Posts Tagged midem music hack day

Let’s go to France to write some code

This past weekend was the fourth annual MIDEM Music Hack Day held in Cannes.  During about 48 hours 2 dozen or so hackers collected in a beautiful hacking space at the top of the Palais Des Festivals to build something cool with music and technology.

The MIDEM Music Hack Day is no ordinary Music Hack Day. It has a very limited enrollment so only hackers that have demonstrated the ability to create music hacks are invited.  Add to that, the fact that there is about 50% more time to build hacks and the result is a set of very high quality hacks.

Martyn giving the hack talk (photo by @sydlawerence)

Martyn giving the hack talk (photo by @sydlawerence)

Martyn Davies, master Music Hack day coordinator, kicked off  the event with a talk to the MIDEM attendees about what Music Hack Day is all about.  Martyn talked about the things that drive the hackers to spend their weekends hacking on code – in particular how the Music Hack Day is a chance to combined their love for music and technology, be creative and to build something new and cool during the weekend. Martyn demonstrated two representative hacks built at previous Music Hack Days.  First he showed the demo given by master hacker @sydlawrence of a hack called Disco Disco Tech. The excitement in Syd’s voice is worth the price of admission alone.

Next he showed one of my favorite Music Hack Day hacks of all time, Johnny Cash is Everywhere by @iainmullen

One of the special features of the MIDEM Music Hack Day is that non-hackers get to pitch their hacking ideas to the hackers about what apps they’d really like to see created over the weekend. There were a number of pitches ranging from a proposal for an artist-centric tool for organizing a creative music production team to a whimsical request to show what the music on the Internet sounds like when it decays. (Here’s one answer). All of the idea pitches were interesting, but here’s the secret. The hackers are not going to build your idea. It’s not because they don’t like your idea, it is because they already have tons of good ideas. The hackers are a very creative bunch, each with a long list of ideas waiting to be built. What the hackers usually lack is a solid block of time to implement their own ideas and so a hackathon is the perfect time to take that best idea on the list and work for a solid 24 hour to get it done.  It is rare for a hacker to get excited about building someone else’s idea, when they have so many of their own. As they say: “ideas are cheap, execution is everything“.

Once the opening talks concluded we hackers made their way up to the top of the Palais des Festivals (the heart of MIDEM) to our hacking space. It’s a great space with lots of natural light, a terrace that overlooks the French Riviera, and it is some distance away from the main conference so we were not bothered by stray walk-ons.

View from the hacker space

View from the hacker space

To kick things off, we went around the room introducing ourselves, briefly talking about our background skills, and ideas, and almost immediately got to hacking.  Since all the hackers were experienced hackers there was no need for the typical API workshops or learning sessions. Everyone knew, for instance, that I was from The Echo Nest and was ready to answer any questions about the Echo Nest API that should arise.

The hacking space (photo by @neomoha)

The hacking space (photo by @neomoha)

The next 46 hours was a blur of coding, punctuated by food delivery, the sound of the espresso maker and the occasional wandering pigeon.

Hacker Self Portraits

Yulile's hack in progress

Yulile’s hack in progress

There’s a math error lurking in there …

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@alastairporter does the math to work out the path of a record groove for his hack

Early morning coding on the French Riveria

Typical view for an international executive music hacker

Typical view from the international executive music hacker suite

The Hacks

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After 48 hours, we gathered in the Innovation Hall to demonstrate what we built. Each hacking team had about three minutes to show their stuff.  Eighteen hacks were built.  Here are some of my very favorites:

DJ Spotify  – built by Yuli Levtov – This is a real hacker’s hack. Yuli had a problem. He wanted to use Spotify when he DJed, but Spotify won’t let you beat match and cross fade songs. In fact, Spotify won’t even let you play two streams at once. So Yuli got to work to make it happen.  Along the way Yuli augmented his DJ playlists with BPM and key information from The Echo Nest (using a very clever growl hack).  One of the highlights of my MIDEM week was listening to Yuli try to explain what OS virtualization is and how Soundflower works to a room full of Music Biz types. Yuli has a detailed blog post that describes how his hack works. Yuli’s hack was voted the best hack by the hackers. Well done Yuli!

iPhoto-2That One Song by Matt Ogle and Hannah Donovan – For this hack, Matt added a feature to his super popular This Is My Jam site. Type in any band and let the Jam community tell you the one song you should hear first. Plus: playback options, commentary, and an alternative “B-side” song recommendation for each artist.

iPhoto-2Skrillex Invader 20 – by Vivien Barousse - Imagine Guitar Hero meets Space Invaders meets Skrillex meets a Piano Keyboard. Skrillex Invader 20 is a small game designed to help you improve your skills on a piano keyboard.

