Archive for category Music

The Fresh 40

Every week, thousands of artists release albums on Spotify.  Sifting through all this new music to find good stuff to listen to can be hard. Luckily, there are lots of tools from New Music Tuesday playlists to the Spotify Viral 50 to help us find the needles in the proverbial haystack of new music. However, most of these tools tend to surface up new music by artists that have been around for a while. For instance, the top artist on Spotify Viral 50 as I write this is Jeremih who has been on the charts for five years. The top of New Music Tuesday right now is Mumford & Sons who’ve been recording for at least eight years.

I’m interested in finding music by the freshest artists – artists that are at the very beginning of their recording careers. To that end, I’ve built a new chart called ‘The Fresh 40′ that shows the top albums by the freshest artists. To build The Fresh 40 I scour through all of the albums that have been released in the last two weeks on Spotify (on average that’s about 30 thousand albums), and find the albums that are the very first album release for its artist. I then rank each album by a weighted combination of the number of followers the artist has on Spotify and the popularity of the artist and album (which is related to Spotify track plays). The result is a chart of the top 40 most popular fresh artists.

2015-04-27 at 7.50 AM

The Fresh 40 updates every day and shows all the salient info including the rank, yesterday’s rank, the overall score, artist followers, artist popularity, album popularity and the number of days that the album has been on the chart. Since an album can only be on the chart for 15 days, there’s quite a bit of change from day to day.

If you are interested in finding music by the very newest artists on Spotify, you might be interested in The Fresh 40. Give the chart a look.

The Fresh 40 was built on top of the increasingly marvelous Spotify Web API.  Code is on github.

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Fresh Faces on Spotify

My weekend programming project this week was to explore a new feature of the Spotify Web API that allows you to find albums that have been released in the last two weeks. The result is a web app called Fresh Faces.  This app goes through all of the recent releases and finds those that are the very first release for the artist. If you are looking for new music, there’s no fresher place to start than this app – it finds the newest music by the freshest artists – artists that are barely two weeks into their recording career.

2015-04-26 at 11.40 AM Fresh Faces lets you sort the results based on artist popularity, album popularity, artist followers or release date. You can click on an album to hear a sample, find more info about the album or open it on Spotify.

How many new releases are there?

I was curious about how many releases there are in a two week period, and when releases tend to happen, so I added a chart at the bottom of the Fresh Faces app that shows the distribution of fresh and recurring releases and the dates when releases happen.  You can see that the shift of releasing music from Tuesday to Friday is ongoing.

2015-04-26 at 11.45 AM

In the past two weeks about 32,000 albums have been released – about 5,200 of these are the first release for the artist. That’s a whole lot of fresh music.

Give Fresh Faces a try and let me know what you think.

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The Unfollower

One of the problems with working at a company like Spotify is that my Spotify account gets filled up with all sorts of work-related playlists. Over the last few years I’ve built lots of apps that create playlists. When I test these apps I end up generating lots of playlists that I will never ever listen to. If I were a tidy soul, I’d clean up my playlists after ever project, but, alas, that is something I never do. The result is that after working at Spotify for a year (and using Spotify for 8 years), I’ve accumulated many hundreds of garbage playlists. Now I could go into the Spotify desktop client and clean these up, but in the current client there’s no good way to bulk delete playlists.  Each playlist delete takes at least 3 clicks.  The prospect of doing this hundreds of times to clean up the playlist garbage is  a bit overwhelming.

I had  a few hours to kill in a coffeeshop yesterday so I decided to deal with my playlist mess.  I wrote a little Spotify web app called The Unfollower that lets you unfollow any of your playlists with a single click.  If you change your mind, you can re-follow any playlist that you unfollow.

The Unfollower screenshot

The Unfollower uses the Spotify Web API to make it all happen. In particular it relies on the  Follow/Unfollow API that was recently added by the API team.

If you are like me and have lots of dead playlists clogging up your Spotify, and you are looking for a streamlined way of cleaning them up, give The Unfollower a try.

