Archive for category Music

The Set Listener

Going to a show? Not totally familiar with an artist’s catalog? Give The Set Listener a try.  The Set Listener is a web app that will create a Spotify playlist of an artist’s most recent show.

 

The_Set_Listener

 

To use The Set Listener just type in the artist name, and hit the search button, you’ll be presented with a playlist of songs from that artist’s most recent show.  Hit the ‘Save this playlist to Spotify’ button and you’ll have a Spotify playlist that you can listen to on your desktop or on your mobile phone.

The app relies on the SetList.fm API and the brand new and super spiffy Spotify Web API. Now that the Spotify Web API supports the creation and saving of playlists creating these types of apps is quite straightforward – just a few hours of coding. This was my first time using the SetList.fm API – its a super resource for setlists from concerts by thousands of artists.

Check out the app online at The Set Listener.  The code is online on github.

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The Echo Nest + Spotify Sandbox

I am wearing my International Executive Music Hacker hat today. I’m writing this blog post at 5AM somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to the Barcelona Music Hack Day, where I’ll be representing both The Echo Nest and Spotify. I’m pretty excited about the hack event – first, because it’s in freaking Barcelona, and second, because I get to talk about what’s been going on with the Spotify and Echo Nest APIs.

The_Echo_Nest___Spotify_Developer

It has been just about 100 days since The Echo Nest and Spotify have joined forces. In that time we’ve been working hard to build the best music platform for listeners and for developers. This week we are releasing some of the very first fruits of our labors.

First up, we are releasing a new Spotify Web API.

This is a complete revamp of the Spotify Metadata API (the old version has now been deprecated). The Spotify Web API gives you access to all sorts of information about the Spotify catalog including details about artists, albums and tracks. Want to know the top tracks for an artist? There’s an API for that. Looking for high quality album art, artist images and 30 second audio previews? There are APIs for that too. Best of all, the new API includes perhaps the most requested Spotify API feature of all time With the Spotify Web API you can now create and modify playlists on behalf of authenticated users. Yes – you can now create a Spotify web app that creates playlists. (I personally requested this feature way back in 2008, here’s my begging plea for the feature in 2009).

static_echonest_com_SpotifyPopcorn_I’ve been using the beta version of this new API for a couple months now and I must say I am quite impressed. The API is fast, super easy to use, and provides all sorts of great data for building apps. In the past weeks I’ve had fun converting a number of my favorite apps to use the Spotify API. First there’s the Road Trip Mix Tape that lets you create a Spotify playlist of music by artists that are from the very towns you are driving through. Then there’s Music Popcorn, a visual interface for exploring genres. For the less visual, there’s the Genre Browser that gives you lots of details about the different music genres including playlists that help give you a gentle introduction to any of the thousands of Echo Nest genres. Next there’s Boil the Frog, an app that creates seamless playlists between any two artists. Finally there’s the 3D Music Maze, an app that lets you explore for music by wandering through a 3 dimensional music world.

Next up, a freshly minted Echo Nest + Spotify Sandbox — a new Spotify ID space.

180px-Rosetta_Stone_BW.jpegThese apps are possible because of the second thing we are releasing this week – a spiffy, shiny new Spotify Rosetta Stone catalog that ensures that the Echo Nest API has the freshest, and most up-to-date view of the Spotify universe of music. For those who might be new to The Echo Nest, Project Rosetta Stone is something we’ve been working on here at the Nest for many years. The goal of Project Rosetta Stone is to solve one of the most common problems that nearly every music app developer faces. The problem is that every music service has its own set of IDs – a music subscription service like Spotify has its own artist, album and track IDs. A lyric service has its own (and very different) IDs for those same artists, albums and tracks and a concert ticketing API has yet a third set of IDs. This is quite problematic for app developers that want to build an app that combines information from multiple services. Without a common ID system, the app developer has to resort to metadata searching and matching – which is slow and quite error prone – this results in a poor app.

