David S. Rosen, PhD of Secret Chord Laboratories

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with David S. Rosen, PhD, the co-founder and CEO of Secret Chord Laboratories, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Secret Chord Laboratories – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

The origin of Secret Chord Laboratories began with a question, when our co-founder, Dr. Scott Miles, attended a concert as a young boy. That question was regarding how patterns of sound lead to pleasure (a dopamine response in the brain). Since that early experience, Scott developed this work through his experiences as a musician, scientist, and entrepreneur. While studying this phenomenon in popular music in his doctoral work at Georgetown University, he met me while I was studying music neuroscience related to creativity during music improvisation. In 2015, we joined forces and published our first research paper in 2017. This work received international acclaim and was named a top ten paper in 2017 in Frontiers of Neuroscience. It was this early research that provided evidence for patterns of surprise (expectations violation) leading to preference in popular music. 

We continued to do research together until deciding to start working full-time in 2019 to turn the research into a product. 

Currently, there are no music analytics tools that are available pre-release and are capable of modeling and predicting the response of a targeted audience. Over $6B is spent annually by record labels to promote and market new music. A majority of that money is spent without any data about the actual music content being released. Furthermore, with over 40,000 songs uploaded per day to Spotify, it is impossible for human beings to sift through all of that content. By combining insights from neuroscience research with state of the art machine learning algorithms, Secret Chord Laboratories is able to offer pre-release, human-centered analytics that are useful in the music industry and beyond. 

Our vision is of a future where music and other forms of media are personalized, whether this is music in commercials, video games, films, or in stores. Our mission is to enhance any human experience that incorporates music.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

The biggest challenge at first was developing our music neuroscience research into a product that can be useful to music decision makers, both within and outside of the music industry. Once we landed on dopr, a human-centered AI music prediction engine, it was clear that our value proposition was immense with regard to efficiency (number of songs) and the ability to target specific audiences. Early on, we weren’t the best at clearly communicating our value or our product. We were still very immersed in the academic culture. However, with the addition of our COO, Robert Abelow, a seasoned record label CEO, we have been able to gain insights into how data will be used and integrated into the work flow of our beachhead market, the recorded music industry.

What does the future hold for Secret Chord Laboratories?

Secret Chord Laboratories’ success relies on the interactions between interdisciplinary domains: music neuroscience, music engineering, and music business. We will continue to research in these areas and build upon our intellectual property, which serves as the foundation of our products.

In the short term, we just hit a development period after completing several beta tests with several global music companies. These beta tests received rave reviews. Now, we are scaling our software and growing our waitlist for enterprise music industry partners to work with us beginning in Jan 2021. We will have a 3-4 month window of conducting extensive testing and validation with industry partners next year. We plan to launch the dopr MVP by Fall 2021.

In the long term, Secret Chord Laboratories will be the preeminent company for all things music and the brain. Once we gain traction in the recorded music industry, we plan to scale to adjacent industries where music decisions are made: advertising, film, TV, in-store sync, healthcare, etc. We have been invited to formally apply for a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Science Foundation. We plan to use this funding to better understand how our engine can provide assistance in the music industry and other industries.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Virginia Beach?

There is a vibrant and awesome startup scene here in Virginia Beach. We have been embraced in Virginia Beach and Philadelphia. We feel very lucky to be a part of these communities. The quality of mentors and advisors we have met through the 757 Accelerate program has been incredible, and we look forward to continuing to be a part it

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do what you love.


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