There’s nothing quite like those last few minutes before the curtain opens or while the choir lines up to process onto the risers. Show day is finally here, and all your preparations have culminated in this moment. That’s the same way I feel while writing this post at my desk in my home office today (I haven’t been face-to-face with my colleagues in a few weeks now, in compliance with the prudent recommendation from our HR department to work remotely for the time being).
It’s been almost 17 months since I sat down with our VP of Product, Greg Dell’Era, to start discussing what would become the Music Sharing project. Greg had first approached me to lead the project in October 2018 just as we were wrapping up the release of Finale v26. It felt to me like a big gamble for the organization: I’d only ever worked as a product owner in this part of MakeMusic, and I had no experience as a formal project manager. It’s certainly been a long journey of learning from my missteps, but when I look at what we’ve built for you, it absolutely has been worth it.
Since you’re already familiar with what it is we’re about to launch, I wanted to answer some questions that have come up during development. And since no product is ever a one-and-done affair, let’s also take a look to the near future with some ideas for where we could go next with these sharing and practice features.
Preflight checks in progress
Q: So far you haven’t told us specifically: what’s this all going to cost?
A: Nothing. Seriously. We’ve decided to include all the creation, sharing, and practice features with every free (and paid) SmartMusic account. You can always upgrade to a Performer pack to get access to the catalog of SmartMusic content, but sharing and practicing with user-generated music is 100% free.
Q: Will content owners be able to monetize their content or post to a “marketplace”?
A: Our focus for the time being is helping creators connect with their known performers, so this won’t be part of our feature set. However, you can create a public link to your document and distribute it however and to whoever you want – as long as you’re not infringing upon any copyright, of course.
Q: Would you consider collaborative editing or document ownership in the future?
A: While we’re not closing the door on that possibility, it’s not in our short-term roadmap. I’d encourage you to include that as a desired feature (along with anything else you’d like to see) when you send us feedback in the app.
Q: Why aren’t these features just being built into Finale?
A: To support our mission of preparing for a performance, we made the decision to keep the platform open to all possible content creators. That’s why we chose MusicXML as the format for uploading documents to be shared. That doesn’t mean we’ll never consider including a direct linkage in the Finale app; actually, I think that’s a fantastic idea!
Q: How good is the playback quality in the Compose and Practice apps?
A: We’ve taken our entire collection of Garritan sampled instrument sounds and processed them for playback over the web. Combined with reverb (as is recommended for best results with Garritan sounds on the desktop), playing your content in SmartMusic sounds more realistic than ever. But even this is just a starting point: we’ll add more intelligence around articulations and humanization in upcoming iterations.
Q: What does a user see when they try to open a document that’s no longer shared with them?
A: They’ll either see a message that the page they’re trying to load isn’t available or isn’t authorized. We don’t provide any specific information about the document or its owner in these error pages in order to protect the privacy and intentions of the document owner.
Q: What if I make an edit to a document that’s already been shared?
A: Your recipients will see the changes the next time they open the document in the Practice app. You don’t need to do anything to send them the latest version
The clock is running
The launch window is looking pretty good for us right now, though I can’t give a specific date. Once we do lift off, the project enters a new phase where we collect your feedback and choose what improvements and new features to develop. We’ve got some ideas to be sure, but we won’t know what’s most important until we hear how you’re using it. On my personal wishlist are things like:
- Showing statistics for individual recipients and publicly-shared documents
- Sending reminders to recipients who haven’t opened a piece of content yet
- Managing setlists that can be easily navigated in the Practice app
- Giving document owners control over specific recipient permissions
- Adding a commenting feature to encourage discussion and feedback on documents
- Defining groups so you can quickly share multiple documents with your ensemble
- Marking documents with common musical symbols or freehand annotations
- Viewing the history of edits to a document and allowing reversion
- Localizing the entire user interface with multiple languages
At this point in the mission, it’s impossible to say which of these might be selected for development. That’s why your input is crucial. I can’t wait to see what you think of this initial version and what you’d like it to do next. We may be shooting the moon, but we want you to be part of the journey to the stars.
Ad astra per musicam praxim!
While he might have missed his true calling as a flight controller in Houston, Jon Tschiggfrie is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to lead the music sharing project. He views it as a natural extension of his work as product owner on the Finale team and is excited to see where the two might rendezvous in a future orbit. As he now transitions into a launch director role for the project, he’d like to thank everyone who has contributed: he couldn’t have asked for a better crew.