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Simple Station, Mediacore, and the Engine Behind Indie Music for Haiti

We at Simple Station are really excited to have partnered with ServInt and Asparagus Media on the Indie Music for Haiti (IMFH) project. It was an great opportunity for us to help the cause in a way that fit a core principle of our business: design for social impact.

In the first team meeting, it was clear we wanted to be able to start dialog around music and videos. Not only was it important to us to be able to post music and allow users to comment, but users should also be able to submit their own music for consideration. In order for the best content to float to the top, users need to be able to rate content, and the number times each song was played had to be tracked as well. To manage all this data would require a robust administrative back-end that was still simple and painless to use, so Fritz and his team at Asparagus Media could manage the whole operation without any trouble..

We chose to base the whole project around the MediaCore Open Source Audio/Video CMS. We built MediaCore over the last year, and have been using it in production for a number of different client projects. It’s got a really sleek and very configurable presentation to the user and, for administrators, it is pretty much a dream management tool. It is built on top of Python and uses the TurboGears2 and Pylons frameworks for the heavy lifting. We deployed it on a CentOS, Apache and MySQL stack in just an hour. We did have to spend some time in customizing the platform to allow Youtube and Vimeo URL’s to be submitted, but that was something that we had been wanting to do for a while, so it fit right in with our development schedule. The really fun part was customizing the whole thing to fit the visual theme our team wanted to promote.

From a design perspective we wanted to keep things pretty simple and minimal, while allowing the words and the music to do the talking. We chose a raw, hand-drawn typeface for the official logo, and selected a palette based on earth-tones to convey the grassroots feeling we were looking for. You’ll notice photos from the kind folks at Voice for Haiti in the background, which we posterized and worked in gently. One thing we really wanted to avoid was screaming at users, or conveying really graphical pictures of the gravity of the situation in Haiti. While we didn’t want to make light of the situation, we also didn’t want to twist any arms in forcing donations by putting people in desperate need on display. The mission of the site should speak to the need for donations, people know what happened in Haiti, and we hope that the design conveys a sense of peace and unity in a way other sites perhaps are missing. Imagine the concept of a site for Indie artists whose music is inspiring people to donate to people in need. Innovative concepts like this one should inspire and illumine thought, not depress it.

The whole project was officially launched last week. ServInt generously has provided the hosting, their team has been great to work with, and I can’t say enough good things about Fritz and his team over at Asparagus Media. Fritz single-handedly worked his way through a lot of the content issues on the site, and when we caught a few legal issues, he reached out to a few of his contacts and managed to get some great legal advice pulled together for the Terms of Service for free at the last moment. Great job all round and a resounding applause for the Indie Music for Haiti team.

Interested in using MediaCore for your project?

MediaCore is free and open source under the GPLv3 license! Try the demo and download the complete source.

We are planning a major release (0.8) with a vastly improved frontend, more flexible file management and improved accessibility for disabled users. The release is planned for mid-April, and if you’re interested you can sign up for email release notifications.

If you are a developer or designer feel free to get in touch with us, and we’d be happy to work with you in getting MediaCore rolling for you.

We’re also looking for volunteers to contribute to the MediaCore Open Source project. We are looking for help with marketing, promotion, and development. If you are interested please email

Stuart Bowness is the Founder, Creative Director, and Lead Interface Designer for Simple Station.

Photo by Ken Bosma

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