Archive for category playlist

The Echo Nest gets Personal

Duke University Archives

Here at the Echo Nest just added a new feature to our APIs called Personal Catalogs. This feature lets you make all of the Echo Nest features work in your own world of music. With Personal Catalogs (PCs) you can define application or user specific catalogs (in terms of artists or songs) and then use these catalogs to drive the behavior of other Echo Nest APIs.  PCs open the door to all sorts of custom apps built on the Echo Nest platform. Here are some examples:

Create better genius-style playlists – With PCs I can create a catalog that contains all of the songs in my iTunes collection.  I can then use this catalog with the Echo Nest Playlist API to generate interesting playlists based upon my own personal collection.  I can create a playlist of my favorite, most danceable songs for a party, or I can create a playlist of slow, low energy, jazz songs for late night reading music.

Create hyper-targeted recommendations  – With PCs I can make a catalog of artists and then use the artist/similar APIs  to generate recommendations within this catalog.  For instance, I could create an artist catalog of all the bands that are playing this weekend in Boston and then create Music Hack Day recommender that tells each visitor to Boston what bands they should see in Boston based upon their musical tastes.

Get info on lots of stuff – people often ask questions about their whole music collection. Like, ‘what are all the songs that I have that are at 113 BPM?‘, or ‘what are the softest songs?’  Previously, to answer these sorts of questions, you’d have to query our APIs one song at a time – a rather tedious and potentially lengthy operation (if you had, say, 10K tracks). With PCs, you can make a single catalog for all of your tracks and then make bulk queries against this catalog. Once you’ve created the catalog, it is very quick to read back all the tempos in your collection.

Represent your music taste – since a Personal Catalog can contain info such as playcounts, skips, and ratings for all of the artists and songs in your collection, it can serve as an excellent proxy to your music taste.  Current and soon to be released APIs will use personal catalogs as a representation of your taste to give you personalized results. Playlisting, artist similarity, music recommendations all personalized based on you listening history.

These examples just scratch the surface. We hope to see lots of novel applications of Personal Catalogs.  Check out the APIs, and start writing some code.

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Is that a million songs in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

Yesterday, Steve Jobs reminded us that it was less than 10 years ago when Apple announced the first iPod which could put a thousand songs in your pocket.  With the emergence of cloud-based music services like Spotify and Rhapsody, we can now have a virtually endless supply of music in our pocket.  The  ‘bottomless iPod’ will have as big an effect on how we listen to music as the original iPod had back in 2001.  But with millions of songs to chose from, we will need help finding music that we want to hear.  Shuffle play won’t work when we have a million songs to chose from.  We will need new tools that help us manage our listening experience.  I’m convinced that one of these tools will be intelligent automatic playlisting.

This weekend at the Music Hack Day London, The Echo Nest is releasing the first version of our new Playlisting API.  The Playlisting API  lets developers construct playlists based on a flexible set of artist/song selection and sorting rules.  The Echo Nest has deep data about millions of artists and songs.  We know how popular Lady Gaga is, we know the tempo of every one of her songs,  we know other artists that sound similar to her, we know where she’s from, we know what words people use to describe her music (‘dance pop’, ‘club’, ‘party music’, ‘female’, ‘diva’ ).  With the Playlisting API we can use this data to select music and arrange it in all sorts of flexible ways – from very simple Pandora radio style playlists of similar sounding songs to elaborate playlists drawing on a wide range of parameters.  Here are some examples of the types of playlists you can construct with the API:

  • Similar artist radio – generate a playlist of songs by similar artists
  • Jogging playlist – generate a playlist of 80s power pop with a tempo between 120 and 130 BPM, but never ever play Bon Jovi
  • London Music Hack Day Playlist -generate a playlist of electronic and techno music by unknown artists near London, order the tracks by tempo from slow to fast
  • Tomorrow’s top 40 – play  the hottest songs by  pop artists with low familiarity that are starting to get hottt
  • Heavy Metal Radio – A DMCA-Compliant radio stream of nothing but heavy metal

We have also provide a dynamic playlisting API that will allow for the creation of playlists that adapt based upon skipping and rating behavior of the listener.

