Mixathon48: A Year in the Making for a Music Hackathon

May 20, 2016

GUEST BLOG! When music meets tech, we’re always listening. That’s why Wearhaus continues to partner with Mixathon48. To learn more about the process, we turned to founder Nicholas Yiu who divulged the entire, year-long process.

Photo: The founding UC Berkeley team: Nickki Nguyen (left), Nicholas Yiu (center) and Matt Hong (right)

Music has always been my first love. From a young age, I played the piano and violin and had an ear for music. Once I started college, I picked up electronic music production in my spare time. But I had no idea where to start. All the courses I found were expensive and time-consuming. I decided to wing it – I sat down with FL Studio on my laptop and learned by doing.

I co-founded Mixathon48 with Matt Hong in June 2015, a music technology education program aimed to help young music producers learn about production and ultimately break into the music industry. The mission was to create experiential, 48-hour hackathon-style competitions that would mimic the way I learned about production. This model had proved successful in the software and hardware scene, so I wanted to apply it to music.

I had heard about Wearhaus from a colleague at UC Berkeley and knew the team was passionate about music sharing and technology. Wearhaus was a leading headphone innovator in the Bay Area and beyond so I excitedly emailed, called and tweeted at them. In September 2015, Mixathon48 partnered with Wearhaus along with other music companies, Ableton and Image-Line (and YourEDM in our second year) to launch one of the first remote music production marathons in the world. This was an online music competition revolving around five underlying stems which contestants had to incorporate into their tracks.

We put together a team at UC Berkeley and received over 100 applications from over 30 countries. After the event, nearly every contestant mentioned how much they learned from the unique time-constrained music making process. Following the success of the event, Mixathon48 and Wearhaus made it a mission to revolutionize music technology education worldwide.

With the inevitable demand for another event, Mixathon48 received the Wharton Innovation Fund award from the University of Pennsylvania and started to create a more innovative second event. Instead of working with five stems, contestants had to work with just three as a means of gauging their creativity and versatility, as well as seeing how well they could integrate stems into a track. Furthermore, the files were produced by former Mixathon48 winner, Taylor D. Mosley, as well as Berkeley-based beatboxer, Kunwoo Hong (Anomolous).

We hoped the vocal and beatbox stems would be a curve ball and throw producers outside their comfort zone, pushing them to new frontiers of learning about production. The event was hugely popular and crashed the Mixathon48 Dropbox and Google drive servers within the first 30 seconds of the competition. 400 applications were received from over 60 countries around the world, from Bangladesh to Singapore to Romania. Check out all the submissions and the winning tracks

mixathon map

Map of all the applications received to take part in Mixathon48 Event 1.0 (yellow) and Event 2.0 (blue)

Wearhaus embodies the dedicated philosophy of a community and as the pioneer in music sharing technology, and we were so excited that they became a partner. As we look to the future, we hope to create larger and more impactful music education events, both online and in person. We’ve recruited a larger team for the summer and are always on the lookout for new ideas, partnerships and opportunities.

Working on Mixathon48 for the past year has opened my eyes to the music education scene including what works and what needs to be improved upon. From the past two events we’ve hosted, my team and I have observed how excited producers get when they learn a new technique, discover a new tool in their digital audio workstation, or interact with other producers during the competition. As we proceed into the summer, we’ve met with the original creators of Apple Music, The Lonely Island, and other major hackathon organizers to build something amazing and we can’t wait to bring it to the music producers around the world.

Be on the lookout for  E V E N T  3 . 0

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