Archive for category startup

The Music App Summit

Billboard has long been known for tracking the hottest artists, albums and songs.  Now they are moving into new territory – Music Apps.  In October Billboard is hosting a Music App Summit – a day focused on the world of mobile music apps.  The summit will focus on new companies and technologies that are now building the next generation of music applications for mobile devices.    The summit has some awesome speakers and panelist  lined up from a cross section of domains  (technology, business and music) like Ge Wang, Ted Cohen, Dave KusekBrian Zisk and The Echo Nest’s CEO Jim Lucchese.

At the core of the summit are Billboard’s first ever Music App Awards.  Billboard is giving awards to the best apps in a number of categories:

  • Best Artist-based App: Apps created specifically for an individual artist
  • Best Music Streaming App: Apps that allow users to stream, download or otherwise enjoy music, such as Internet radio or on-demand.
  • Best Music Engagement App: Apps that lets users engage in music in various ways, such as music games, music ID services, etc.
  • Best Music Creation App: App that lets users make their own music.
  • Best Branded App: App that best incorporates a sponsor with music capabilities to promote both the sponsor’s message and highlight the music
  • Best Touring App:  App created in conjunction with a specific tour or festival

Judges for the apps include Eliot Van Buskirk of  Wired, Ian Rogers of Top Spin and Grammy Award winner MC Hammer.

Winning developers receive some modest prizes – but the real award is getting to demo your app to the attendees of the summit – the movers and shakers of the music industry will be there looking for that killer music app – the winner in each of the app categories will get to show their stuff.  If you have a mobile music app consider submitting it to the Music App Awards.   The submission deadline is July 30.


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22 students + 10 days + Echo Nest == Awesome!

The students in Mark Chang‘s mobile development course at Olin college  just completed the mid-semester #mobdev contest. This was a 10-day sprint to create a compelling product prototype on the Android platform that used the Echo Nest APIs. Teams were judged on the business model,  design, and implementation of their prototype. As Mark puts it: Substance, Style and a convincing way to make money.

Beat Counter

In 10 days, these students built 7 awesome apps – each with a solid business model behind it.  Here’s a summary:

  • Beat Counter –  A music listening application made especially for choreographers.
  • Music Trails –  An application that helps listeners freely explore new music by visually navigating a web of connected artists.
  • DJMixr – An application that lets people collectively play music. This is the winning app!
  • BeatBlocker – a synchronized music game for the casual gaming market
  • PacePlayer – an application for casual runners that enjoy listening to music
  • Bandroid – An application for finding local concerts
  • Driving Beat – an application that was so awesome that it is now a state secret.

I hope to see all of these apps in the Android marketplace very soon. Special thanks to Debcha for connecting The Echo Nest with mobdev

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How Music Information Retrieval can help you get the girl

Parag Chordia from Georgia Tech and his colleagues have spun out a music-tech company called khush.  Khush makes cutting-edge artificial intelligence music applications.  Their first app is LaDiDa – which is an auto-accompaniment application.  You sing a capella into your iPhone and Ladida plays it back with a full accompaniment of music …. something like Songsmith (but with good music).

I had a chance to chat with Parag, along with Khush CEO Perna Gupta (she’s the dream girl in the video, btw),  and Alex Rae (programmer+music geek).  These folks are fired up about khush and LaDiDa.  It’s great to see another innovative company come out of the MIR world.  I think they will be going places.

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The Music Hackday Comes to Boston

The London Music Hackday

<W00T!> -The Music Hackday is coming to Boston.  Set aside the weekend of November 21 and 22 for the Boston Music Hackday being held at  the Microsoft New England Research and Develpment Center (aka NERD).   The Music Hackday is a place where folks can gather for a weekend of nearly uninterrupted hacking on music.  Expect to see (and hear) all kinds of music hacks: from web-hacks, iPhone apps, analog noisemakers to cool visualizations.  Anything goes as long as it is music related.   The Boston hackday is being organized by Dave Haynes (SoundCloud), Jon Pierce (Betahouse) and myself (The Echo Nest).  We here at the Echo Nest are pretty excited to be involved. It should be really fun.

If you hack music and are going to be within a day’s drive of Boston on the weekend before  Thanksgiving, you really should be planning to attend the hackday.  Registration is free, but space is limited. To guarantee a spot register early and be sure you tell us how you want to hack music (because of the limited number of slots, we give preference to music hackers).

Event:   Boston Music Hackday
When:  November 21, 22
Where: NERD

Looking for hacking inspiration? Check out all of the music hacks that were built during the London Music Hackday:

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Musically Intelligent Machines

Musically Intelligent Machines, is a spin-off of the song autotagging work done by Michael Mandel.  Michael has chosen a rather awesome name for his company, combining ‘music’ and ‘machine’ into a catchy title – now why didn’t I think of that ;).

You can see Mike’s demo on this livestream here:


Click on on-demand / September 1st / Musically Intelligent Machines.



The Free Music Archive

fmaLast week The Free Music Archive opened its virtual doors offering thousands of free tracks for streaming or download.   Yes, there are tons of sites on the web that offer new music  for free, but the FMA is different. The music on the FMA is curated by music experts (radio programmers, webcasters, venues, labels, collectives and so on) – so that instead of a  slush pile dominated by bad music typical of other free music sites, the  music at the FMA is really good (or at least one human expert thinks it is good).   Most of the music on the FMA is released under some form of a Creative Commons license that allows for free non-commercial use making it suitable for you to use in your podcast, remix, video game or MIR research.