Project Rosetta Stone solves this problem by providing ID mappings between as many music services as we can. With this mapping you can easily translate IDs from one ID space to another. With Rosetta Stone, if you have the Spotify track ID you can get Lyricfind and/or Musixmatch IDs making it easy to use those respective APIs to retrieve lyrics for that song. You can easily map the Spotify artist ID to a Songkick or Eventful ID to get ticket and touring information from those APIs. And of course you can use the Spotify track ID to get detailed Echo Nest information about the song such as its tempo, energy, danceability, along with detailed Echo Nest artist data such as latest artist news, blog posts and similar artists.

We have had Spotify IDs in Rosetta Stone for many years, but this particular mapping has in the past been problematic for us. Spotify has a huge catalog and keeping the mapping fresh and up to date between Spotify and The Echo Nest has always been a big challenge. There’s a huge back catalog with millions of tracks to deal with plus thousands of new tracks are being added every week. The result was that there was always a bit of a lag between when updates to the Spotify catalog were reflected in the Rosetta Stone mapping. This meant that if you built a Rosetta Stone-based app you could find that The Echo Nest wouldn’t always know about a Spotify track, especially if a track was very new. The result would be a less-than-perfect app.

This week we are releasing a new Spotify ID space. Our engineers have been working hard over the last 100 days to set up all sorts of infrastructure and plumbing to ensure that we have the most up-to-date view of the Spotify catalog. No more lag between when a new track appears in Spotify and when you can get Echo Nest data. Plus, all of our APIs that take IDs as inputs will now also take Spotify IDs as input as well. If you have a Spotify artist ID you can use it with any Echo Nest artist API method. Likewise, if you have a Spotify track ID you can use it with any Echo Nest song or track API method that takes a track ID as input. This makes it **really** easy for developers to use The Echo Nest and Spotify Apps together. For example, here’s an API call that returns detailed audio properties for a Spotify track given its ID.

http://developer.echonest.com/api/v4/track/profile?api_key=FILDTEOIK2HBORODV&format=json&id=spotify:track:3L7BcXHCG8uT92viO6Tikl&bucket=audio_summary

I’ve been having much fun using The Echo Nest API with the brand new Spotify API. I’ve already written some code that you can use. First, I wrote a Python library for Spotify called Spotipy. It’s makes it easy to write Python programs that use the new Spotify Web API, and it works well with my Echo Nest Python library called Pyen. Here’s an example of using the two libraries together:

I’ve also put together a number of Javascript example apps that use both APIs. These are simple apps intended to help new developers (or at least new to music apps) use the APIs together to do common things like create chillout playlists, browse through the web of similar artists, and more.

So yes, I’m pretty jazzed about this trip to Barcelona. I get to create a music hack, I get to spend a few days with some of the best music hackers in the world (The Barcelona Music Hack Day, as part of the Sonar Festival tends to attract the top music hackers). I get to spend a few days on the Mediterranean in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Best of all, I get to talk about the new Spotify and Echo Nest developer platform and help music hackers build cool stuff on top of the newly combined platform.

I’ve put together a page that talks in detail about the new Spotify / Echo Nest platform. It has links to all of the API docs, libraries, examples, github repos, demos and details on how you can use The Echo Nest / Spotify Platform. Check it out here:

The_Echo_Nest___Spotify_Developer

 

http://static.echonest.com/enspex

Keep an eye on this space for I’ll be updating it as we continue to integrate our developer APIs. There’s lots more coming, so stay tuned!

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Bear core

Glenn has added a few fun genres to his Every Noise At Once map of the genre space. Check out the Bear genre which consists of bands with the word ‘bear’ in their name:

Every_Noise_at_Once

 


 

If you get tired of Bear then there is always the Horse genre which is made up of the many bands with Horse in their name (unfortunately, there is no Wyld Stallyns in the genre – seems to me that a fictional genre should have the greatest fictional band of all time):

Every_Noise_at_Once

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The Skip

skipAt the time when I was coming of age musically, when we listened to music on LPs, the listening experience was very different than it is today. For one, if you didn’t like the currently playing song you had to get out of your chair, walk over to the turntable, carefully pick up the tone arm and advance the needle to the next track.  That was a lot of work to avoid three minutes of bad music. You really had to really dislike a song to make skipping it worth the effort. Today, with our fancy iPhones and our digital streaming music subscription services, skipping a song couldn’t be easier. Just tap a button and you are on to the next song.  The skip button is now a big part of the overall listening experience. Don’t like a song? Skip it. Never heard a song? Skip it. Just heard a song? Skip it. The Skip even plays a role in how we we pay for music. For most music subscription services if you want the freedom to skip a song whenever you want, you’ll need to be a premium subscriber, otherwise you’ll be limited to a half-dozen or so skips per hour.

