home  previous   next 
The Ninth Annual Interactive Music Conference
brainstorming graphic

Group Report: MIFFED (Music Industry Foundation for Educational Development, or, Music is Fun, Fast, Easy and Digital)

Participants: A.K.A. "MIFFED" Duane Paulson; Gibson
Ron Kuper; Cakewalk
Steve Pitzel; Intel
David Javelosa; Academy of Entertainment
     & Technology @ SMC
Facilitator: Van Webster; Webster Communications

Mission Statement
New technology enables the creation of sound and music, making it easy, fun and rewarding.

There is a huge potential audience for music creation technology. But a general lack of awareness about what is possible has limited business and creative opportunities.

Before we raise awareness, we need to figure out how to reach our target audience. Some interesting statistics suggest that our audience is out there, we just need to figure out how to find them. For example, a recent Gallup Poll (TODO: link) said that over 50% of the households in America have at least one musician, and that about 48% have 2 musicians. A majority of these musicians are playing fretted instruments.

Those of us who in the business of selling instruments, tools, etc. are used to reaching users through the customary MI channels, such as trade magazines like EQ, Mix, etc. But this new target audience doesn’t read these magazines, so how do we reach them?

At the same time, we need to widen the scope of sound and music education. The next generation of customers and developers are learning their foundations today, we need to make sure they are familiar with this technology. Also, budget cuts have left a void in primary school music education, so fewer youngsters have a basic musical knowledge.

We need to create a market development program, to create new musicians. But who are the people that we need to address?

  • Musicians: existing, potential, and manipulators (a.k.a. “remixers”)
  • Industry executives and decision makers
  • Audio content developers
  • Hardware and software developers
  • Retailers – on-floor retail sales force in CE and MI, buyers, online retailers
  • Educators – primary, secondary, college. Both in music & technology.

Each group has unique requirements and demands targeted solutions.

Musicians and “remixers” are best reached through mass market communications. They need to know that the technology is out there, it’s accessible and it’s something that will help them. Provide them with resources for sample tracks. Provide mentoring programs, and venues for recognition of their work.

Existing musicians should have their horizons broadened to include music technology. You can use your PC to help you make music: tell them what the tools are. Sell the benefits of digital versus analog. Reach out to “lost musicians”, such as those who played obscure orchestral instruments in high school.

Potential musicians need to be invited to the party. Create a forgiving, non-threatening environment where they can make musical sounds. Leverage their existing tactile skills for music, such as game controllers. Utilize the game console as a teaching tool, instrument, mixing tool.

Industry executives and decision makers need to know market sizing data, and studies and surveys on trends and attitudes.

Audio content developers need to develop a core set of basic skills: Studio skills, Music production, Sound design, Dialog production, Platform delivery, Implementation

Hardware and software developers should learn about industry opportunities. To help them build better products for the mass market, they should emphasize UI design, fault tolerance, and sexy industrial design. Developers need strong written skills to produce high quality user manuals.

Retailers can be effectively educated by company field reps. They need to know market size data. In-store tutorials can be used to train the sales force. Retailers should know cross-selling opportunities, beyond selling picks and strings to guitar players.

Educators themselves need tools and resources. There should be standard curriculum guidelines and resources for educational tools: hardware, software, information. Teaching music technology is justified because it helps careers, recreation and the scholarly advancement of music. Emphasize the “Mozart Effect” to primary educators.

We can make a huge impact if we can create tools that enable kids to create sound and music. Kids have a natural affinity to sound and music starting at a very early age. Kids want to learn how to make music, but not necessarily how to play an instrument. Finally, kids are most familiar with game consoles and game controllers. We shouldn’t forget these facts when we reach out to them.

The solution to these problems is done under the guidance of MIFFED, an advocacy organization that works with existing professional and trade associations to get the message out. MIFFED can help drive demand for new products, promote music making as something anyone can do, and show that making music and sound on the PC is really fun and rewarding.

Action Items

1. College Level Curriculum Guidelines for Game Audio & Interactive Music:


Game audio requires a myriad of specialized audio skills. Currently there are few web sites and books that provide resources to educate new people that want to get involved in game audio. The project sets out to offer another resource for people to use in learning about game audio.

  • Shortening the learning curve of new audio personnel in game audio by providing resources that people can learn from.
  • Create a clear reference for terminology and creation methods in the world of game audio.
  • Supplying schools with information to create game audio education into their curriculum.

Brief History of Game Audio

Since the birth of audio in video games in the 1970s with games like Pong and the first Atari console the progression of game audio from simple blips and bleeps to fully interactive orchestral scores has been a long road paved with innovation.

As manufacturers put more money into their sound cards the ability of the composer and sound designer to create more transparent and realistic audio marched on through the 80's and 90's leading us to be able to create fairly rich and robust audio experiences today. Many innovations fueled the success of today's formats including early FM synthesis modules, MIDI, dynamic audio streaming, sampling and DLS, through to multi-channel audio, dynamic DSP's and interactive music playback.

