June 28, 2012

Musicmaker for the Masses

John Amichetti Jr., Eric Warncke, Matt Shrago, BCOS '14

Matt Shrago, 21, BCOS ’14, spends all of his free time coding—working the keyboard during his lunch hour, hunched over his laptop on a Red Line train to his IT co-op at Harvard University. He even bought a book on coding so he could study the craft in case he couldn’t find a seat on the train. “I’m coding thirty to forty hours a week,” Shrago said.

The non-stop codefest started two months ago, when he cofounded the Cambridge startup Awesome Products with Eric Warncke, 24, and childhood friend John Amichetti Jr., 21, and became the developer of an unreleased mobile app called “Awesome Music Maker.”

Warncke, the company’s CEO and founder, created Awesome Products with the goal of finding a way to give both technophiles and novices a way to create songs that didn’t include learning a musical instrument or some complex piece of software. “It’s extraordinarily difficult for someone to become a musician,” Warncke said.

To introduce music to the masses, Warncke took the Steve Jobs’ approach and set out to build a smartphone app with a simple interface. He posted an ad on Craigslist for a developer in May, met Shrago—who already had five years of coding experience—through a mutual contact, and the two started building what would become “Awesome Music Maker.”

The app will allow users to compose and edit songs on their phones by dragging and dropping notes with their finger. Budding musicians can add vocals, work with other composers on a song via chat, and share the completed MP3 to social media sites, or even use the tunes as ringtones.

“We’re secretly teaching people music,” Warncke said. “You could start off knowing nothing about music, but just by playing around with the notes you’ll end up learning.”

But the app isn’t ready just yet. Shrago estimates the app interface is 40 percent complete and he will work with more developers to help the team meet the goal of an October launch in the Android marketplace. (Versions for the iPhone and iPad are slated for the spring.)

The trio could use the extra help. The startup has already been featured in the Boston Herald, and according to Warncke, attracted the attention of an unnamed investor, and added technology guru Bob Perle as a board member.

Shrago hopes “Awesome Music Maker” will be a viral sensation. For now, though, he’s motivated by the experience. “I’ve learned so much since we started the project,” Shrago said. “I’m sitting in front of my computer now coding things that I haven’t coded in classes before.”

(**Awesome Products has received $7,500 in funding through Wentworth's Accelerate Program, an innovation and entrepreneurship challenge.)

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