Bang The Biebsby Robin Johnson – A hack that combined the Leap Motion with a game. This hack was special, not only for the Bieber banging, but because Robin used the hack as a way to learn Javascript. This was his first JS app.

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Scratchy Record by Alastair Porter - Playing music from mp3s today has no soul. Scratchy Record reproduces the joy that can be had listening to music on vinyl. From the dirty needle causing extra noise, to the pops and skips that we all love, to the need to get up half way through the album and turn it over. Scratchy Record has it all.

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HappyClappy - by Peck, ankit and mager – an IOS app that lets you queue up songs by clapping the rhythm. Uses The Echo Nest to search for songs by BPM.

iPhoto-2PhatStatsSyd Lawerence – Syd tried to build a sustainable subscription business during the hack with PhatStats - A new tool to discover up and coming talent across the social web, and to monitor your videos and their engagement levels across the social web.

PhatStats

This is your tour - Sam Phippen - Going on tour is hard. You’ve got to find someone to tour with. You’ve got to pick cities and venues. You’ve got to book hotels, find places to eat and drink. All of this takes far too much time.

This_is_your_tour

iPhoto-2Nikantas – Sabrina Leandro – a clever app that helps you learn a new language through music lyrics.  Fill in the blanks in lyrics of your favourite English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, or Italian artists. Can you recognise a word in a song? A word will be displayed on the screen, press the space key when the artist sings it

neoScores meets Deezer - Bob Hamblok – HTML5 sheet music score following inside Deezer.

neoScores_app_on_Deezer

Seevl hipster - by Alexandre Passant - Be a real hipster. Impress your friends with obscure music tastes. Do you want to impress your friend who’s into electro-folk, or that other one who only listens to avant-garde metal? Now you can! With seevl hipster, find obscure artists that match your friend tastes, and show-off on their Facebook wall.

Playlist Plus - Iain Mullan - Playlist Plus allows you to create a richer interactive version of a playlist. Add notes and comments to each track, to share with friends, or distribute an in-depth album review. Like a particular lyric? Bookmark it at the exact timestamp in the song. Think a track has a heavy Zeppelin influence? Link to the song/album it reminds you of. Cover version? Link to the original and let the reader stream it instantly from within your PlaylistPlus!

ScapeList - Mohammed Sordo - How does a landscape sound like? You take a picture of, let’s say, the Grand Canyon in Colorado, a la Instagram, but you also want to attach a song to it, a song that makes sense to you while you were taking that picture. Now imagine that other people went to the same place, took another picture of it but picked a different song. You end up with a playlist of songs related to that landscape, a ScapeList, curated by the users themselves, which you can listen to.

VideoFairy - by Suzie Blackman - A radio-style music discovery app designed for smart TV! It’s a bit like channel hopping, but for music videos. VideoFairy finds music videos from artists you’ll like with a simple interface that works with a remote control (use arrow keys and ‘enter’ on a keyboard).Designed for ‘lean back’ TV viewing with minimum interaction, you can sit back and watch new music recommended from your last.fm profile. Skip skip anything you don’t like with a simple tap of the remote.

Cannes Burn - my hack – a music visualizaton of Ellie Goulding’s Burn

I was unusually nervous and quite tired when I gave my demo, so I fell for a newbie demo mistake and had trouble getting my desktop to display properly. But when I finally did,  my demo went off smoothly.  I only had to say  a few words and hit the play button, so despite the nerves, it was a pretty easy demo to give. Here’s my view of the audience while giving the demo:

Demoing Cannes Burn to the MIDEM crowd

Demoing Cannes Burn to the MIDEM crowd

 

After we presented the hacks the hackers themselves voted for the best hack which went to Yuli for his amazing DJ Spotify.  Yuli is quite the gracious and humble winner, making sure everyone got a glass of his winning champagne.

Post Hack
After all the hacking the exhausted hackers took some time to kick back, have a good dinner, a few drinks and long conversations into the night about life as an international music hacker. 

Post hack drinks with @sydlawrence @iainmullen @alastairporter @saleandro @lucyeblair

Post hack drinks with @saleandro @sydlawrence @alastairporter @iainmullen and @lucyeblair

Outro

Halfway through the MIDEM Music Hack Day I paused to take stock. Here I was, on the other side of the world sitting at the top of the Palais des Festival, overlooking the French Riviera, surrounded by friends and writing code. It was a great place to be, and I felt very fortunate to be there. This was all possible because the music biz folks realize that we hackers have lots of ideas that will advance the state-of-the-art in music tech, and even more importantly we have the ability to actually turn those ideas into reality. And so, they treat us very well. It is good to be a music hacker.

