Gobbler: A File Backup, Transfer & Organizing Tool Made Just For You
August 29, 2011 by Janice Brown
SOHO, MANHATTAN: The night before we met up with Gobbler CEO Chris Kantrowitz, he invited us to a private Jane’s Addiction concert at Terminal 5.
His (other) company, Frank The Plumber, had been hired to design the “Jane’s Addiction Comes Alive” show, an experiential marketing event for the new LG Thrill 4G smartphone, which has a 3D display. LG gave 100 fans 3D phones to shoot the first user-generated 3D concert film, later cut together into a 60-minute documentary.
An amalgam of directors, producers, editors, audio engineers and designers, Frank The Plumber is the kind of company an LG can hire to pull off such a stunt – to design the lighting and stage, produce the shoot and edit; to manage all the media, all the details.
And this is where Kantrowitz, a serial entrepreneur whose businesses have always bridged technology and entertainment, thrives – in the details. To wit, his latest venture, Gobbler, is a backup, transfer, and organizational service for managing audio project files and assets in the cloud.
It’s a classic case of necessity being the mother of invention. Running Frank The Plumber over the last six years, Kantrowitz has been out on the road supporting large-scale concert productions for artists like Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Beyonce and The Strokes.
“The idea for Gobbler came about when I was out working on these shows,” Kantrowitz notes. “We were dealing with all these audio, video and photo assets, and we were always looking at digital workflows. Then one of the artists I was out with had his hard drive crash and I asked him where his backup was. And he said, what backup?”
Kantrowitz began asking around, and realized there were a number of problems media producers (audio/video/photo/etc) were having backing up, organizing and sending large files.
“It’s a huge mess out there,” he says. “There were no tools being made specifically for media creators. There are the general-purpose tools like Dropbox and YouSendIt, but they are like pickup trucks – they’re great for hauling dirt – and you don’t take a pickup truck to a drag-race. Media creation is really more like a drag-race.
“So I started talking to all the people I work with, asking ‘what are your biggest problems?’”
The responses and market research began to crystallize into a business plan, and the Gobbler concept was born. In that process, Kantrowitz decided to develop the solution specifically for one market, and then evolve later for other media markets.
“We chose audio first because it was the market that needed the most help,” he says. “There are products out there that address photos and video, but nothing specifically for audio.
“I think part of the reason for this is that, for whatever reason, the tech community has this strange attitude about music. Like in Silicon Valley, they feel like record companies are going south, so this isn’t a good idea. But the reality is that there are more people than ever making music.
He cites some statistics: “6 million GarageBand users,” “12 million artist pages on Myspace, at its peak.” No matter how you slice it, this means millions of music creators producing in home and professional studios, sending files to bandmates, to producers, to mastering – all, potential Gobbler users.
Music is a market Kantrowitz knows well, and with previous successful ventures in game and software development, in addition to running a concert design and full-service production company, he has a wide view of the media landscape for evolving the platform.
And, he also has a partner…
Kantrowitz founded Gobbler in 2010 with his sister Jamie, a former Myspace executive. In fact, she was Myspace employee #9, and ultimately its SVP of Strategy and Global Marketing. Now, Jamie Kantrowitz serves as Gobbler’s Strategic Advisor. She is also Board Director at SoundCloud, and deeply entrenched in music, tech and startups – obviously a major asset to the company, and component of its rapid growth.
Gobbler has, after all, seemed to burst onto the scene, and – like a mainstream product launch – once in your consciousness, it just keeps popping up. Though still in beta, tens of thousands of Intel Mac-based music creators are already using Gobbler. PC compatibility is apparently just months away.
HOW IT WORKS
You can download the Gobbler application at Gobbler.com. After a quick install, Gobbler scans your drives for files created on all the major DAWs, including Pro Tools, Logic and Garageband, Ableton Live, Steinberg Nuendo and Cubase, Propellerhead Reason and Record, PreSonus’ Studio One, and Reaper.
Once your projects appear you can select the ones you want to back up to the cloud. From there, file changes are monitored in real-time and automatically backed up.
According to Kantrowitz’s research, the biggest need amongst surveyed potential pro audio users was a faster way to send files. Second highest was the demand for a backup solution. Then there was the need for an organizing system – both for individual users’ catalogs, and for projects being worked on and updated by multiple users in different locations.
Gobbler improves significantly, and specifically, on the existing tools audio pros are using for file transfer, backup and collaboration. With widely-used file sharing products like YouSendIt, for example, there is an upload on one end and a download on the other. With Gobbler, the files are already uploaded in the automatic backup process, and so sharing them is quick and easy – click on share and enter an email address to send.
