Archive for category Music
For my Boston Music Hack Day hack I built Yet Another Party Playlisting App (YAPPA), because the world needed another party playlister – but really, I built it because I needed another hack, because 15 hours into the 24 hour hackathon I realized that my first hack just wasn’t going to work (more on that in another post). And so, with 9 hours left in the hack day, I thought I would try my hand at the party playlisting app.
The YAPPA is a frequently built app. In some sense one can look at the act of building a YAPPA as a hacking exercise. Just as a still life painter will practice by painting a bowl of fruit, or a pianist will practice scales, a music hacker can build their hacking muscle by creating a YAPPA.
The essential features of a YAPPA are straightforward – create a listening experience for a party based upon the tastes of the guests. Allow guests to suggest music for the party, apply some rules to select music that satisfies all the guests, and keep the music flowing.
With those features in mind, I created my party playlisting app. The interface is dead simple – guests can add music to the party via the master web interface or text the artist and song from the mobile phones to the party phone number. Once the party has started, PAPPA will keep the music flowing.
The key technology of PAPPA is how it picks the music to play next. Most YAPPAs will try to schedule music based on fairness so that everyone’s music taste is considered. Some YAPPAs also use song attributes such as song hotttnesss, song energy and danceability to make sure that the music matches the vibe of the party. PAPPA takes a very different approach to scheduling music. That’s because PAPPA takes a very different approach to parties. PAPPA doesn’t like parties. PAPPA wants everyone to go home. So PAPPA takes all of these songs that have been carefully texted to the party phone number, along with all the artist and song suggestions submitted via the web and throws them away. It doesn’t care about the music taste of the guests at the party. In fact it despises their taste (and the guests as well). Instead, PAPPA selects and plays the absolute worst music it can find. It gives the listener an endless string of the most horrible (but popular) music. Here’s a sample (the first 3 songs are bait to lure in the unwitting party guests):
- Royals by Lorde
- Levels by Avicii
- Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke
- #Twerkit featuring Nicki Minaj by Busta Rhymes
- From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart by Britney Spears
- Amigas Cheetahs by The Cheetah Girls
- Do Ya Think I’m Sexy by Paris Hilton
- Incredible by Clique Girlz
- No Ordinary Love by Jennifer Love Hewitt
- Mexican Wrestler by Emma Roberts
- I Don’t Think About It by Emily Osment
- A La Nanita Nana by The Cheetah Girls
- Don”t Let Me Be The Last To Know by Britney Spears
- Wild featuring Big Sean by Jessie J
- Heartbeat (Album Version) by Paris Hilton
- Love The Way You Love Me by The Pussycat Dolls
- When You Told Me You Loved Me by Jessica Simpson
- Jericho by Hilary Duff
- Strip by Brooke Hogan
- Pero Me Acuerdo De Tí by Christina Aguilera
- Bang Bang by Joachim Garraud
- Right Now featuring David Guetta (Sick Individuals Dub) by Rihanna
- Wilde Piraten by The Cool Kids
- Friend Lover by Electrik Red
- Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me by D4L
- Who’s That Girl by Hilary Duff
- Get In There, Frank! by Fun
- Hold It Don”t Drop It by Jennifer Lopez
- Sweet Sixteen by Hilary Duff
- Live It Up featuring Pitbull by Jennifer Lopez
- Freckles by Natasha Bedingfield
- I Want You by Paris Hilton
- Hold It Close by Fun
- Magic by The Pussycat Dolls
- How To Lose A Girl by Mitchel Musso
- Fairy Tales by JoJo
- Slow It Down featuring Fabolous (Album Version (Explicit)) by The-Dream
- Mr. Hamudah by Charles Hamilton
- Promise by Vanessa Hudgens
- Metamorphosis by Hilary Duff
How does PAPPA find the worst music in the world? It looks through all the data that The Echo Nest is collecting about how people experience music online to find the songs that have been banned frequently. When a music listener says “ban this song” they are making a pretty strong statement about the song – essentially saying, “I do not ever want to hear that song again in my life”. PAPPA finds these songs that have the highest banned-to-play ratio (i.e. the songs that have been proportionally banned the most when play count is taken into consideration) and adds them to the playlist. The result being a playlist filled with the most reviled music – with songs by Paris Hilton, Jennifer Love Hewitt and the great Emma Roberts. The perfect playlist to send your guests home.