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How we listen to music

Yesterday I gave a talk at SXSW about what we can learn about how we listen to music by looking at all sorts of listener data that we collect at Spotify.  You can see the slides for my talk here … but the slides only tell half the story, the other have are in my words, but those aren’t written down anywhere. You’ll just have to assume that they were very insightful, and a little bit humorous, but at the end told an incredible story leaving you inspired and fulfilled.

 

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Hippie Pandas bring music to the classroom

I just had a skype call with a group of young women called the Hippie Pandas, a First Lego League Team based in Rochester New York. As part of the First Lego League competition(*), they are working on a research project titled “How can we improve the way teachers learn to use music in the classroom to improve student’s performance and behavior.”  In their research they found that particular types of music when played in the classroom can improve memorization, creativity and behavior. The team has created a website with a number of specialized Spotify playlists that teachers can use to enhance learning and behavior in the classroom.

Hippie_Pandas_Classroom_Playlist

For example, here’s a playlist that they’ve build for Focus and Memorization:

Here’s a playlist designed to Energize and Wake up the classroom.

The Hippie Pandas use audio attributes such as tempo and instrumentalness to create these task-appropriate playlists.

Like all good scientists the Hippie Pandas have tested their hypotheses. They have worked with a number of classroom teachers who are testing their contextual playlists with students in the classroom.  Although they haven’t published any results yet, they’ve reported that the teachers have seen great improvements in the classroom when these task-appropriate playlists.

The Hippie Pandas have gone beyond creating playlists for teachers – they have also identified a number of barriers that would prevent music from being used in the classroom and are working to eliminate those barriers.  For example, in many schools access to Spotify is blocked since, according to school administrators, Spotify doesn’t provide educational benefit. The HP team has been able to get access to Spotify restored in their local school district after demonstrating how music can improve student performance.  Another barrier the Pandas have recognized is that not all teachers will have access to Spotify.  To address this issue, the Pandas are lobbying Spotify to make free accounts available for all teachers. That sounds like a great idea to me.

In April, the Hippie Pandas journey to St. Louis to take part in the FIRST World Festival competition. They’ve competed in the world championships in previous years and have brought home a number of trophies and received special recognition for their project that could save lives. I think they will do well this year too.  They’ve done quite a good job at identifying an opportunity for teachers to improve students behavior and performance in the classroom just by playing appropriate music.  They are a smart, engaging  group of young women who present their findings with energy and enthusiasm.  I wish them well.

(*) For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), is an organization that was founded by Dean Kamann  in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The program is for students K-12 and the mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. The FIRST Lego League (FLL) introduces younger students (9-14) to real-world engineering challenges by buildingLEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface and through a research and development project to solve a real world problem. Today there are over 28,000 FLL teams around the world. This years theme was called, World Class, learning unleashed

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The Playlist Miner

The Spotify Web API team pushed out a new feature recently that extends the search API to include playlist search. With this new feature it is now possible to search across all of the popular public playlists created by Spotify users. To try out the new search capability I created a new web app called The Playlist Miner.

The Playlist Miner is a web app that will create a Spotify playlist for you by finding the top songs in all of the playlists that match your criteria. Say, for example, that I want to create a dinner party playlist.  First, I find the top playlists that match ‘dinner party’ with The Playlist Miner:

The_Playlist_Miner

 

The Playlist Miner will find up to the top 1,000 most popular playlists that match dinner party. It shows them to me, giving me a chance to refine my query to focus in on the exact type of playlist that I am interested in.

 

The_Playlist_Miner

 

For this first try, I see lots of Christmas-oriented playlists (‘Tis the Season after all), but since I’m looking for music for a post-holiday dinner party, I’d rather not have holiday music in the playlist. So I refine my query to find non-Christmas oriented dinner party playlists like so:

 

The_Playlist_Miner

 

The resulting playlists are suitably non-Christmasy.

