manager, Nick Dika, about how the project came about, and what it’s been like for an audio technology company to get into the mobile app business. A transcript appears below the video.

Xconomy: Tell me a little bit first about when iZotope was founded, and how your business works.

Nick Dika: We were founded in 2001. The founders, Mark Ethier and Jeremy Todd, came out of MIT. There are a few different elements to our business. The central part of it is professional audio—software and hardware for recording and broadcast studios and people making music at home. Meaning, music creation and audio production tools. However, we also do a lot of audio DSP [digital signal processing] licensing to companies like Adobe and Sony and Avid, for doing things like audio effects, time stretching, pitch scaling, and all of these under-the-hood things that people making multimedia software need these days.

X: How long have you been making mobile applications, and how did the Depeche Mode app come about?

ND: We launched our first iPhone app, the first edition of iDrum, in August 2008. We’ve had a number of editions and different releases. A few were our own branded editions—a hip-hop edition and a club edition, using sounds we created in-house. Our first licensed edition was with the Ministry of … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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