I’m about to jump on a plane for the Music Hackday London where we will be demonstrating this new API and some cool apps that have already been built upon it.    I’m  hoping to see a few apps emerge from this Music Hack Day that use  the new API.  More info about the APIs and how you can use it to do all sorts of fun things will be forthcoming.  For the motivated dive into the APIs right now.

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Finding a path through the Jukebox: The Playlist Tutorial

Ben Fields and I have just put the finishing touches on our playlisting tutorial for ISMIR.  Everything you could want to know about playlists.  As one of the founders of a well known music intelligence company once said: Take the fun out of music and read Paul’s slides

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Do you use Smart Playlists?

[tweetmeme  only_single=false] iTunes Smart Playlists allow for very flexible creation of dynamic playlists based on a whole boat-load of parameters.  But I wonder how often people use this feature. Is it too complicated?  Let’s find out.  I’ve created a poll that will take you about 20 seconds to complete.   Go to iTunes, count up how many smart playlists you have.  You can tell which playlists are smart playlists because they have the little gear icon:

Don’t count the pre-fab smart playlists that come with iTunes (like 90’s music, Recently Added, My Top Rated, etc.).   Once you’ve counted up your playlists, take the poll:

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Novelty playlist ordering

[tweetmeme source= ‘plamere’ only_single=false] We’ve been building a new playlisting engine here at the Echo Nest.  The engine is really neat – it lets you apply a whole range of very flexible constraints and orderings to make all sorts of playlists that would be a challenge for even the most savvy DJ.  Playlists like 15 songs with a tempo between 120 and 130 BPM ordered by how danceable they are by very popular female artists that sound similar to Lady Gaga, that live near London, but never ever include tracks by The Spice Girls.

I was playing with the engine this weekend, writing some rules to make novelty playlists to test the limits of the engine.   I started with  rules  typical for a similar-artist playlist: 15 songs long, filled with songs by artists similar to a seed artist (in this case Weezer), the first and last song must be by the seed artist, and no two consecutive songs can be by the same artist.  Simple enough, but then I added two more rules to turn this into a novelty playlist that would be very hard for a human to make.     See if you can guess what the two rules are.  I think one of the rules is pretty obvious, but the second is a bit more subtle.  Post your guesses in the comments.

 0    Tripping Down the Freeway - Weezer
 1    Yer All I've Got Ttonight - The Smashing Pumpkins
 2    The Most Beautiful Things - Jimmy Eat World
 3    Someday You Will Be Loved - Death Cab For Cutie
 4    Don't Make Me Prove It - Veruca Salt
 5    The Sacred And Profane - Smashing Pumpkins, The
 6    Everything Is Alright - Motion City Soundtrack
 7    The Ego's Last Stand - The Flaming Lips
 8    Don't Believe A Word - Third Eye Blind
 9    Don's Gone Columbia - Teenage Fanclub
10    Alone + Easy Target - Foo Fighters
11    The Houses Of Roofs - Biffy Clyro
12    Santa Has a Mullet - Nerf Herder
13    Turtleneck Coverup - Ozma
14    Perfect Situation - Weezer

Here’s another playlist – with a different set of  two novelty rules, with a seed artist of Led Zeppelin.   Again, if you can guess the rules, post a comment.

0    El Niño - Jethro Tull
1    Cheater - Uriah Heep
2    Hot Dog - Led Zeppelin
3    One Thing - Lynyrd Skynyrd
4    Nightmare - Black Sabbath
5    Ezy Ryder - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
6    Soulshine - Govt Mule
7    The Gypsy - Deep Purple
8    I'll Wait - Van Halen
9    Slow Down - Ozzy Osbourne
10   Civil War - Guns N' Roses
11   One Rainy Wish - Jimi Hendrix
12   Overture (Live) - Grand Funk Railroad
13   Larger Than Life - Gov'T Mule

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Some preliminary Playlist Survey results

[tweetmeme source= ‘plamere’ only_single=false] I’m conducting a somewhat informal survey on playlisting to compare how well playlists created by an expert radio DJ compare to those generated by a playlisting algorithm and a random number generator.  So far, nearly 200 people have taken the survey (Thanks!).     Already I’m seeing some very interesting results. Here’s a few tidbits (look for a more thorough analysis once the survey is complete).