 

The_Playlist_Miner

I like the look of these playlists so I hit the Find Top Tracks button and The Playlist Miner will scour through all of the matching playlists (290 of them in this case) and find the most frequently appearing tracks.

The_Playlist_Miner

Once the top 100 tracks are found, I can save them to Spotify as my own playlist.

Selecting Prefer more distinctive labor and delivery tracks adjusts the track order for popularity so that tracks that are more distinctive to the particular playlist context will rise to the top. You can also use logical operators to focus in on the exact type of playlist you want to. You can search for “work out” OR workout NOT running  to find workout playlists without running in their titles/descriptions.

Under the hood – The Playlist Miner uses lots of bits of the Spotify API – user authentication, playlist search, playlist reading, playlist saving and more. The app is a an API calling beast – aggregating all the tracks from a thousand playlists requires 1,000 API calls. It’s a testament to the Spotify Web API that it doesn’t even blink under the load.  You can play with the code on github.

It’s fun to use The Playlist Miner to explore the quirkier aspects of how people listen to music. There are ironing playlists and sleeping baby playlists. There are playlists for getting psyched and playlists for Labor and Delivery.  With the Playlist Miner you can pull from all the playlists created for a particular purpose and build your own.  Give it a try.

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The Million Songs of Christmas

No other holiday dominates our listening like Christmas. During this season, we are exposed to a seemingly never ending playlist of Christmas music. So its no surprise that there’s a huge amount of Christmas music available on Spotify.  How much? Let’s take a look.

How much Christmas music is there?
It is actually quite hard to pinpoint the exact number of Christmas songs. First, every week during the holiday season thousands more Christmas songs are added to the set.  Second, some songs are seasonal – is Frosty The Snowman a Christmas song? Not literally, but it gets a lot of play at this time of year, even by the antipodes. Finally, there are a number of other holidays and celebrations at this time of year such as Hanukkah, Boxing DayNew Years, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and Festivus that we want to include in this category.  So when I say “Christmas Music” I’m referring to western music that is played primarily during December. There’s probably a better term to describe this music, but terms like seasonal, and holiday have their own special baggage – perhaps something like music coincident with the northern hemispheric winter solstice is the most precise description, but lets stick with Christmas music just to keep things simple. So how much Christmas music is there?  In early December 2014, crack music + data nerd Aaron Daubman  dove into the Spotify + Echo Nest music catalog and found 914,047 Christmas tracks – that’s just under a million Christmas tracks. Let’s unwrap this dataset to see what we can find.

First, some basic stats: Those 914,047 tracks represent 180,660 unique songs and were created by 63,711 unique artists – from Aaron Neville to Zuma the King. The top 20 artists with the most Christmas tracks in the Spotify catalog are all pre-Beatles artists:

Artists with the most Christmas Tracks

# Name Count
1 Bing Crosby 22382
2 Frank Sinatra 17979
3 Elvis Presley 12381
4 Nat King Cole 11613
5 Johann Sebastian Bach 8958
6 Dean Martin 8000
7 Perry Como 7529
8 Ella Fitzgerald 6428
9 Mahalia Jackson 5883
10 Mario Lanza 5377
11 Johnny Mathis 5036
12 Rosemary Clooney 4538
13 Peggy Lee 4450
14 Harry Belafonte 4054
15 The Andrews Sisters 3567
16 Louis Armstrong 3481
17 Gene Autry 3411
18 Doris Day 2985
19 Pat Boone 2767
20 Connie Francis 2500

Yes, that’s right, Bing Crosby has 22,382 different Christmas tracks (!) in the Spotify catalog. Now, a little digression on what we consider to be a unique track.  Music, especially popular music, is released in many forms. A very popular song, such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, may appear on a wide range of albums – from the original studio release to a plethora of Christmas Compilations and artist ‘best of’ albums. Each of these track releases may have different album art, different rights holders and regional licenses. Thus, even though the audio for White Christmas may be the same on each of the release, we consider each release as a different track.

