Music Popcorn – A visualization of the music genre space

My Music Hack Day Chicago music hack is Music Popcorn. It is  a visualization of the music space that lets you explore and learn about the many different music genres.


Yes, this is well trod territory. Glenn’s Every Noise at Once  is the destination app for this sort of thing, and I’ve had a number of quasi-successful attempts at this as well (the map of music styles, and the labyrinth of genre).  Still, I think it is an interesting problem that has not been totally solved yet.  This time I wanted to explore a few different aspects. In particular, I wanted to incorporate some notion of genre hierarchy. So unlike the aforementioned attempts, Music Popcorn places each genre into one of 15 or so high level genre families.  This helps to bring an overall structure to the space. All the rock genres are close together, and all the metal genres are close together, and they are far away from the country genres.

I also wanted to incorporate a notion of popularity in the visualization. I didn’t want a fringe genre like djent or oi to have the same visual prominence as genre like rock or pop.  So I’ve sized each genre in proportion to its overall popularity.  Coupled with the clustering based on families it is easy to get a quick overview of how prominent a genre family like metal is when compared to another genre like pop  or rock.

The music genre space is quite complex. Genres don’t have hard and fast borders.  In order to show the fuzziness of the borders,  when you click on any particular genre I show all the related genres and rearrange the map so that the related genres are closer to the selected genre.  And of course  you need to be able to listen to a genre, which you can do by clicking on it.  Music is streamed via Rdio.

To build this app, I used The Echo Nest API to supply the genres (nearly 800 of them) and the genre-radio playlisting with Rdio. The visualization is driven by the amazing d3.

It’s been fun building this hack in Chicago.  Give it a try and let me know what you think: Music Popcorn

  1. #1 by Andrew Darwitan on October 14, 2013 - 11:23 pm

    I think this is really brilliant! Perhaps it’ll be good to have a search function though, took some time to find some of the genres.

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