At this moment, lets pause and listen to the song Mexican Wrestler by Emma Roberts:
What happens to all those carefully crafted text messages of songs sent by the guests? No, there’s no Twilio app catching all those messages, parsing out songs and adding them to a play queue to be scheduled. They just go to my phone. That’s so if people are not leaving the party fast enough, I can use all the phone numbers of the guests to start to text them back and tell them they should go home.
By the way, if you look at the songs that were texted to me during my two minute demo you’d realize how fruitless a YAPPA really is. There’s no possible way to make a party playlist that is going to satisfy everyone in the room. Tastes are too varied, and there’s always that guy who thinks he is clever by adding some Rick Astly to the party queue. Here’s what was texted to me during my two minute demo:
- Gregory Porter – be good
- Rebecca Black – It’s Friday
- Weird Al Yankovic – Fat
- Lady Gaga – Applause
- Weird Al Yankovic – Amish Paradise (from a different phone number from the other weird Al fan)
- boss ass bitch
- Basement Jaxx raindrops
- John Mayer your body is a wonderland
- jay z holy grail
- Underworld spikee
- wake me up
- Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby One More Time
- Slayer War Ensemble
- Bieber baby
- Ra Ra riot
- Rick Astley
- Mikey Cyrus
- Hi paul
- Stevie wonder overjoyed
Imagine trying to build a party playlist based upon those 24 input songs. Admittedly, a hackathon demo session is not a real test case for a party playlister but I still think you’d end up with a terrible mix of songs that no smart algorithm, nor any smart human, could stitch together into a playlist that would be appropriate and pleasing for a party. My guess is that if you did an A/B test for two parties, where one party played music based upon suggestions texted to a YAPPA and the other party played the top hotttest songs, the YAPPA party would always lose. I’d run this test, but that would mean I’d have to go to two parties. I hate parties, so this test will never happen. Its one of the flaws in our scientific method.
Who are the worst artists?
Looking at the PAPPA playlists I see a number of recurring artists – Britney Spears and Paris Hilton seem to be well represented. I thought it would be interesting to create a histogram of the top recurring artists in the most banned songs list. Here’s the fascinating result:
One thing I find notable about this list is the predominance of female artists. Females outnumber males by a substantial amount. Here’s some pie:
80% of the most banned artists are female. A stunning result. There’s something going on here. Someone suggested that the act of banning a song is an aggressive act that may skew male, and many of these aggressively banning males don’t like to listen to female artists. More study is needed here. It may involve parties, so I’m out.
Wrapping it all up
I enjoyed creating my PAPPA YAPPA. Demoing it was really fun and the audience seemed to enjoy the twist ending. The patterns in the data underlying the app are pretty interesting too. Why are so many banned songs by female artists?
If you are having your own party and want to use PAPPA to help enhance the party you can go to:
Just replace the phone number in the URL with your own and you are good to go.
I’ve been to dozens of music hackathons and have seen many of hundreds of hacks demoed at those events. I’ve seen all sorts of hacks – music remixing apps, music discovery apps, quirky music story telling apps and so on. Some hacks seem to get re-hacked fairly frequently at a Music Hack Day. You can always count on seeing an app that plots an artist tour on a map, or an app that shows pictures of the artist while you listen to their music. But there’s one app that seems to get re-hacked over and over again. That’s the YAPPA – Yet Another Party Playlisting App. It seems that at every Music Hack Day we see two, three or more versions of this app. Usually with some variations, but the core functionality is that it’s an app that controls the playlist to a party, where the people who come to the party can queue up songs, often via text message (thanks Twilio). The YAPPA will sort out the songs based on some fairness algorithm, perhaps allowing guests to vote on songs to make sure that everyone gets to hear music that they like, and so no one gets to hog the play queue. Sometimes the app shows some stats about the music at the party (i.e. how energetic, danceable or hottt the music was).
Why do we see so much YAPPA at a music hackathon? It’s not like there’s a shortage of commercial apps that do the job. I suspect its because there’s no category killer yet. No one goes and builds a Pandora clone at a Music Hack Day. That’s because Pandora has that category of apps locked down. But there’s no dominate YAPPA out there yet. Most folks who come to Music Hack Days probably have never heard of any of the commercial YAPPAs and are unaware of the great body of YAPPA hacks that have built at Music Hack Days in the last 5 years. There’s a great YAPPA-shaped hole in the universe that needs to be filled. Until it is unequivocally filled by some awesome party playlister , hackers will continue to try to toss their shovelfuls of YAPPA dirt into the hole.
This weekend a hundred hackers attended the Malmö Music Hack Weekend hosted by Minc Malmö. It was a great weekend. The inputs to the event were lots of great hackers, great food, flawless wifi, live DJs, bottomless popcorn and lots of very comfortable hacking spots. The outputs were a set of creative music hacks that give us a glimpse of what the future of music will be like.