I am interested in how people are using the skip button when listening to music so I spent a bit of time taking a closer look at skip data. This and the next blog post or two will be all about the skipping behavior of music listeners. We’ll take a look at how often people skip, whether different listener demographics have different skipping behavior, what artists and genres are most and least likely to trigger skips and more!

The Data
This is my first deep dive into Spotify data. The Spotify team has built up a fantastic big data infrastructure making it easy to extract insights from the billions and billions of music plays. For this study I’ve processed several billions of plays from many million unique listeners from all around the world.

What is a skip?
For this study, I define a skip as any time the listener abandons a song before the song finishes. It could be because the listener explicitly presses the skip button, or it could be that they searched for and started another song before the current song finished, or they clicked on a different song in the playlist. For whatever reason, if the listener doesn’t make it to the end of the song, I call it a skip.

How often do people skip?
The first and most basic question to answer is:  How often do people skip?. Given that skipping is so easy how big of a part does skipping play in our listening. The answer: A lot!  

Here are the numbers.  First, lets look at how often a song is skipped within the first five seconds of play.  I call these quick skips. The likelihood that a song will be skipped within the first five seconds is an astounding 24.14%. Nearly one quarter of all song plays are abandoned in the first 5 seconds. The likelihood that a song will be skipped within the first thirty seconds rises to 35.05%. The chance that a song is skipped before it ends is a whopping 48.6%. Yes, the odds are only slightly better than 50/50 that a song will be played all the way to the end.

Skipped in Likelihood of skip
First 5 seconds 24.14 %
First 10 seconds 28.97 %
First 30 seconds 35.05 %
Before song finishes 48.6 %

The following plot shows the average skipping behavior for millions of listeners and billions of plays. The plot shows the rather steep drop off in listeners in the early part of a song when most listeners are deciding whether or not to skip the song.  Then there’s a slow but steady decline in listeners until we reach the end of the song where only about 50% of the listeners remain.

all_songs

The next plot shows the average skipping behavior within in the first 60 seconds of a song. It shows that most of the song skips happen within the first 20 seconds or so of the song, and after that there’s a relatively small but steady skipping rate.

all_songs_detail

We can also calculate an overall skip rate per listener – that is, the average number of times a listener skips a song per hour.

Average listener/skips per hour:  14.65

On average a listener is skipping a song once every four minutes. That’s a whole lot of skipping.

Who is doing all that skipping?

Do different types of listeners skip music at different rates? Lets take a look.

By Gender

Skipping rate of male listeners:     44.75%
Skipping rate of female listeners:  45.23%

There seems to be little difference as to how often men and women skip.

By Platform:

Desktop skipping rate:   40.1%
Mobile skipping rate:      51.1%

When we are at our desktops, we tend to settle into longer listening sessions and skip less, while when we are mobile we spend much more time interacting with our music.

By age:

Skipping_behavior_by_age

This plot shows the skipping rate as a function of the age of the listener.  It shows that young teenagers have the highest skipping rate – well above 50%, but as the listener gets older their skipping rate drops rather dramatically, to reach the skipping nadir of about 35%.  Interestingly, the skipping rate rises again for people in their late 40s and early 50s.  I have a couple of theories about why this might be.  The first theory is that the skipping rate is a indication of how much free time a person has time. Teenagers skip more because they have more time to devote to editing their music stream, whereas thirty-somethings, with their little kids and demanding jobs, have no time to pay attention to  their music players.  The second theory, suggested by Spotify über-analyst Chris Tynan, is that the late-forties skipping resurgence is caused by teenagers that use their parent’s account.

When do people skip the most?