As for backup, Kantrowitz notes: “When Gobbler backs up thousands of your files, it’s really doing more than just backing up. Gobbler does versioning for you. So if you’re working on a project and you want the version from three hours ago, you can access that.”
Among audio professionals surveyed, Dropbox was the most-used file-sharing service. “They found Dropbox because that was the best thing out there,” Kantrowitz notes, “But while it is a great product, it’s a sync product, which is not necessarily what you want when you’re collaborating on an audio project.”
To enable efficient collaboration, Gobbler developed a proprietary file transfer engine for the pro audio community, which according to their specs, “combines lossless compression and server side de-duplication algorithms.” The transfer feature in Gobbler only sends and receives changes to files rather than the entire files, which obviously decreases on transfer times and optimizes it for collaboration between Gobbler users.
And with Gobbler you can send projects and files “of any size” to any number of recipients, and not just other Gobbler users – anyone. The files are also fully encrypted, so the transfers remain secure.
Gobbler also catalogs the locations of your audio, and allows you to tag the files, so you can search and browse your catalog, including offline projects and files on disconnected hard drives. Since your files are backed up to the cloud, your entire catalog is accessible via secure login on any computer that has Gobbler installed on it.
Gobbler also integrates with SoundCloud. “We built the SoundCloud API into Gobbler because SoundCloud is like Flickr for audio,” Kantrowitz. “And we’re the creation and distribution side, so it’s the perfect synergy.
“And we can actually enable features for other APIs – for example we were able to solve two problems for SoundCloud: bulk uploading and bulk tagging. So, now, you can take your whole SoundCloud library and manage it from the Gobbler app.”
THOUSANDS OF GOBBLERS GOBBLING
At the time of our interview with the Gobbler CEO, there were approximately 11,000 people already using Gobbler. “Featured Users” on Gobbler.com include recent NYC-to-LA transplant mastering engineer Howie Weinberg, and NYC-based engineer Gus Oberg – who attests to using Gobbler to backup the live show recordings he’s engineering for The Strokes.
Though the LA-based Gobbler is still in its beta period, Kantrowitz wants to build as big of a user-base as possible right now – firstly, to gather feedback and keep improving the system, and secondly, because it is already totally functional for Intel-based Mac users. Functional, though not entirely flawless. For sending files, Gobbler works like a dream, and you can send any kind of file including audio, video, photos and documents, to anyone. But one of our engineer-reviewers who tested the system in July ran into an issue where Gobbler did not locate all of his Pro Tools session files in the scanning process.
“It’s a known issue,” Kantrowitz assures, “And it will be super simple to fix once we get access to the file format from Avid. We’re in talks with Avid now (and they really like our product.) The issue is based on how Gobbler scans for project files and certain kinds of file structures people use to organize their Pro Tools session files.
“Typically the problem cases have been with Pro Tools users who have very complicated systems, with thousands of files inside thousands of files.”
But, he emphasizes, only some Pro Tools users have experienced this problem. “We have a lot of users, including Pro Tools users, who aren’t having any problems at all,” he says. “And with Logic, GarageBand, Live, Reason and others we’ve had none of these problems because those files are saved in a very consistent way.”
And while Gobbler works out this issue, and gets its PC version up-and-running, the product is improving regularly. “Right now, our total focus is stability, speed, and better compatibility, and it’s constantly improving,” he explains. “We release new builds with fixes every 4 weeks.
“But I feel like you can’t really charge people until it’s totally bulletproof.”
So for now, and the foreseeable future, Gobbler is a free solution you should jump on – if for no other reason than just to send large files. In the process, you’ll be helping develop a stronger product that this industry definitely needs. “Every new user is one more person that might find something that we can fix,” Kantrowitz allows.
“We need people using it in real-world scenarios. We’re looking for questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. so we can address everything that’s coming up, and fix things really fast. We have full-time staffers focused on customer support. And everyone in the company receives feedback and questions posted to our community board.”
Ultimately, the Gobbler price structure will be based on storage space. “Our cheapest plan will start at $8.95 a month, but we’ll also have a free version. I think it’s good for people to try it and decide for themselves whether it’s helpful to them.”
And Kantrowitz will reward Gobbler’s early adopters: “We’re giving out 25 GB of space to anyone who’s in that early group. And we’ll grandfather you in… so our evangelists can pay the lowest tier price once we start charging, and still get that bonus space.”
So go check it out. Become a Gobbler user – send and backup your files, criticize, evangelize.
Visit www.Gobbler.com to get started.