Greg Shrader, cofounder of online start-up Maestro.fm, is outside a Decatur coffee shop listening to his favorite Atlanta band, The Constellations, on his iPhone. He has never downloaded the tune onto his phone, and it’s not taking up any space there—his copy of the song is miles away on his personal computer. But as long as Maestro.fm’s Connector software is loaded on the computer where his music is stored, he can play and manage his entire music collection from anywhere using a computer, mobile device, or Maestro’s iPhone application (coming soon to the Apple App Store). It’s called “remote access,” and it’s what makes Atlanta’s Maestro.fm different from competitors such as Imeem.com and Last.fm.
More than four years ago, Shrader and his fellow cofounders Clarkson Logan and Daniel Escobar were discussing the ripping, synching, and burning consumers were enduring just to listen to digital music, and they decided to simplify the process. Maestro.fm, launched last year, was their answer. Besides letting people access their entire personal music catalogs from anywhere, Maestro allows users to create playlists to share via e-mail or social networks. Also, based on listening habits, Maestro recommends other playlists you might enjoy and offers lyrics, news, and facts about the song or band currently playing. If you like what you hear, you can buy songs, CDs, or ringtones through Maestro’s Marketplace.
The music industry, though, is a murky swamp of legalities best handled by entertainment lawyers, and managing those fees is part of Maestro’s capital-raising challenge. “No one has the answer yet,” says Shrader, “but I truly believe it’s people like us—a little on the geeky side—who are going to provide the solution that artists and labels will be happy with.”
Illustration by Peter Grundy