The following plot shows the skipping behavior over a 24 hour period.  To create the plot, I analyzed the listening behavior for UK residents (which are conveniently confined to a single timezone) over several weeks.

Skipping_behavior_by_hour_of_the_day

The plot shows that the skipping rate is lowest when people are paying less attention to music – like when they are asleep, or at work. Skipping behavior peaks in the morning hour as people start they day and start to head into work and again at the end of the day when they are at home or out socializing with their friends.  The plot shows the time of day when people tend to have the most attention to devote to hand-curating their music stream. When people are sleeping or working, their skip rate goes down.

In the next plot, below, the skipping rate is overlaid with normalized song plays.  It is interesting to see that the highest skipping rates do not coincide with the peak music playing times of the day, but instead is aligned with the times of day when rate of change in plays is the most.

Skipping_behavior_compared_to_song_plays_by_hour_of_the_day

 

Skipping behavior by Day of the Week

The following plot shows the average skipping rate per day of the week.  The skipping rate is higher on weekends, showing, once again, that when people have more spare time, they are more apt to curate their listening sessions by skipping tracks.

Skipping_behavior_by_day_of_the_week_and_2__ssh

Take away
The Skip really has changed how we listened to music.  It plays a significant role in how we interacts with our music stream. When we are more engaged with our music – we skip more, and when music is in the background such as when we are working or relaxing, we skip less. When we have more free time, such as when we are young, or on the weekends, or home after a day of work, we skip more. That’s when we have more time to pay attention to our music. The big surprise for me is how often we skip.  On average, we skip nearly every other song that we play.

Skipping has become an important part of how we listen to music.  It is no surprise then, that ‘unlimited skipping’ is a feature used to entice people to upgrade to a premium paid account. And it may be one of the reasons why people would switch from a service that doesn’t offer unlimited skips even on their premium service to one that does.

Coming soon: Look for my next post that will look at which genres, songs and artists get skipped the most and the least.

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RIT WiC Hacks

I spent this weekend in Rochester NY where I participated in the Rochester Institute of Technology’s WiC Hacks - a hackathon for women of all skill levels.  At the hackathon women from the Rochester area – including many from local high schools and middle schools spent 12 hours learning about technology and then applying what they learned by making a hack that they could show off to the rest of the hackers.  Around 75 women hackers were in attendance along with participation from companies such as Google, Apple, Xerox, Intuit, and, of course, Spotify and The Echo Nest. Companies provided technical guidance, inspiration, mentorship and prizes.

There were lots of great hacks in built during the hackathon. One of the crowd favorites was The Virtual Outdoors, an Android app designed to interest young women in STEM technologies using real life applications and fun games built by a team of high schoolers.

Screenshot_4_27_14__6_11_PM

Another nifty hack was the Mixtery – a game in which you had to figure out the identify of a song that has been beat-shuffled with the Echo Nest. This hack won the Echo Nest prize.

The winner of the Spotify prize was Steminist – a web app that helps you identify the type of science, engineering or tech field you might be best suited for – it rewards you with some Spotify music after finishing the quiz.

All in all, it was a great event – with lots of energy, great teamwork, and lots of really creative ideas from all of the young women. Plus an added bonus I got to see my daughter @imjen – she was helping out and even gave the Twitter API talk.

@imjen and friend @7imbrook prepping the twitter API talk

@imjen and friend @7imbrook prepping the twitter API talk

Congrats to the organizers for putting together such a wonderful event. Looking forward to participating in more events just like this one.

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Echo Nest Radio on Spotify

Spotify_-_The_Cult_–_Wild_Flower

I work for Spotify now – so for my Sunday morning programming project I thought I’d write a simple Spotify App that uses The Echo Nest API to create playlists based upon a seed song. I’ve done this before, but the last time was a few years ago and the Spotify Apps API has changed quite a bit since then, so I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to freshen my understanding of the Spotify API as well as to demonstrate how to write a Spotify App that uses The Echo Nest API.

