Turn on, tune in, mash up

"Mash up" was a term coined to describe the footerings (yes – Scottish slang best desribes it!) of maverick music producers and DJs.

It described the scenario whereby often genre-antithetical tracks were melded together – frequently without one or more rights holder's permission – to create an entirely new end-result, but one that still clearly bore the traces of its formerly discreet antecedents.

In a way it was an evolution of the re-mixing trend founded in hip-hop and electro-funk and mainstreamed by other soul and electronic-based genres, and developed by the dance music scene's bootleggers.

So remixing became unremarkable, but when 'The Grey Album' grabbed music fans' imagination in 2003, folks twigged a corner had been turned. DJ Dangermouse blatantly wove together Jay-Z's The Black Album and the Beatles' White Album in a compelling but transparent fashion, and so a new genre was born. Scarcely a week now goes by when music mash ups aren't in the Top 50, in the UK or across the pond.

Greater than the sum of its parts

And so mash ups have now crossed over into the online sphere, with websites being designed or augmented with software applications that deliberately encourage this kind of activity.

It's still hard to extract clear business models from these amalgamations of websites, these hybrids. But even so, it's hard to dispute that the "mashability" of the likes of Google Maps has not served people well – never mind the recently less-in-favour but innovative-by-nature Google themselves. In short, done well, they have immense value.

An open playing-field?

In turn, a rising tide of start-ups are now racing to provide the APIs (application programmable interfaces) that allow them to mash up with the services of all the big superchannels (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, etc), and at SXSW Interactive last month, former walled-garden supremo AOL announced that all their applications are to be opened up for just this purpose.

Amazon are another big player and pioneer in this area, with their world-renowned Web Services division. Moreover, when Microsoft call their annual US conference Mix 06 and plan to sprout APIs all over the shop, you know it's not a fringe sport.

So we're pleased to announce that 'Web Services & Mash Ups' is the focus for the next Beers & Innovation held by NMK on Thursday 27th April. You can book your ticket now for £10. The last B&I sold out 2 weeks in advance, so don't hang about and I'll see you there.


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