White Christmas
Let’s take a closer look at Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. In our catalog of nearly a million Christmas tracks, 2,196 of them are Bing Crosby’s classic. I’ll say that again, just because it is a rather phenomenal fact – there are 2,196 different albums on Spotify that contain Bing’s White Christmas. It is hard to believe, so I created a web page that contains all 2,196 of the albums so you can see them all.  Click on the image below to load them all up (warning – with 2000+ album covers it’s a bit of a browser buster).

static_echonest_com_insights_christmas_whitechristmas_html 

White Christmas isn’t the only uber-track of the holidays. Here are the top 25 Christmas tracks based upon the number of times they have been released on an album:

The most released Christmas tracks

# Name Count
1 Bing Crosby – White Christmas 2196
2 Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby 1286
3 Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas 1285
4 Frank Sinatra – Jingle Bells 1121
5 Harry Belafonte – Mary’s Boy Child 904
6 Bing Crosby – Silver Bells 881
7 Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song 870
8 Frank Sinatra – The Christmas Waltz 811
9 Rosemary Clooney – Suzy Snowflake 788
10 Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock 779
11 Elvis Presley – White Christmas 738
12 Judy Garland – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 735
13 Frank Sinatra – White Christmas 703
14 Frank Sinatra – Christmas Dreaming 696
15 Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 695
16 Elvis Presley – Silent Night 688
17 Elvis Presley – I Believe 664
18 Frank Sinatra – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town 660
19 Louis Armstrong – Zat You Santa Claus 598
20 Dean Martin – The Christmas Blues 575
21 Frank Sinatra – Mistletoe and Holly 568
22 Louis Armstrong – Cool Yule 566
23 Frank Sinatra – Silent Night 563
24 Bing Crosby – Jingle Bells 560
25 Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back in Town 559

You can see all of the releases for Elvis’s Blue Christmas and Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby  here:

static_echonest_com_insights_christmas_BlueChristmas_html

static_echonest_com_insights_christmas_SantaBaby_html

So there are lots of copies of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby out there – but what are the most common Christmas songs overall? Which ones have been recorded the most by any artist?  The following table shows the top 25:

Most recorded songs 

# Name Recordings
1 Silent Night 19041
2 White Christmas 15928
3 Jingle Bells 14521
4 Winter Wonderland 9524
5 Joy to the World 9093
6 The First Noel 8731
7 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 8511
8 O Holy Night 7925
9 Hark The Herald Angels Sing 7727
10 The Christmas Song 7673
11 Away in a Manger 7544
12 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 7524
13 O Little Town of Bethlehem 7480
14 Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 6851
15 I’ll Be Home for Christmas 6844
16 O Come All Ye Faithful 6273
17 Deck The Halls 6057
18 Silver Bells 6044
19 Ave Maria 5847
20 What Child Is This? 5755
21 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 5619
22 It Came Upon A Midnight Clear 5019
23 Sleigh Ride 5004
24 Blue Christmas 4688
25 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 4598

Of course this data may be confounded by the uber-tracks like White Christmas that have thousands of versions by a single artist, so lets look at the most recorded songs by unique artists – that is, we only count Bing Crosby once for White Christmas instead of 2,196 times. When we do that the top 25 changes a bit:

Most recorded Christmas songs (Unique Artists)

# Name Recordings
1 Silent Night 7406
2 Jingle Bells 4485
3 Joy to the World 3593
4 White Christmas 3592
5 O Holy Night 3536
6 The First Noel 3181
7 What Child Is This? 3150
8 Away in a Manger 3140
9 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 2871
10 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 2823
11 O Come All Ye Faithful 2675
12 Hark The Herald Angels Sing 2638
13 Angels We Have Heard on High 2494
14 Winter Wonderland 2489
15 The Christmas Song 2398
16 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 2281
17 Deck The Halls 2274
18 O Little Town of Bethlehem 2197
19 We Three Kings 2048
20 Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 1837
21 It Came Upon A Midnight Clear 1768
22 Ave Maria 1705
23 Auld Lang Syne 1603
24 Silver Bells 1599
25 I’ll Be Home for Christmas 1577

The songs in green are the songs that are unique to each list.

