This is part of IEEE Spectrum's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide.
For the music maker on your holiday gift list—whether it's your mezzo-soprano sister-in-law or that nephew in a pop band—is there a better gift than a few hours at a recording studio? Yes, there is—unlimited time at a recording studio. For US $50.
Indaba Music, a musical social network company based in New York City, has launched a Web-based recording and mixing app called Mantis; $50 buys a year's access to a growing library of loops, samples, and effects—created by professional studio musicians—and 5 gigabytes of storage space (Platinum subscribers get 50 GB).
Every other week, on average, a professional recording artist or musical project presents a new challenge to the community, says Indaba Music CEO Dan Zaccagnino. Last year, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma posted his track of the traditional melody "Dona Nobis Pacem" to Indaba's boards, and 350 Indaba subscribers recorded their own virtual duets. Ma selected his two favorite collaborations, earning the artists—a Colorado Springs handbell choir and a Canadian heavy-metal guitarist—studio time with Ma himself to record a live duet. This year rapper Snoop Dogg posted vocal tracks for his single "That Tree," which occasioned remixes in wildly different styles, including electronica, country and western, and sea chantey.
The social networking of music doesn't stop there. Record a guitar track on Mantis, add a dab of reverb or distortion from its library of effects, and a few clicks later you can post the track to Indaba's member boards for its 500 000 subscribers around the world who might want to mix in their own instrumental or vocal tracks.
The nascent session then becomes a kind of help-wanted ad for like-minded session players. Maybe it's the nugget of a power-pop gem that draws another member's Fountains of Wayne–influenced rhythm section, or a toe-tapping bluegrass number that's calling out for an Alison Krauss–style fiddler to bring it on home.