There were a number of really good hacks, built by a great group of hackers.
Some of my favorite Echo Nest -based hacks were:
Beater – a context-aware MIDI.js based step sequencer. This awesome hack was The Echo Nest prize winner. It uses The Echo Nest API to identify the beats in a song and then allows you to add your own beat-aligned sequences on top of the song. Quite well done.
Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm was on hand covering the event. Be sure to read all of his coverage of the hacks.
Mixie - a highly visual dynamic remixing app that allows you to create your mixes by connecting different songs together in a network. Mixie automatically selects different sections of songs and assembles them into a seamless mix. A very well put together hack.
Echotap – a mobile web app that lets you play a song ‘drum-hero’ style. You have to tap or shake your phone in time to the music to hear it. When you stop, the song stops. When you speed up or slow down, so does the song.
Owegoo – A new feature for the Owegoo travel platform that helps you plan your next vacation based upon when and where your favorite artists are playing.
SBK – A rethinking of music journalism that goes directly to the music fan. This demo showed how fan-oriented music content such as reviews, articles, playlists, RSS feeds and DJ sets could be integrated into a monetizable online magazine. By Kixet.
PartySaver – a party playlist app that displays artist images and song info of the currently playing song on all of the screens in the house.
Dogstep – this was my hack. It takes any song and re-renders it with a pack of barking, snarling, grunting, yipping and whining dogs.
All together about 20 hacks were demoed. Other nifty hacks include:
Careless Whistler – login into a web page by whistling your password
SynCloud - Synchronizes the playback of SoundCloud streams on multiple devices
StopDance – perhaps my favorite hack overall, StopDance is a game where all the players dance along to music. When the music stops, you have to stop dancing. If you don’t you are out. Last one still on the dance floor wins. StopDance automates the whole process, it plays the music, stops it at random times, and most importantly, using a web-cam watches the players and identifies the players who didn’t stop dancing fast enough.
The winner of the grand prize was LiveCloud a live coding music creation tool that allows a programmer-musician to create music by connecting and manipulating the different sound sources and sinks.
The food at the event was top notch. High quality and healthy food!
It was great to meet the folks from Neo4j at the event. They brought a whole lot of energy to the event, and showed off some of the really neat things you can do with a graph database. And they gave me this awesome t-shirt. How cool is that?!
I had a great time at the Malmö Music Hack Weekend. Special thanks to Maisa and Alex for organizing everything. They did a great job running a flawless event. Well done!
When Mavericks was released last week, I updated my MacBook Pro (17″ Late 2011 vintage). The install went just fine, and I had no problems except that the UI seemed a bit laggy. Navigation in Vim seemed just a bit slower as did switching workspaces, but no big deal. Xcode was unusably slow, but I thought that was due to the recent Xcode update. All in all I was pleased with the upgrade until …
Friday evening I went over to the #TuftsHACK to talk about The Echo Nest API. This was my first time on Mavericks giving a Keynote presentation with an external display. My Echo Nest API talk has audio, video and lots of links to external web sites like the Infinite Jukebox. I had upgraded to the latest keynote this week, so before the talk I made sure that my slides survived the keynote upgrade. My talk was going just fine until I hit the first web demo. When I switched over to Chrome the browser appeared to be hung and wouldn’t accept any of my input. When I returned to the keynote presentation, I could no longer go to full screen – instead I received an error message telling me that I didn’t have enough VRAM to go full screen and that I should try to adjust the resolution. WTF? It is great fun standing in front of 100 impatient college students trying to debug a 10 minute talk. I ended up rebooting my computer and trying it all again … with the same error. Finally I gave up and limped out showing a few web demos from Thor’s computer. Really though, it was total Demo Fail.
I spent a few hours online this weekend seeing if anyone else was having similar difficulties without luck. When I tried to fire up TF2 (the only game worth playing), I got nothing but an icon in my taskbar showing me that it was really trying to start, but couldn’t. That was the last straw. I buckled down and carefully read Siracusa’s Mavericks review looking for new tech in Mavericks, especially tech related to the video system as suspects for my woes.
One new feature is that Mavericks now treats each attached display as a separate domain for full-screen windows. This lookedpromising in that both Keynote and TF2 are apps that create full-screen windows. This feature can be disabled in Settings -> Mission control:
After I did this, I had to logout and re-login – but since then, the laggy-ness is gone, TF2 works like a champ, Xcode is zippy again, and so far, no problems with full screen keynote (but I need to test this more to be sure).