Technology isn't the only thing that led innovation in creating interactive scores. Before the success of video games in the 70's non-linear scores by composers such as John Cage or Steve Reich also contributed much to the way we started thinking about how music is made for interactive mediums. These contributions changed the way we thought about audio, and influence how we create interactive music today.

These combinations and the desire of game audio professionals to create more emotional audio experiences have also contributed to creating open standards in the industry. Manufacturers are able to adopt these standards and make the ability for people to make game audio easier and more efficient.

The tools for making music have improved enormously. Now instead of having to create music that looked more like math, formats have brought about a revolution in music that now allow us to write music in a program that understands it.

Primary Topics

  • Studio Skills
  • Music
  • Sound Design
  • Dialogue
  • Platform Delivery
  • Implementation
  • Resources

Studio Skills

Game audio requires a high level of understanding in many technical areas. The basic skill sets start in the studio. This is an overview of the basic studio skills that must be understood in order to start working to create Game Audio.

  • Physics of Audio
  • Recording
  • Signal Flow
  • Editing
  • DSP
  • Mixing
  • Audio Delivery Formats and Compression
  • MIDI
  • Sequencing
  • Synthesis/Sampling
  • Music Delivery Formats


This section focuses on Game Music which is primarily for composers but will also add perspective to programmers and sound designers. This section tries to sort out methods of interactive music techniques and options as well as give a historical perspective on how game music has been done in the past and present.

There are examples that demonstrate specific use of interactive music in games as well as a discussion of creation tools and game music systems.

  • Origins of Interactive Music
  • Evolution of Game Music
  • Modern Approaches
  • Creation Tools
  • Music Content Delivery

Sound Design

Game Audio Design has it's roots in linear media like film but has many things that separate it from the more traditional media. Interactive techniques and tools pose interested challenges for the modern sound designer and Game Audio design has it's own expertise.

  • SFX, Sound Design, and Foley
  • Adaptive Approaches
  • Creation Tools
  • Toolkits and Middleware
  • SFX Content Delivery


  • Casting
  • Recording and Editing
  • File Management
  • Recording Tools
  • Dialogue Content Delivery

Platform Delivery

  • Modern Gaming Consoles
  • PC Mac Linux
  • Web
  • Handheld and Mobile
  • Custom Machines
  • Dated Platforms


  • Team Integration
  • Delivery to the Programmer
  • Scripting Languages
  • Tool sets and Real-Time DSP
  • 3D
  • Multichannel



Game Audio Books

Game Audio Web Sites

  • Gamasutra Audio Section (http://www.gamasutra.com/phpbin/article_display.php?category=1) - Site dedicated to game audio specifically.
  • Sonify.org (http://www.sonify.org/) - Website devoted to interactive music and sound, mostly dedicated to web and mobile mediums.
  • FilmSound.org (http://www.filmsound.org) - Site devoted to sound design in film.

Game Audio Web Articles

Game Audio Newsgroups and E-Mail Lists

Schools and Universities with Game Audio Programs

  • MIT - Media Lab
  • Carnegie Melon University
  • Univesity of Southern California
  • Georgia Tech
  • University of Miami
  • Santa Monica College

2. MIFFED Organization

Mission statement
New technology enables the creation of sound and music, making it easy, fun, and rewarding.

What is MIFFED?
The Music Industry Foundation for Educational Development (MIFFED) is a global advocacy organization formed to fulfill the mission of promoting and providing education about new technology. The creation of sound and music is easy, fun and rewarding, particularly for kids. Kids have a natural affinity to sound and music starting at a very early age. They want to learn about music and how to make it. Kids are the next artists and a huge untapped market for music technology companies, today and the future. MIFFED is the brainchild of Project Bar-B-Q, the premier interactive music think tank.

Why join MIFFED?
MIFFED membership unites music and sound industry professionals to develop new business and creative opportunities through educating key target audiences about music-making technologies. MIFFED members tap into valuable and innovative member-only resources: exclusive information and market research, networking opportunities with business advocates and leaders, up-to-date educational programs, curriculum and technical training, exposure in extensive promotional programs, promoting and advancing member needs and interests. Your investment in MIFFED strengthens your business' future and helps to ensure music and sound technology's brightest future.

Everyone does. Existing and potential musicians benefit because they can learn and apply exciting, yet simple, technology to enjoy and create music. Educators benefit by having the curriculum and resources to provide valuable and relevant music education. Business benefits through the creation of new customers. We all profit by enabling the creation of music.

Get MIFFED today!

3. MIFFED and the Role of Music Education in the Primary Schools.

Music education has largely fallen by the wayside in public education. Reduced budgets and increased demands for improved test scores have lead school administrators to eliminate "nonessentials" including music and the visual arts. While recorded music is an ever present din in the background of commercial life, young people are not being given the opportunity at an early age to create and experience musical performance.

Public school systems are no longer able to provide performance music education to all students. Selected students, with substantial parental support, are participating in music on traditional instruments in school bands and orchestras. The majority of the remaining students are left to listen to downloads and boom boxes without any experiential musical training.

