In 2005, Gary Mekikian, CEO of M&M; Media, wanted to find a way to feed his two daughters’ music consumption without exposing them to piracy sites with inappropriate advertising.
“I decided at the time that there must be a better way to deliver music to young people without subjecting them to dangerous content,” Mekikian said.
The idea evolved into an advertisement-based mobile application called Project Carmen – named after the Latin word for “song” – that allows users to legally download music without monetary costs. A pilot of the app, which holds more than 15 million songs, will be made available to UCLA students and alumni starting Sept. 30.
Mekikian said a portion of the revenue generated from age-appropriate advertising is awarded to users in the form of “virtual” coins, which can then be used to download music. These coins are earned automatically during the time users are interacting with the application. In the app’s pilot stage, the frequency of advertisements appearing in the app will vary from user to user, Mekikian said.
Because of the project’s unorthodox business model, Bill Campbell, the app’s licensing consultant, said negotiating licensing rights with major music labels proved to be difficult. However, after approximately three months of negotiating, he said Project Carmen acquired music licensing rights from two major music labels.
Now in its pilot stage, M&M; Media, the company that develops Project Carmen, is looking for feedback from its intended target audience – individuals 17-28 years old – which Mekikian said is why UCLA students and alumni were chosen to host the app.
“UCLA, being a provider of undergraduate and graduate education, makes that demographic available to us,” Mekikian said. “More importantly, (we are looking for) diversity. We want to make our application appealing to as diverse a population of young people as possible.”
Corey Jones, the chief of product at M&M; Media, said users are allowed to download music only when the application detects that they are on the UCLA campus. In that way, the developers can also ensure that the pilot is being contained on campus, Jones said.
The makers of the app have provided 1,500 spots to UCLA students and alumni for a free invitation to the pilot. To become considered for an invite to the first test group, Bruins have until Sept. 29 to sign up online using any email address.
Jones said developers are looking for feedback from UCLA students and alumni to improve the pilot through periodical surveys and response emails. He said they are aiming to monitor how users interact with servers and see what additional features they can develop.
After the pilot test run at UCLA, Jones said Project Carmen will be made available for public download on the App Store and Google Play for free.
“We’re spending time and money making sure that we get the user experience right,” Mekikian said. “We want to make sure young people feel like our app is the funnest app to use out there.”