I created an Echo Nest Radio app – it is a very simple app – it looks at what song you are currently playing and will generate an Echo Nest playlist based upon that seed song. The code is pretty straightforward. It grabs the Now Playing track from Spotify, gets the track’s ID and uses that as a seed for The Echo Nest song-radio static playlist API. This call returns Spotify track IDs (thanks to our Rosetta Stone ID mapping layer) that are then tossed into a temporary playlist, which is used to build a List view which is then displayed in the app. All told it is just over 100 lines of Javascript.

It did take me a bit of time to get the hang of the newer Spotify Apps API. It has changed quite a bit since I last used it and many of the examples that I relied on in the past, like Peter Watt’s excellent Kitchen Sink app, use an older version of the API. The new version has some significant changes including a nifty new module system along with a new approach to managing long-running queries that relies on promises. Once I got the hang of it, I decided that I like the new version – it makes for cleaner code and a much more efficient app since much less data needs to be moved around.

The app is on github – to use it you need to sign up for a developer account on Spotify and follow the rest of the Getting Started instructions (this means if you are not a developer, you’ll probably not be able to use the app).

The Spotify Apps API makes it super easy to be able to create apps that run inside Spotify. Its a very familiar programming environment for anyone who has done web programming. You can use all of your favorite libraries from jQuery to Lo-Dash to create really compelling apps that sit on top of the millions and millions of tracks in the Spotify catalog. However, unlike a web app where anyone can publish their app on the web, to publish a Spotify App you have to submit your app to the Spotify App approval process and only apps that Spotify approves are published. Spotify sets a high bar for what ultimately gets approved – which keeps the quality of the apps high, but also means that hacks and experiments built on the Spotify Apps platform will likely never be approved for release to the general public.  It’s a difficult balancing act for Spotify. They’ve built the ultimate music hacking platform with this API, but if they open the doors to every music hack, they will ultimately dilute the listening experience of the user – like so other many App stores that are flooded with garbage apps,  if they publish every app and hack then Spotify listeners would be inundated with the musical equivalent of flashlight and fart apps.  With the approval process, Spotify essentially says ‘the listener comes first’ which is the right choice.   Still, as a music hacker I do wish it was easier to publish rich music apps built on the Spotify platform. Luckily Spotify is committed to building an active and vibrant developer ecosystem so I don’t expect they we will be standing still.

Update 3/24/14: – I’ve added the ability to save these playlists back to Spotify, so you can take the Echo Nest radio playlists with you.

Second update 3/24/14 – note that Spotify’s recent announcement that they are closing app submissions means that you won’t be able to submit apps for publishing anymore, but you should be able to still create your own.

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Beyond the Play Button – the future of listening

I’ve created a page with all the supporting info for my SXSW Talk called Beyond The Play Button – the future of listening.

Beyond the Play Button – the future of listening

The page contains slides, links to all supporting data and links to all apps demoed.

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The Echo Nest Is Joining Spotify: What It Means To Me, and To Developers

I love writing music apps and playing with music data. How much? Every weekend I wake up at 6am and spend a long morning writing a new music app or playing with music data. That’s after a work week at The Echo Nest, where I spend much of my time writing music apps and playing with music data. The holiday break is even more fun, because I get to spend a whole week working on a longer project like Six Degrees of Black Sabbath or the 3D Music Maze.

That’s why I love working for The Echo Nest. We have built an amazing open API, which anyone can use, for free, to create music apps. With this API, you can create phenomenal music discovery apps like Boil the Frog that take you on a journey between any two artists, or Music Popcorn, which guides you through hundreds of music genres, from the arcane to the mainstream. It also powers apps that create new music, like Girl Talk in a Box, which lets you play with your favorite song in the browser, or The Swinger, which creates a Swing version of any song:

One of my roles at The Echo Nest is to be the developer evangelist for our API — to teach developers what our API can do, and get them excited about building things with it. This is the best job ever. I get to go to all parts of the world to attend events like Music Hack Day and show a new crop of developers what they can do with The Echo Nest API. In that regard, it’s also the easiest job ever, because when I show apps that developers have built with The Echo Nest API, like The Bonhamizer and The Infinite Jukebox, or show how to create a Pandora-like radio experience with just a few lines of Python, developers can’t help but get excited about our API.