For free-music aggregation sites like the FMA, music discovery has always been a big challenge.  Without any well-known artists to use as starting points into the collection, it is hard for a visitor to find music that they might like.   The FMA does have and advantage over other free-music aggregators – with the human curator in the loop, you’ll spend less time wading through bad music trying to find the music gems.    But the FMA and and other free-music sites need to do whole lot better if they are going to really become sources of new music for people.    It would be great if I could go to a site like FMA and tell them about my music tastes (perhaps by giving them a link to my APML, or itunesLibrary.xml or name)  and have them point me to the music in their collection that best matches my music taste.  If they could give me a weekly customized music podcast with their newest music that best matches my music taste, I’d be in new-music heaven.

The FMA is pretty neat. I like the human-in-the-loop approach that leads to a high-quality music catalog.

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The BPM Explorer

Last month I wrote about using the Echo Nest API to analyze tracks to generate plots that you can use to determine whether or not a machine is responsible for setting the beat of a song.   I received many requests to analyze tracks by particular  artists, far too many for me to do without giving up my day job.   To satisfy this pent up demand for click track analysis I’ve written an application called the BPM Explorer that you let you create your own click plots.  With this application you can analyze any song in your collection, view its click plot and listen to your music, synchronized with the plot.  Here’s what the app looks like:

Check out the application here:  The Echo Nest BPM Explorer.  It’s written in Processing and deployed with Java Webstart, so it (should) just work.

My primary motiviation for writing this application was to check out the new Echo Nest Java Client to make sure that it was easy to use from Processing.   One of my secret plans is to get people in the Processing community interested in using the Echo Nest API.  The Processing community is filled with some  ultra-creative folks that have have strong artistic, programming and data visualization skills.   I’d love to see more song visualizations like this and this that are built using the Echo Nest APIs.  Processing is really cool – I was able to write the BPM explorer in just a few hours (it took me longer to remember how to sign jar files for webstart than it did to write the core plotter).    Processing strips away all of the boring parts of writing graphic programming (create a frame,  lay it out with a gridbag, make it visible,  validate, invalidate, repaint, paint arghh!). For processing, you just write a method ‘draw()’ that will be called 30 times a second.   I hope I get the chance to write more Processing programs.

Update: I’ve released the BPM Explorer code as open source – as part of the echo-nest-demos project hosted at google-code.  You can also browse the read  for the BPM Explorer.

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the sound of a million passwords changing

A bad day for my friends at Spotify. First the news of a security breach that compromised the personal information of their one million users – followed by the outage of the website as a million people all tried to change their passwords at once.  But despite all of this trouble, the Spotify player kept playing music.


It is interesting to see how Spotify is handling their first big crises. So far, they seem to be doing most things right –  they are being open about what the problem was and they have already fixed the problem that has caused the breach.   Looks like they may need to be a bigger web server though.

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Leave a comment – the setlist wiki is a wiki-like service where people can record and share the setlists for concerts they’ve attended.  Interested in learning what Yes might play should you see them, you can look at the setlist for their recent concert in Georgia:

Firebird Suite
Siberian Khatru
I’ve Seen All Good People
Tempus Fugit
Astral Traveler
Close To The Edge
J’s Theme
Intersection Blues
And You And I
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Aliens (Are Only Us From The Future)
Machine Messiah
Starship Trooper
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Roundabout doesn’t just show you the setlist, it also creates links to Youtube videos for each of the tracks, finds the lyrics from the LyricWiki. setlist  calculates nifty statistics about which songs a band has played most in their concerts. is a neat idea – and the site design and implementation is really slick.  It’s a pretty cool site.


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Day #2 at the startup

I just finished day #2 at my new job.  Sorry to be so cagey about where I was going, but they wanted to keep it quiet until they could  do a press release about it.   I see the press release is public now, so I’m free to talk about my new job.

As many of the commenters have guessed, I’ve joined, as  the director of the developer community,  The Echo Nest –   a company that is devoted to providing music intelligence for the next generation of online music application.   In this role, I will work with the rest of the  Echo Nest team to help grow an active, vibrant music application developer  community around The Echo Nest  developer API.

I’m really excited to be here at The Echo Nest.   The Echo Nest has already established a reputation as a company that provides a new breed  of hardcore music intelligence.  The Echo Nest goes far beyond the “wisdom of the crowds” model of music discovery (“People who listened to the Beatles also listened to the Rolling Stones”). Instead of just data mining user behavior, The Echo Nest crawls the web to learn everything it can about music by analyzing what the world is saying about music.  The Echo Nest also directly analyzes the audio content of music – extracting musical traits such as key, tempo, structure, timbre from the audio.

Home of The Echo Nest

Home of The Echo Nest

From this  analysis of the social context, the user behavior and the actual audio, the Echo Nest gets a deep understanding of the entire world music.   It knows which artists are getting the most buzz, which artists are getting stale,  how and why artists are related, what words are being used to describe the music.     This data goes far beyond the “if you like Britney, you might like Christina” level.  The Echo Nest understands enough about music to be able to answer queries such as “make me a playlist of  songs with a tempo of 90 beats per minute by an unknown emo artist that sounds something like Dashboard Confessional,  and has violins”.  The really neat thing is that the Echo Nest is exposing a lot of this functionality in their developer API.  This lets anyone who is building a music application to tap into this large resource of music intelligence.

One of my main duties is to be the voice of the developer in the Echo Nest.  I’ve written my fair share of music apps, so I have a good idea of some of the many pain points and difficulties that a music application developer has to face, but I’d like to hear more, so if you are developing a music application and you need a particular problem solved let me know – or better yet, post to The Echo Nest developer forums.

I’ll be writing a lot about The Echo Nest in upcoming posts – in particular about using the developer APIs, but I shall still continue to post about all of the interesting things going on the music space – so this blog won’t be too much different from Duke Listens!