For the marketers of musical instruments and computer interactive musical products, this lack of performance experience translates into reduced opportunities for market development and sales. Depending on school age children to discover musical performance is a passive approach to marketing and is necessarily limiting in both market size and market growth. It is, therefore, incumbent on these same music oriented companies to develop, fund, and implement a national "Interactive Music in the Schools" program with the goal of using computer aided music technology to create musical performance experiences for children.

The implementation of a national interactive music outreach program will depend on developing a core curriculum, the creation of a suitable computer based interactive music performance system, the staffing of the program by trained instructors and the unified financial support of music equipment manufacturers. Such a program is an effort to grow the music performance market by creating new interactive music consumers through positive interactive experiences.

A music performance curriculum begins with critical listening and the goal of understanding the building blocks of music; rhythm, melody and harmony. Students should listen to a wide variety of musical styles and discuss what they are hearing and feeling as the music plays. Drum circles and rhythm bands are effective ways of introducing students to musical performance. Students playing in a group learn to listen to the other players and can be guided to contribute to the performance by adding different tones and rhythmic accents.

While rhythmic percussion instruments are relatively easy to start on, introducing melody and later harmony raises the potential for unpleasant dissonance. Making melody easy for students requires that their instruments limit the number of pitch choices to those within a single key or mode. One example of such an instrument is the pentatonic flute whose tones are limited to a single pentatonic scale. With such an instrument, student performance "mistakes" are still harmonious.

For an electronic interactive music education program to be successful, a similar failure proof instrument system is required. Such a system should enable 30 or more students to play simultaneously while producing a harmonious result. Guided by the instructor's inputs, student musicians can take turns playing rhythm, melody and harmony part using personal controller interfaces.

An obvious first controller interface for young people is the familiar console game controller. Students are already highly skilled at manipulating game controllers. It then becomes the task of the musical education software designer to assign musical attributes to the various controls on a game remote. In a classroom situation with many players, there is an obvious requirement that all of these controllers use wireless technology. In time, it will become desirable to create new controller interface designs that mimic, to a greater or lesser extent, conventional musical instruments. Touch sensitive devices shaped like guitars, basses, saxophones, keyboards and percussion instruments will create a more lifelike musical experience for the students and introduce more subtle aural control options.

Fortunately, a previous group at Project Bar-B-Q has laid out the specifications for such an instrument system. The Compellorheads from the 2001 BBQ conceived of and created a specification for a living room multi-player interactive music performance device based on a video game console. Adapting such a device for classroom use would involve increasing the number of players it could serve, introducing an instructor's input component, and ruggedizing the packaging for transportation and heavy use. There is a clear marketing advantage to the developers and manufacturers of such a device as it would be used and demonstrated to potential retail customers on a daily basis.

Staffing a national music education outreach program is a formidable task. On pilot program basis, instructors can be recruited from college graduate music students and local music professionals. When funding resources expand the program, a network of teacher's teachers will need to train existing primary school educators to run the program in their own schools. The central administrative group will then organize, train and support primary grade teachers in implementing the program. Training existing teachers also meets their needs for continuing teacher education required by most teaching credentials.

An example of this type of program as applied to another discipline is the National Archery in the Schools Program. This effort to introduce middle school children to archery participation was started by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) and the State of Kentucky Department of Fish and Game. The program received additional support from the Matthews Bow company who designed and manufactured a special bow intended just for beginners and who donated $500,000 towards the funding of the program. Further support came from the National Association for the Development of Archery (NADA) who have produced instructor training materials and who act as a resale resource for school districts to acquire beginner equipment at a discounted price.

Archery is taught as a two-week program during the middle school's PE classes. Instructors are school staff PE coaches who have been trained and certified using the NADA curriculum. The results of this program have been phenomenal. In its first year the National Archery in the Schools Program introduced 90,000 middle school students to the sport of archery. 26 other state school systems are in the process of adopting this program to their curriculum.

The lesson for the interactive music industry is that an outreach training program can be successful with the public schools, resulting in increased activity awareness and product sales. The key elements for its success are a well-defined curriculum, trained instructors, innovative equipment and the support of both manufacturers and school administrators.

It is the recommendation of this Project Bar-B-Q work group that an industry organization be founded for the purpose of developing, coordinating and implementing an Interactive Music in the Schools program to promote music knowledge and performance. The objective of the organization is to pool industry resources among manufacturers, trade associations, charitable foundations and music educators for the purpose actualizing a music educational program with national impact.

section 7

next section

select a section:
1. Introduction  2. Speakers  3. Executive Summary  
4. Mobile Phone Audio - Lessons Learned from Games and the Web
5. A Whole-system Testing Framework for PC Audio
6. The Stroke-a-phone: A New Digital Instrument for Troubled Times
7. MIFFED (Music Industry Foundation for Educational Development)
8. PRAGMA (Pet Rocks and Game Music Alliance)
9. Schedule & Sponsors