The_Echo_Nest_workshop___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_

Photo by Thomas Bonte

At The Echo Nest we’ve built what I think is the best, most complete music API — and now our API is about to get so much better.

spotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgbToday, we’ve announced that The Echo Nest has been acquired by Spotify, the award-winning digital music service. As part of Spotify, The Echo Nest will use our deep understanding of music to give Spotify listeners the best possible personalized music listening experience.

Spotify has long been committed to fostering a music app developer ecosystem. They have a number of APIs for creating apps on the web, on mobile devices, and within the Spotify application. They’ve been a sponsor and active participant in Music Hack Days for years now. Developers love Spotify, because it makes it easy to add music to an app without any licensing fuss. It has an incredibly huge music catalog that is available in countries around the world.

Spotify and The Echo Nest APIs already work well together. The Echo Nest already knows Spotify’s music catalog. All of our artist, song, and playlisting APIs can return Spotify IDs, making it easy to build a smart app that plays music from Spotify. Developers have been building Spotify / Echo Nest apps for years. If you go to a Music Hack Day, one of the most common phrases you’ll hear is, “This Spotify app uses The Echo Nest API”.

I am incredibly excited about becoming part of Spotify, especially because of what it means for The Echo Nest API. First, to be clear, The Echo Nest API isn’t going to go away. We are committed to continuing to support our open API. Second, although we haven’t sorted through all the details, you can imagine that there’s a whole lot of data that Spotify has that we can potentially use to enhance our API.  Perhaps the first visible change you’ll see in The Echo Nest API as a result of our becoming part of Spotify is that we will be able to keep our view of the Spotify ID space in our Project Rosetta Stone ID mapping layer incredibly fresh. No more lag between when an item appears in Spotify and when its ID appears in The Echo Nest.

The Echo Nest and the Spotify APIs are complementary. Spotify’s API provides everything a developer needs to play music and facilitate interaction with the listener, while The Echo Nest provides deep data on the music itself — what it sounds like, what people are saying about it, similar music its fans should listen to, and too much more to mention here. These two APIs together provide everything you need to create just about any music app you can think of.

I am a longtime fan of Spotify. I’ve been following them now for over seven years. I first blogged about Spotify way back in January of 2007 while they were still in stealth mode. I blogged about the Spotify haircuts, and their serious demeanor:

Those Crazy Spotify Guys in 2007

Those Crazy Spotify Guys in 2007

I blogged about the Spotify application when it was released to private beta (“Woah – Spotify is pretty cool”), and continued to blog about them every time they added another cool feature.

Last month, on a very cold and snowy day in Boston, I sat across a conference table from of bunch of really smart folks with Swedish accents. As they described their vision of a music platform, it became clear to me that they share the same obsession that we do with trying to find the best way to bring fans and music together.

Together, we can create the best music listening experience in history.

I’m totally excited to be working for Spotify now. Still, as with any new beginning, there’s an ending as well. We’ve worked hard, for many years, to build The Echo Nest — and as anyone who’s spent time here knows, we have a very special culture of people totally obsessed with building the best music platform. Of course this will continue, but as we become part of Spotify things will necessarily change, and the time when The Echo Nest was a scrappy music startup when no one in their right mind wanted to be a music startup will be just a sweet memory. To me, this is a bit like graduation day in high school — it is exciting to be moving on to bigger things, but also sad to say goodbye to that crazy time in life.

There is a big difference: When I graduated from high school and went off to college, I had to say goodbye to all my friends, but now as I go off to the college of Spotify, all my friends and classmates from high school are coming with me. How exciting is that!

en_logo_250x200_ltspotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgb

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Exploring regional listening preferences

In previous posts we looked at how gender and age can affect listening preferences. Today we take a look at how the location of a listener may affect their listening preferences.

distinctive_artist_map-2

For this study, I sampled the listening preferences of about a quarter million listeners that have a zip code associated with their account. update: Listener data is drawn from a variety of music streaming services that are powered by The Echo Nest. I aggregated these listeners into regions (state, regional and all-US). To compare regions I look at the top-N most popular artists  based upon listener plays in each region and look for artists that have a substantial change in rank between the two regions. These artists are the artists that define the taste for the region.