Bottom line – if you are having trouble with full screen display apps, or Xcode performance, or are getting errors about not having enough VRAM, try disabling the ‘displays have separate spaces’ feature in Mavericks.
On Friday evening at the Tufts hack I made a little Python script that makes playlists with an acrostic messages embedded in them. I enjoyed the hack so much that I spent a few hours turning it into a web app. This means that you don’t have to be a Pythonista to generate your own acrostic playlists.
The app, called Acrostic Playlist Maker, lets you select from a handful of genres and type in your ‘secret’ message.
When you hit the button it will generate a playlist where the first letter of each song in the playlist spells out the message.
You can listen to the music in the playlist by clicking on any song, and you can save the playlist back to Rdio.
Anyone who works in music tech has probably been called upon to ‘do the music’ at some social event. Now with the Acrostic Playlist Maker you can can make those playlists, while secretly expressing how you really feel.
I’m at the Tufts Hackathon showing off the Echo Nest API for the very smart students. I’m not going to be here for the whole hackathon, so I don’t have time for a proper hack, but I thought I should write something. Since I just pushed out a new Python library for The Echo Nest this week (Pyen), I thought I’d write a simple python hack that uses it.
The hack is an acrostic playlist maker. You give it a genre and a secret message and it will create a playlist where the secret message is embedded in the playlist as an acrostic. Here’s an example:
% python acrostic.py ‘dubstep’ ‘Skrillex Rules’
Setting Sun by Caspa
Kemancheh by Moving Ninja
Rainy Dayz by Kromestar
I Need Air by Magnetic Man
Little More Oil Featuring Sister Nancy by DJ /rupture
Low Pressure Zone by Clubroot
El Rythmo de Este Sound by Coki
Xingfu Lu by Kode9
Rutten by Skream
Under Water High Rise (feat. DJ Kiva) by DJ /rupture
Lift Me Up by Rusko
Embryo by Clubroot
Summer Rain by 2000F
Here are some more examples:
Like Me by Girlicious
I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
True Love by P!nk
Ever Ever After by Jordan Pruitt
Never Gonna Happen by Colette Carr
Try by P!nk
Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul
Falling by Brooke Hogan
I’M Gonna Miss You Forever by Aaron Carter
Fixing My Hair by Priscilla Renea
That’s How I Beat Shaq by Aaron Carter
Hurt by Christina Aguilera
Halo by Beyoncé
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) by Fergie
Raise Your Glass by P!nk
Mirrors by Justin Timberlake
Only Girl (In The World) by Rihanna
Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again by Hayden Panettiere
You’re Not The One by Sky Ferreira
Here’s a heavy metal playlist:
Mothra by Anvil
A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh by Celtic Frost
Refuse/Resist by Sepultura
Blue Sky by Wolfsbane
Lord Of The Flies by Rage
Excalibur by Grave Digger
Cry My Name by Bloodbath
Attitude by Sepultura
King Of The Kill by Annihilator
Eaten (2008 Digital Remaster) by Bloodbath
Alison Hell by Annihilator
Last Man Standing by HammerFall
Steelhammer by U.D.O.
Outnumbering The Day by Bloodbath
The Last In Line by Dio
Hades Rising by Bloodbath
Evil by Mercyful Fate
Give Me Your Soul by King Diamond
Anthem by Iced Earth
Metal On Metal by Anvil
Enemies Of Reality (re-mixed & re-mastered) by Nevermore
Some experimental music
Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow by Frank Zappa
On Suicide by Art Bears
No.1 Against the Rush by Liars
Optical Black by Thighpaulsandra
Third Stream Boogaloo by Derek Bailey
Lock Your Door by Lydia Lunch
In A Manner Of Speaking by Tuxedomoon
So Far by Faust
The Seer Returns by Swans
Electric To Me Turn by Bruce Haack
Numb Erone by The Residents
Triumph by This Heat
Oh Yeah by Can
Krautrock (2006 Digital Remaster) by Faust
Always Returning (2005 Digital Remaster) by Brian Eno
Twilight Furniture by This Heat
Your Hidden Dreams by White Noise
Persuasion by Throbbing Gristle
Evan’s Drive To Mombasa by Lounge Lizards
Remember Waht’s In There by Lounge Lizards
Radio Prague by This Heat
Yellow Brick Road by Captain Beefheart
Here’s the code:
Well, that’s my mini-hack. 73 lines of Python and one blog post.
