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Ohio State chosen to pilot new music app

The name “Carmen” is soon to be included both in the title of a famous Ohio State song and a new music streaming service available to OSU students. 

Project Carmen is a music application that is currently signing up students from five different universities, including OSU, to test out and provide feedback on the pilot program, which is set to take place between September and December. What’s different about Project Carmen from other music streaming services — such as Pandora and Spotify ­— is that users will be able to stream music on the app, and if they like a song, they can download it — for free.

“We’re creating an app that will bring free, on-demand music to users’ mobile devices,” said Corey Jones, chief of product at M&M Music, a California-based digital music startup. “I have this philosophy: Music is everywhere. I listen to music every day, music is ingrained in our society. Music is primal — powerful.”

The app combines elements of gaming and traditional music-listening by rewarding users for interacting with the app, Jones said. Those who interact with the app will be rewarded with virtual currency, which can be redeemed for free music. 

Using an ad-based model, users can earn currency by searching and browsing for songs and watching advertisements during song downloads. The pilot will test and determine how much currency the user will be rewarded for each of these actions.

Project Carmen can also be integrated into the user’s existing iTunes library. Playlists will be automatically imported, and new playlists can be created with the new music acquired through the app and the music the user already owns. 

“My initial reaction is that it is a really good alternative to illegally downloading music or spending a lot of money just to get a few songs,” said Jodie Gallagher, a second-year in social work, who has already signed up to test the new music application. “So I think it’s a good in-between and it’s better than other free services that don’t let you download the songs.”

Project Carmen aims to correct some of the shortcomings of other apps, like Pandora — where a user can’t replay a song that they liked while listening to a station — and Spotify — where artists get paid less for streaming music than downloads.

“We’re creating a system that fairly compensates everybody,” Jones said. 

Patented in 2012 by CEO and founder Gary Mekikian, Project Carmen was developed to protect young adults from viruses and other dangerous content that potentially came with downloading music.

“My initial motivation was that there should be a safe place on mobile devices where young people can get their music without being exposed to dangerous content,” Mekikian said. 

To do this, the music application will be tested at five universities (the other four are all in California) and will be tailored based on users’ feedback.

Mekikian said OSU was selected because it’s the “perfect laboratory” for the diversity they were looking for.

“OSU is one of the largest campuses with one of the largest student bodies and is one of the most socially active campuses, in terms of social media,” he said. 

The first 1,000 people to sign-up will become collaborators after the app officially launches in January 2015. Collaborators will continue to test new features and ideas and will help shape the product. In total, Jones said they are aiming for 1,500 to 2,000 signups.

“This is a freedom movement,” Jones said in an email. “Above all else, we are freeing artists and rights holders to get paid, and we are freeing consumers to hear the music they want, when they want.  Music is part of the human fabric, and we think it should be free while still compensating everyone in the value chain, which other services have struggled to accomplish.”

Students interested in testing out Project Carmen can sign up with email or Facebook at osu.projectcarmen.com.

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