As an example let’s compare Tennessee to New England. If we look at the top 100 artists listened to in Tennessee and see which artists fall the furthest on the New England chart we find these 10 artists:

# Artist Rank in
Tennessee
Rank in
New England
Delta
1 Hillsong United 97 1097 -1000
2 Juicy J 47 664 -617
3 Young Jeezy 78 579 -501
4 R. Kelly 26 259 -233
5 2 Chainz 63 288 -225
6 Eric Church 79 286 -207
7 The 1975 87 268 -181
8 T.I. 40 211 -171
9 The Civil Wars 22 150 -128
10 Blake Shelton 58 184 -126

The first artist, Hillsong United is the 97th most popular artist in Tennessee for our sample of listeners. In New England, Hillsong United drops all the way to the 1097th artist, a drop in rank of 1,000. Hillsong United is a Christian rock worship band. Tennessee listeners, living in the heart of the U.S. Bible Belt, listen to Hillsong United much more than their New England counterparts. Second on the Tennessee list is Juicy J,a rapper, songwriter and record producer from Memphis, Tennessee. Third is Young Jeezy from nearby Atlanta Georgia.  The rest of the top 10 is dominated by southern rappers, country, and folk artists.

Now let’s look at top 100 New England artists and see which artists fall furthest on the Tennessee charts:

# Artist Rank in
New England
Rank in
Tennessee
Delta
1 Phish 89 431 -342
2 Grateful Dead 45 222 -177
3 Talking Heads 86 254 -168
4 Neil Young 53 182 -129
5 Bonobo 60 189 -129
6 Billy Joel 90 218 -128
7 Bruce Springsteen 48 175 -127
8 The XX 44 158 -114
9 Modest Mouse 85 179 -94
10 Bob Marley 30 123 -93

New England tastes run to jam bands, indie and classic rock.

Exploring Region differences on your own

I built an app that makes it easy to explore the regional differences in music. With the app you can select two regions and it will show you which artists are distinctive for each region.

Regionalisms_in_U_S__Listening_Preferences

Using this approach we can pick a single signature artist for each state. I do this by finding the top most distinctive popular artist for a state that hasn’t already been selected for a more populous state. Here’s the list of signature state artists:

State Name State Rank US Rank Change
AK Ginger Kwan 33 12062 -12029
AL The Civil Wars 34 110 -76
AR Wiz Khalifa 15 69 -54
AZ Linkin Park 47 98 -51
CA Bonobo 28 85 -57
CO The Naked And Famous 48 125 -77
CT David Guetta 43 80 -37
DE Rush 38 385 -347
FL Rick Ross 44 103 -59
GA Future 33 226 -193
HI J Boog 40 4703 -4663
IA B.o.B 32 82 -50
ID Tegan and Sara 31 107 -76
IL Sufjan Stevens 38 68 -30
IN Blake Shelton 31 91 -60
KS Eric Church 48 162 -114
KY Fall Out Boy 17 59 -42
LA Kevin Gates 15 1359 -1344
MA Neil Young 49 128 -79
MD Kelly Rowland 45 217 -172
ME R.E.M. 28 197 -169
MI Young Jeezy 34 138 -104
MN Metric 41 211 -170
MO The Shins 29 67 -38
MS August Alsina 42 909 -867
MT Tim McGraw 36 187 -151
NC Miguel 37 88 -51
ND Stone Sour 47 735 -688
NE Bastille 48 89 -41
NH Grateful Dead 29 191 -162
NJ Bruce Springsteen 23 109 -86
NM Alan Jackson 45 425 -380
NV Ciara 34 106 -72
NY James Blake 47 130 -83
OH Florida Georgia Line 26 75 -49
OK Jason Aldean 24 84 -60
OR Kurt Vile 49 212 -163
PA Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros 43 77 -34
RI Nirvana 48 126 -78
SC Hillsong United 24 262 -238
SD Hinder 42 1154 -1112
TN Juicy J 47 151 -104
TX George Strait 16 199 -183
UT AWOLNATION 31 111 -80
VA Dave Matthews Band 48 113 -65
VT Phish 5 353 -348
WA The Head and the Heart 22 83 -61
WI Jack Johnson 45 99 -54
WV matchbox twenty 48 282 -234
WY Dirty Heads 48 1334 -1286

distinctive_artist_map-2

It is pretty clear that people in different parts of the US listen to different kinds of music. These regionalisms can be used to help recommend music for people when you otherwise might not know anything about their music taste.

