April 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Shapemix for iPad: DJ Toy or Next-Generation Music Store?

shapemix mix view

The days of hitting a play button and sitting back to hear a song the same way it sounded the last time are coming to a close — for interested parties, anyway.

Shapemix, which Apple recently approved for the iPad section of the iTunes app store, lets aspiring DJs and armchair music producers get underneath the hood of over 100 free tracks to add four high-quality, real-time effects, rearrange musical phrases, and record their tweaks into an entirely new version that can be shared with other users.

Shapemix ($5) goes well beyond most of the other early remixing apps, such as the one David Bowie has planned for this summer, which merely allows users to control each track’s volume. This app’s inclusion of recordable effects (as in you can record what you’re doing to the sound over time) and its ability to rearrange songs completely make it a music toy worthy of attention from DJs and other people who know what they are doing, production-wise.

shapemix effects viewPlenty of ink has already been spilt about that aspect of Shapemix, but really, it’s not the first remixing app to port these power features from the desktop, and it won’t be the last. More intriguing: the upcoming Shapemix Music Marketplace, which will allow fans to purchase remixable music for use within the app, and could give fans a new, compelling reason to pay for recorded music.

If this app lets people get underneath the hood of songs they’re already familiar with — especially the super popular ones that tend to crowd the dancefloor — it could take off with the non-music-geek community in a big way.

According to Zack Sherman, co-founder of Legion Enterprises, which “incubated” this app for its developer Shapemix LLC, the song marketplace will appear within Shapemix “in the coming weeks” to include music from Downtown Music Publishing — a notoriously forward-thinking New York-based label that previously launched RCRD LBL with Engadget and Gizmodo co-founder (and former Wired.com contributor) Peter Rojas, among other things.

Sherman told Evolver.fm that each track will cost $2 — a significant mark-up from what tracks cost within iTunes, and as with tracks sold there, Apple will claim its usual 30 percent. But considering that you get to do things with these songs that would be impossible with the free versions on YouTube or Bit Torrent, we have a feeling plenty of people will pay for them — assuming Legion can line up the necessary licensing deals, which can be notoriously tricky with any app that let users create and share new versions of songs.

“We have been working with a number of publishers over the last few months to populate the Shapemix Music Marketplace,” said Sherman via email. “The music licensing process is a perfect example of how Legion Enterprises is working with the companies that we incubate. We enable the founders to focus on great product development, while we handle business development, expansion and growth of each company.”

So basically, Legion will try to negotiate these complicated deals and allow Shapemix to do what it does best: develop software.

Sherman downplayed the difficulty of licensing these songs, predicting that the coming year will see “thousands of songs” available for remixing within Shapemix. If he’s right, we’ll soon find out how much people are willing to pay to play with a song, rather than just playing it.