I’ve started to build the ultimate list of music APIs. My goal for the list is for it to be a one-stop spot to find the best music apis. Currently 65 APIs are listed across 10 categories. Check out the list here: Music APIs
Music Hack Day NYC has just wrapped up, and what a great weekend it was!. Hosted at Spotify’s spiffy new headquarters in midtown, Music Hack Day NYC was the place to be if you are passionate music, technology and building stuff. During all night Friday and all day Saturday, hundreds of hackers used music APIs from companies like The Echo Nest, Soundcloud, Gracenote, Rdio and of course Spotify, to build next generation music apps.
It was a really fun event. The Spotify headquarters are perfect for hacking. Flawless and apparently limitless wifi/bandwidth, awesome A/V setup, and great sound for an unending social hacking playlist.
Over the course of about 20 hours of hacking, 36 hacks were built and demoed. There was quite a range of inventive hacks. Some of my favorites:
The crowd favorite was Oscar Celma’s extremely clever EERFY – He solved the Music Industry Problem in 24 hours by turning it upside down with EERFY:
Another favorite was Leo and Jason’s halfstep – a chrome extension that motivates you to move more. How? If you only moved 20% of your movement goal yesterday, then halfstep will also let you listen to first 20% of any songs today. Check out the screencast of their hack.
There were lots of great Echo Nest hacks including the Echo Nest prize winner partyOutlook by Matt Egan. PartyOutlook is a CocoaLibSpotify powered iPad jukebox that accepts tracks via the Twillio API and displays real-time information about the life of the party using Echo Nest song data. Allows an administrator to pause and play music, as well as skip tracks.
Another really neat Echo Nest hack was TuneTravelr created by Chris Evans and Joshua Boggs. Tune Travelr is a web app that takes cities and locales a well as a time period and returns a playlist of songs that were hot at the time. It uses the Echo Nest data to leverage some analytic querying, before pipping the results into Rdio’s web API for playback.
MoodVenue used The Echo Nest API to help find out what’s going on tonight based on your mood and location.
Artists fight to the death, using only the sheer repetitive force of their music! By Brian McFee. Brian used the Echo Nest analysis data to build a custom metric for repetition for any song and used that to score songs by the artist for the face-off.
A novel use of The Echo Nest API was Cheese Tray - A Spotify app that takes selects randomly from among your Spotify playlists and analyzes it. It then adds to that playlist a song that best represents the average attributes of the playlist, as given by The Echo Nest API. Then, via SMS through the Twilio service, it sends a command to your Android device that changes its background to the album artwork for that average song.
Uses wikipedia articles titled ‘List of songs about…” to generate Spotify/Rdio playlists about different subjects/places. Songs about used The Echo Nest’s Rosetta Stone to get the song IDs for playing in Spotify and Rdio.
Awesome Chart Explorer
This is my hack. A visualization that lets you explore and listen to 50 years of Billboard charts.
Upload a song, ccRex’ll fetch Creative Commons music to match using Echo Nest song attributes to determine the best match.
Other nifty Echo Nest hacks:
- opporTUNE – context dependent playlisting based upon weather, activity, location, time of day and your favorite genres
- crowdPlay – an SMS enabled party playlister
- BPM Reader – an app that updates a playlist in real-time based on user keyboard input correlated to BPM. Tap in your beat, and generate a playlist of songs with that rhythm.
- Moody calls - Get a phone call with a song that matches your mood
- Spotify V. Rdio -Pitting the two music platforms against each other using your listening history
- Perl client for the Echo Nest – Ajax built a library that provides support for nearly all of The Echo Nest API features.
All in all, it was a great event with lots of awesome, innovative hacks and lots of smart people. A good time was had by all. Thanks to Spotify and @mager for organizing the event. Well Done!
I just finished coding up my Music Hack Day NYC hack called The Awesome Chart Explorer. It’s a web app that combines Billboard and Echo Nest data into a visual wonderland. (yes, I’m a little tired). Check it out here. Almost time to give the demo, so more about the tech behind the hack later on.
Here’s a nifty web-based music experience created by Dutch Gramophone (aka Yotam Mann). It’s an interactive song about working and employment where you have to do work to hear the richest version of the track.
To hear the song, you add virtual pennies to the penny jar. The fuller the penny jar, the richer the music. This is similar in concept to wemakeawesomesh.it’s 18 months where you had to dance to hear Calvin Harris’s new album, but takes it a step further by automatically expanding and contracting the instrumentation of the music. The result is that everyone hears a different version of the song. It is a neat idea and very well executed with intriguing images drawn by Sarah Rothberg. Check it out: Richer