One of the really exciting things about SoundCloud is to see the many different ways people use the service for. What makes us particularly happy is to see Cambridge, Mass.-based educational music company Rhythm, Rhyme, Results using SoundCloud to help children learn by using music as the medium of choice. The track embedded below is my favorite and gives a good idea how they do this:
In the following interview with Robbie you’ll get the chance to read more about the company. Let Robbie and us know what you think in the comments.
Hey Robbie, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Robbie Mitchell and I co-founded Rhythm, Rhyme, Results, aka RRR (“Triple R”). We’re an educational music company that makes rap and pop songs for school–sort of a cooler, smarter Schoolhouse Rock. We’re based in Cambridge, MA, and I oversee a little bit of everything from our office in Brooklyn, NY.
How did you guys get to know SoundCloud and what made you decide to go for it?
Gordon Cieplak, who designed our new website and RRR.fm streaming service, introduced me to the service this past summer. Right away I could tell it was special: every SoundCloud interface is beautiful–clearly the people who build it use it regularly. Everything just works.
What pushed me over the edge were the beautiful interfaces for uploading tracks and managing sets (aka playlists). At the time, our embedded music players were increasingly blocked by school firewalls and serving up ads, and the licensing was a pain to manage, all of which made it difficult to promote our songs to teachers.
Our Premium SoundCloud account gives us a ton of mini playlists to demo our albums, collections, and individual songs. The players are slick, and now we can finally show off the multiple versions we have of each song.
Tell us a little bit more about Rhythm, Rhyme, Results: what’s it mission?
Our goal is to create the most entertaining and effective educational music on the planet. We have a solid team, and we basically throw together a bunch of ivy-league nerds and hip-hop artists and work closely with everyone to make it all come together. The result is songs that help students remember important points in math, science, reading/writing, history, and more.
We also hire artists to help us create custom songs for clients, usually as part of educational programs or PR efforts. For instance, last year we produced a song on climate change for Polar-Palooza as part of a joint NASA/NSF grant, and we recently completed an album of economics songs called “Flat World Economics” in partnership with the online college textbook startup Flat World Knowledge.
And how has RRR evolved lately?
The most recent development upgraded our music distribution big-time. One of the challenges with distributing media to schools is that online stores are set up for individual purchases and subscriptions–or free subscriptions. As a result, we have been selling CDs and downloads to individual teachers, parents, and public libraries, which is not ideal for school settings, and is particularly bad for distributing songs to groups of students.
To solve that, we developed RRR.fm, our own streaming service that has a smart, simple access system for teachers and their students. It makes it easy for us to offer unlimited, on-demand access to individual albums or our full library. One handy feature is that students get their own 24/7 access to songs without registering or handing over any personal information to us. Gordon and our lead developer, Tim Gildea, brought the idea to life and we’re really excited about the results.
How do you actually pick the songs and create them?
Our main producers, Matthew O’Malley and The Arcitype, help us bring it all together.
We as a company are spread out on both US coasts, and our network of collaborators are also all over the place, so we’ve come up with a workflow that works for us. We start by picking topics that are required by state assessment standards, and compare those to topics requested specifically by teachers. After researching and outlining a song topic, then either write the lyrics ourselves or hire a lyricist. We have one artist who composes, writes lyrics, and performs, but most of the time we use a number of artists for every song.
“Layers of the Earth” (clip embedded below), for instance, used a lyricist from Brooklyn, composer in Atlanta, vocalist from Miami, a few rounds of internal edits, and recording with our producer now in Los Angeles. It’s one of our biggest hits.
We have a network of over 25 artists, but we’re always looking for talent!
Do you and other members of RRR actually record anything yourself?
My co-founder, Ben, wrote and performed a lot of our initial material, but now that he’s in graduate school we lean more on other artists for performance. He’s still our best songwriter and editor; he wrote most of the songs on “Flat World Economics”, and you’ll hear his voice especially on the math and English language arts CD, which recently won a 2009 Parents’ Choice Award.
I perform more of an executive producer role, though I’ve co-written a few songs and, like any good producer, I make cameos on tracks from time to time. My favorite was getting autotuned and acting as “R-Pain” on the song “Don’t Be Negative”.
How can SoundCloud producers get involved?
Great question! We want to increase our interaction with the SoundCloud community, and one way of doing that is to solicit instrumentals from artists and maybe even work with them on producing tracks for us. We’ve been thinking about this a lot and will probably add an artist section to our website with the SoundCloud DropBox and more information. When that goes up we’ll announce it on our blog.
How do you artists feel about creating educational stuff?
We’ve been pleasantly surprised about this–professional MCs love it! It’s a unique challenge for them to turn educational outlines into lyrics and they seem to like the resulting songs. There is one caveat: a few of our best rappers actually use an alias for the work they do with us to keep their own careers separated. We have two artists in particular who have written and performed songs with worldwide acclaim, but no one knows who they are. You can hear them on “44 Presidents” and “Demand, Supply”.
Anything else to add, any links for us?
Here are some links and songs for everyone.
Thanks a bunch to Robbie for taking the time to answer our questions! We’re looking forward to following the development of RRR and thanks for choosing yours truly!