Note – the base map in the visualizations is shaded by population density.

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The Tokyo Tune Train

I spent this weekend in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo at Music Hack Day Tokyo. Inspired by the Tokyo Subway, and the love many people in Japan have for music games I thought I would build a Tokyo Subway-themed music game for my hack.  The result is the Tokyo Tune Train.

The Tokyo Tune Train

The Tokyo Tune Train

The goal of the game is to drive a Tokyo Subway car through the maze of routes and make it to the final stop with the fewest deviations from the track (in my world, the trains don’t stay on the tracks unless you steer them). It’s a bit like Centipede or Snake, but with a train track and music integrated into the game play.

Tokyo_Tune_TrainFirst_Of_The_Year__Equinox__by_Skrillex

Headlights help you see up coming turns

The movement of the train is synchronized to a song – with every beat of the song, the train advances a hundred feet down the track.  As long as you stay on the track, the song will play perfectly, but if you miss a turn, not only will you veer off the tracks you will also veer into a completely different part of the song.  If you stop the train, the song will stop and continually play that one beat until you start again. If you go backwards the song will play backwards.  You can speed the train up and slow it down (which, of course, also speeds up or slows down the song). A faster train is harder to drive but gets you to the destination quicker.  You get points for good driving and getting to the destination in the quickest time. There’s an adjustable headlight on the train – the brighter the headlight, the further ahead you can see, making the drive easier, but the headlight uses lots of energy, so a brighter headlight will cost you a number of points. You can also drive during the day letting you see the whole line stretched out in front of you. It’s much easier to navigate, but driving during the day costs more points than (access to the tracks during the day is very expensive in my train system). There’s even an autopilot that will take over and drive the train perfectly for you, but it chews through points very rapidly, so use it sparingly.

This is the first game I’ve built in a long time. My goal was to make something that was fun to play in which music was an integral part of the game.

The Technical Bits

At the core of the game is the Echo Nest remix library. I essentially ripped Girl Talk in a Box apart and put in a new play engine that was tied to the game mechanic. The harder bit was figuring out how to build good labyrinth mazes that would get progressively twistier and would fill a 2-D plane.  I played around with a number of algorithms, but none were satisfactory, so instead, I built a maze editor that lets you hand draw mazes and then export the data as json to be used by the app.

Maze_Draw

I enlisted the help of Elissa and Eric to build the mazes. They created 15 awesomely creative mazes that met the needs of the game much better than any maze algorithm, again confirming the superiority of human curators over the algorithm.

Professional maze builders  @elissab and @eswens conducting research at The Scramble

Professional labyrinth builders @elissab and @eswens conducting maze research at The Scramble

I briefly took a look at using Google Play Game service to manage the high-scores, but it looked like it would take at least an hour of precious hacking time to integrate and since it is a feature that wouldn’t appear in the demo, I decided it was not worth the effort.

The Demo

It was a great demo session at Music Hack Day Tokyo. There were easily 150 people crammed into the demo area – it was standing room only.  The demo session was conducted in Japanese, so Taishi provided simultaneous translation for me.  I was nervous giving the demo, so I let the train autopilot do most of the driving.  The crowd seemed to really enjoy the demo, the hack got lots of votes for ‘favorite hack‘ on the hacker league page of hacks, and I got many compliments. I was pleased with the response and feedback

Photo by @timfalls

Taishi translated the demo while I try to drive a train in front of 150 hackers. Photo by @timfalls

A day later I see that a number of people have played the game and have posted their scores to twitter which is great to see (way better response than I received for my dark horse hack).

twitter feedback

twitter feedback

Give the game a try and let me know what you think:

Ride the Equinox line of the Tokyo Tune Train

The code is on github.

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