Artists with the most number of unique songs
Bing Crosby is at the top of the Most Christmasy artists mainly because of the widespread re-issuing of White Christmas. But if we look at unique songs (i.e. White Christmas only counts once for Bing Crosby), the top Christmas artists look very different – with classical composers, Karaoke ‘artists’ and music factories topping the charts:

Artists with the most number of unique songs

1 Johann Sebastian Bach 3681
2 Bing Crosby 1462
3 The Karaoke Channel 1098
4 George Frideric Handel 903
5 A-Type Player 835
6 Frank Sinatra 816
7 ProSound Karaoke Band 762
8 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 691
9 SBI Audio Karaoke 641
10 Mega Tracks Karaoke Band 577
11 ProSource Karaoke 539
12 Ameritz Karaoke Entertainment 508
13 Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra 506
14 Elvis Presley 472
15 Perry Como 440
16 Karaoke – Ameritz 428
17 Nat King Cole 413
18 Ameritz Karaoke Band 397
19 Merry Tune Makers 385
20 Christmas Songs 370

Current popular Christmas crooner Michael Bublé, with 31 unique Christmas songs has a way to go before he makes it on to the most-unique-songs-recorded chart.

Speaking of Karaoke – there’s lots of Christmas Karaoke – 23,472 tracks to be precise.  The top 25 Karaoke songs are the classics:

Top Karaoke Christmas Songs

# Name Count
1 White Christmas 345
2 Winter Wonderland 333
3 Silent Night 312
4 Jingle Bells 309
5 Last Christmas 258
6 Silver Bells 219
7 Blue Christmas 204
8 Santa Baby 189
9 The Christmas Song 185
10 Jingle Bell Rock 172
11 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 171
12 Please Come Home for Christmas 163
13 Little Drummer Boy 163
14 Sleigh Ride 156
15 O Come All Ye Faithful 154
16 Here Comes Santa Claus 150
17 Feliz Navidad 146
18 All I Want for Christmas Is You 146
19 O Holy Night 144
20 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus 143
21 Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree 135
22 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town 126
23 Frosty the Snowman 125
24 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 121
25 We Wish You a Merry Christmas 118

Top Terms

We can build a good list of seasonal terms by finding the most frequently occurring words in song titles. Here are the top 75 or so, as a word cloud created by wordle (stop words are removed of course).

Banners_and_Alerts_and_Wordle_Applet

Longest Christmas song name
There are lots of very long song names in the set of Christmas songs – the longest is this Christmas medly.

Andrea und Manuela – Morgen kommt der Weohnachtsmann – Medley / Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann/Leise rieselt der Schnee/Oh du Fröhliche/Ihr Kinderlein kommet/Süßer die Glocken nie klingen/Oh Tannenbaum/Kling Glöckchen/Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht/Alle Jahre wieder – Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann/Leise rieselt der Schnee/Oh du Fröhliche/Ihr Kinderlein kommet/Süßer die Glocken nie klingen/Oh Tannenbaum/Kling Glöckchen/Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht/Alle Jahre wieder

A great song for testing how well your music player UI deals with unusual titles.

Conclusion

One would think that with a million Christmas tracks we’d already have more than enough Christmas music – but, it seems, we still like new Christmas music. Ariana Grande’s recently released Santa Tell Me is climbing the streaming charts (currently #44 at charts.spotify.com).

Plus, there’s seemingly no-end to the variety of Christmas Music. If White Christmas with Bing Crosby is not your style, then there’s Blue Christmas by Elvis.

And If that’s not your thing, maybe you’ll enjoy Red Christmas by Insane Clown Posse.

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