People expect human DJs to make better playlists:
The survey asks people to try to identify the origin of a playlist (human expert, algorithm or random) and also rate each playlist.  We can look at the ratings people give to playlists based on what they think the playlist origin is to get an idea of people’s attitudes toward human vs. algorithm creation.

  Predicted Origin  Rating
  ----------------   ------
  Human expert      3.4
  Algorithm         2.7
  Random            2.1  

We see that people expect humans to create better playlists than algorithms and that algorithms should give better playlists than random numbers.  Not a surprising result.

Human DJs don’t necessarily  make better playlists:
Now lets look at how people rated playlists based on the actual origin of the playlists:

  Actual Origin     Rating
  -------------     ------
  Human expert      2.5
  Algorithm         2.7
  Random            2.6 

These results are rather surprising.  Algorithmic playlists are rated highest, while human-expert-created playlists are rated lowest, even lower than those created by the random number generator.  There are lots of caveats here, I haven’t done any significance tests yet to see if the differences here really matter, the survey size is still rather small,  and the survey doesn’t present real-world playlist listening conditions, etc. Nevertheless, the results are intriguing.

I’d like to collect more survey data to flesh out these results.  So if you haven’t already, please take the survey:

The Playlist Survey

Thanks!

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The Playlist Survey

[tweetmeme source= ‘plamere’ only_single=false] Playlists have long been a big part of the music experience.  But making a good playlist is not always easy.  We can spend lots of time crafting the perfect mix, but more often than not, in this iPod age, we are likely to toss on a pre-made playlist (such as an album),  have the computer generate a playlist (with something like iTunes Genius) or (more likely) we’ll just hit the shuffle button and listen to songs at random.   I pine for the old days when Radio DJs would play well-crafted sets – mixes of old favorites and the newest, undiscovered tracks – connected in interesting ways.  These professionally created playlists magnified the listening experience.   The whole was indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

The tradition of the old-style Radio DJ continues on Internet Radio sites like Radio Paradise. RP founder/DJ Bill Goldsmith says of   Radio Paradise: “Our specialty is taking a diverse assortment of songs and making them flow together in a way that makes sense harmonically, rhythmically, and lyrically — an art that, to us, is the very essence of radio.”  Anyone who has listened to Radio Paradise will come to appreciate the immense value that a professionally curated playlist brings to the listening experience.

I wish I could put Bill Goldsmith in my iPod and have him craft personalized playlists for me  – playlists that make sense harmonically, rhythmically and lyrically, and customized to my music taste,  mood and context . That, of course, will never happen. Instead I’m going to rely on computer algorithms to generate my playlists.  But how good are computer generated playlists? Can a computer really generate playlists as good as Bill Goldsmith,  with his decades of knowledge about good music and his understanding of how to fit songs together?

To help answer this question,  I’ve created a Playlist Survey – that will collect information about the quality of playlists generated by a human expert, a computer algorithm and a random number generator.   The survey presents a set of playlists and the subject rates each playlist in terms of its quality and also tries to guess whether the playlist was created by a human expert, a computer algorithm or was generated at random.

Bill Goldsmith and Radio Paradise have graciously contributed 18 months of historical playlist data from Radio Paradise to serve as the expert playlist data. That’s nearly 50,000 playlists and a quarter million song plays spread over nearly 7,000 different tracks.

The Playlist Survey also servers as a Radio DJ Turing test.  Can a computer algorithm (or a random number generator for that matter) create playlists that people will think are created by a living and breathing music expert?  What will it mean, for instance, if we learn that people really can’t tell the difference between expert playlists and shuffle play?

Ben Fields and I will offer the results of this Playlist when we present Finding a path through the Jukebox – The Playlist Tutorial – at ISMIR 2010 in Utrecth in August. I’ll also follow up with detailed posts about the results here in this blog after the conference.  I invite all of my readers to spend 10 to 15 minutes to take The Playlist Survey.  Your efforts will help researchers better understand what makes a good playlist.

Take the Playlist Survey

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