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MIDEM Hack Day recap


hacking

What better way to spend a weekend on the French Riviera then in a conference room filled with food, soda, coffee and fellow coders and designers hacking on music!  That’s what I and 26 other hackers did at the MIDEM Music Hack Day. Hackers came from all over the world to attend and participate in this 3rd annual hacking event to show what kind of of creative output can flow from those that are passionate about music and technology.

wide-hacking

Unlike a typical Music Hack Day, this hack day has very limited space so only those with hardcore hacking cred were invited to attend.  Hackers were from a wide range of companies and organizations including SoundCloud, Songkick, Gracenote, Musecore, We Make Awesome Sh.t, 7Digital, Reactify, Seevl, Webdoc, MuseCore, REEA, MTG-UPF, and Mint Digital and The Echo Nest.  Several of the hackers were independent.  The event was organized by Martyn Davies of  Hacks & Bants along with help from the MIDEM organizers.

The hacker space provided for us is at the top of the Palais – which is the heart of MIDEM and Cannes. The hacking space has a terrace that overlooks the city, giving an excellent place to unwind and meditate while trying to figure out how to make something work.

Hacker-eye view of Cannes

Hacker-eye view of Cannes

The hack day started off with a presentation by Martyn explaining what a Music Hack Day is for the general MIDEM crowd. After which,  members of the audience (the Emilys and Amelies) offered some hacking ideas in case any of the hyper-creative hackers attending the Hack Day were not able to come up with their own ideas.

preso

After that, hacking started in force. Coders and designers paired up, hacking designs were sketched and github repositories were pulled and pushed.

The MIDEM Hack Day is longer than your usual Music Hack Day. Instead of the usual 24 hours, hackers have 45 hour to create their stuff.  The extra time really makes a difference (especially if you hack like you only have 24 hours).

Late afternoon hacking

Late afternoon hacking

We had a few visitors during the course of the weekend. Perhaps the most notable was Robert Scoble.  We gave him a few demos. My impression (based upon 3 minutes of interaction, so it is quite solid), is that Robert doesn’t care too much about music.  (While I was giving him a demo of a very early version of Girl Talk in a Box, Robert reached out and hit the volume down key a few times on my computer. The effrontery of it all!). A number of developers gave Robert demos of their in-progress hacks, including Ben Fields, who at the time, didn’t know he was talking to someone who was Internet-famous.

Ben gives a demo to some random guy who later turns out to be Robert Scoble

Ben gives a demo to some random guy who later turns out to be Robert Scoble

As day turned to evening, the view from our terrace got more exciting. The NRJ Awards show takes place in the Palais and we had an awesome view of the red carpet. For 5 hours, the sounds of screaming teenagers lining the red carpet added to our hacking soundtrack.  Carly Rae, Taylor Swift, One Direction and the great one (Psy) all came down the red carpet below us, adding excitement (and quite a bit of distraction) to the hack.

Yes, Psy did the horsey dance for us.  Life is complete.

Finally, after 45 hours of hacking, we were ready to give our demos to the MIDEM audience.

demo

Adam Howard (aka @skattyadz) gives good demo.

There were 18 hacks created during the weekend.  Check out the full list of hacks.  Some of my favorites were:

  • VidSwapper  by Ben Fields. - swaps the audio from one video into another, syncronizing with video hit points along the way.
  • RockStar by Pierre-loic Doulcet - RockStar let you direct a rockstar Band using Gesture.
  • Miri by Aaron Randal - Miri is a personal assistant, controlled by voice, that specialises in answering music-related questions
  • Ephemeral Playback by Alastair Porter - Ephemeral Playback takes the idea of slow music and slows it down even further. Only one song is active at a time. After you have listened to it you must share it to another user via twitter. Once you have shared it you can no longer listen to it.
  • Music Collective  by  the Reactify team - A collaborative music game focussing on the phenomenon of how many people, when working together, form a collective ‘hive mind’.
  • Leap Mix by Adam Howard – Control audio tracks with your hands.

It was fun demoing my own hack: Girl Talk in a Box – it is not everyday that a 50 something guy gets to pretend he’s Skrillex in front of a room full of music industry insiders.

All in all, it was a great event. Thanks to Martyn and MIDEM for making us hackers feel welcome at this event.  MIDEM is an interesting place, where lots of music business happens. It is rather interesting for us hacker-types to see how this other world lives. No doubt, thanks to MIDEM Music Hack Day synergies were leveraged,  silos were toppled,  and ARPUs were maximized.  Looking forward to next year!

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