Unofficial Artist Guide to SXSW

I’m excited! Next week I travel to Austin for a week long computer+music geek-fest at SXSW.  A big part of SXSW is the music – there are nearly 2,000 different artists playing at SXSW this year. But that presents a problem – there are so many bands going to SXSW (many I’ve never heard of) that I find it very hard to figure out which bands I should go and see.  I need a tool to help me find sift through all of the artists – a tool that will help me decide which artists I should add to my schedule and which ones I should skip.   I’m not the only one who was daunted by the large artist list.  Taylor McKnight, founder of SCHED*, was thinking the same thing.  He wanted to give his users a better way to plan their time at SXSW.  And so over a couple of weekends Taylor built (with a little backend support from us)  The Unofficial Artist Discovery Guide to SXSW.

The Unofficial Artist Discovery Guide to SXSW is a tool that allows you to explore the many artists attending this year’s SXSW.  It lets you search for artists,  browse popularity, music style, ‘buzzworthiness’,  or similarity to your favorite artists – and it will make recommendations for you based on your music taste (using your Last.fm, Sched* or Hype Machine accounts) .  The Artist Guide supplies enough context (bios, images, music, tag clouds, links) to help you decide if you might like an artist.

Here’s the guide:

Here’s a quick tour of some of the things you can do with the guide.  First off, you can Search for artists by name, genre/tag or location. This helps you find music when you know what you are looking for.

However, you may not always be sure what you are looking for – that’s where you use Discover. This gives you recommendations based on the music you already like.  Type in the name of a few artists (even artists that are not playing at SXSW) or your SCHED*, Hype Machine or Last.fm user name, and ‘Discover’ will give you a set of recommendations for SXSW artists based on your music taste.  For example, I’ve been listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg lately so I can use the artist guide to help me find SXSW artists that I might like:

If I see an artist that looks interesting I can drill down and get more info about the artist:

From here I can read the artist bio, listen to some audio, explore other similar SXSW artists or add the event to my SCHED* schedule.

I use Last.fm quite a bit, so I can enter my Last.fm name and get SXSW recommendations based upon my Last.fm top artists. The artist guide tries to mix things up a little bit so if I don’t like the recommendations I see, I can just ask again and I can get a different set. Here are some recommendations based on my recent listening at Last.fm:

If you’ve been using the wonderful SCHED* to keep track of your SXSW calendar you can use the guide to get recommendations based on artists that you’ve already added to your SXSW calendar.

In addition to search and discovery, the guide gives you a number of different ways to browse the SXSW Artist space.  You can browse by ‘buzzworthy’ artists – these are artists that are getting the most buzz on the web:

Or the most well-known artists:

You can browse by the style of music via a tag cloud:

And by venue:

Building the guide was pretty straightforward. Taylor used the Echo Nest APIs to get the detailed artist data such as familiarity, popularity, artist bios, links, images, tags and audio. The only data that was not available at the Echo Nest was the venue and schedule info which was  provided by Arkadiy (one of Taylor’s colleagues).  Even though SXSW artists can be extremely long tail (some don’t even have Myspace pages),  the Echo Nest was able to provide really good coverage for these sets (There was coverage for over 95% of the artists).     Still there are a few gaps and I suspect there may be a few errors in the data (my favorite wrong image is for the band Abe Vigoda).   If you are in a band that is going to SXSW and you see that we have some of your info wrong, send me an email (paul@echonest.com) and I’ll make it right.

We are excited to see the this Artist Discovery guide built on top of the Echo Nest.  It’s a great showcase for the Echo Nest developer platform and working with Taylor was great.  He’s one of these hyper-creative, energetic types – smart, gets things done and full of new ideas.   Taylor may be adding  a few more features to the guide before SXSW, so stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on new developments.

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  1. #1 by brian on March 5, 2010 - 12:30 pm

    this is really great — good job taylor (and paul), the discovery stuff is very useful and i’m happy to see our coverage of these kind of bands is so good (so also, props to the EN team)

  2. #2 by pietro on March 8, 2010 - 8:19 pm

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