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Music software firm changes name, launches Net strategy

Midisoft has hit a few sour notes in its more than 12 years as a music software developer, but it may be changing its tune.

Midisoft has hit a few sour notes in its more than 12 years as a music software developer, but it may be changing its tune.

The company--one of the first to develop tools for producing music on personal computers--announced an ambitious Internet strategy this week as well as a name change, to RecordLab.com. After selling low-margin software for years and making an unsuccessful run to cash in on multimedia, it wants to parlay itself into a Web portal targeting amateur musicians.

Midisoft has seen its share of troubles, including a run-in with the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly misstating its 1994 revenues by about $800,000, or 16.8 percent. The charges were settled in 1996. A company representative said Midisoft has since cleaned house and wants to put the past behind it.

Once an unusual proposition, the idea of shifting one's core business isn't that novel these days. Major computer firms such as Hewlett-Packard have reorganized to take advantage of online opportunities, and companies like Egghead have abandoned storefront operations to focus on e-commerce. On the far end of the scale, Zapata, a fish oil and meat-casings company, spectacularly burst onto the scene in May 1998 with an unsuccessful bid to buy Excite.

RecordLab plans to introduce a broad range of services aimed at helping home-based musicians create recorded music--a market that could well take off thanks to the popularity of MP3, an audio compression format that allows songs to be distributed easily over the Internet. The market for amateur musicians is estimated to be $6 billion annually, according to the National Association of Music Merchants.

In addition to releasing new software products, RecordLab plans to offer music and recording instructional services. The launch date for the new site has not been set, but RecordLab has already signed some well-known record producers who may be available to offer online seminars.

Jack Douglas, Michael Lloyd, Nile Rogers, and Tony Visconti--who have produced or engineered recordings for artists including John Lennon, Aerosmith, David Bowie, and Madonna--have signed on as charter advisory board members for the newly positioned company.

"To date, the online music and recording industries have focused on the distribution of music over the Internet," Lloyd said in a statement. "I believe RecordLab is the first to envision and embrace the opportunity to create and deliver products and content to help musicians, songwriters, and artists realize their dreams."

The company's moves were well received by at least one analyst.

"It's a good idea," said Gomez Partners' Martin De Bono, who has not actively followed Midisoft, an over-the-counter stock that went public on the Nasdaq Stock Market in 1993. "I haven't seen a lot of sites that cater to this audience."

In addition to gaining so-called first-mover advantage, De Bono said Midisoft's products are well known among musicians, giving the recast company immediate credibility with its target audience.

RecordLab also plans to introduce a new class of Internet-based music products, including an "Internet TapeDeck," a multitrack, digital audio recording application for Windows that the company intends to make freely available from the RecordLab.com site.

"The emergence of the MP3 phenomenon represented a dramatic change for the recorded music industry," RecordLab CEO Larry Foster said. "RecordLab.com intends to create the same type of sensational transformation for the music creation industry."