Posts Tagged mhd

Even without Zooey, Music Hack Days are pretty awesome

Paul + Matt @ The Hub - Photo by Thomas Bonte

This picture represents the perfection of the Music Hack Day.  Here I am sitting at my computer, in a dark room, totally focused on building my hack, while I sit next to the music technology superstar Matt Ogle of In front of me is a beer, a red bull and a glass of Ben Fields‘ private stock. What could be better than this!  (Well, I suppose sitting on my right, just out of view could be Zooey Deschanel, that might be better).  If you want to find yourself in such a position, then consider signing up for one of the upcoming Music Hack Days.  There’s one in Barcelona on October 2,3 and there’s one in Boston on October 16, 17.   Registrations are going fast, so sign up early to guarantee that you’ll have a seat.

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Here come the music apps

[tweetmeme source= ‘plamere’ only_single=false] As a music application developer, I  have long been vexed by a problem that has made building and releasing a music application very difficult – where do I get the music? A music application needs music – but adding music  to an application is very hard.  I really have  just a few choices:  (1) I can use unlicensed content and hope nobody notices, (2) I can try to make the deals with the labels, (3) I can restrict my app to non-demand radio and pay per-stream royalties,  or (4) I can just skip the music.  None of these options is very appealing to me – If my application gets popular I will either get sued by the labels or swamped by music licensing fees.  It is better for me if no one notices my app at all. Even resources like album art and 30 second samples are tightly held by the content owners.

What a crazy world!   We are at this incredible point in the history of music with millions of tracks at our fingertips. Now more than ever, we need new ways to explore, organize and share music – but any kind of creativity in this space is stymied.  I could build the coolest music app in the world that could help millions of people connect with music, but without a source of legal content, my application will never see the light of day.    In my last year while working at the Echo Nest, I’ve seen some really amazing music applications made by very creative developers. These are apps that would make your jaw drop – but you’ll never see them. The apps are languishing on the virtual shelf because there’s no good way to get legal content for the apps.

This weekend at Music Hack Day San Francisco we are going to change this. We are going to make it possible for developers to build applications around music content and release the applications to the world without having to worry about music licensing.  To do this, we are working with a new digital music service that offers on-demand music.  With the Echo Nest / program a developer can write music applications using all of the usual Echo Nest APIs – and include streaming content from the millions of songs in the catalog. is very generous with its content giving a user 5 hours per week of on-demand music (once a user goes beyond their 5 hour allotment, full-streams are replaced with 30 second streams).’s strategy here is simple – they hope that by encouraging innovative applications built around their content they will attract more paying subscribers who get access to unlimited streams.    The Echo Nest and platforms are well integrated letting developers write apps that take advantage of all the deep Echo Nest data – artist similarities, news, reviews, blogs, bios, images, video and even our deep track-level music analysis for every artist and track in the catalog.  This is a big deal for music application developers.  We can finally build applications around real music without having to worry about being sued or going broke paying licensing fees if our apps get popular.  And if our application brings new subscribers to, we can make money through an affiliate program.  (Here’s the fine print – is currently US only (sorry, rest of the world), and to hear the full streams you need to register with (you just need an email address, no credit cards required))

There are already some apps that have been built on top of the Echo Nest / APIs:

MusicExplorerFXThe  award-winning Music Exploration tool.

Slice – a music exploration and discovery application for the Android Platform

PlaylistPathfinder – a novel application that creates playlists by finding paths through the Echo Nest artist similarity space.

I’ll write in more depth about  these apps in subsequent posts – but the story for these apps are nearly identical – they were cool apps that were languishing on the music shelf because there was no way to release them with licensed content.  Now the apps can be released to the world and even help the application developer make some money.

Over the years, we’ve seen many different ways for people to discovery new music come and go.  When I was growing up, the radio DJ was the primary way people people discovered new music.  The DJ was the tastemaker for the generation.  For the next generation, I think  music apps will be one of the primary ways people discover new music.

If you have idea about a cool new music app, but have been stymied by the problem of how to get content for your app, check out this program.  More details will be forthcoming during Music Hack Day San Francisco.



On more reason to go to Music Hack Day San Francisco

Boxee is coming to Music Hack Day San Francisco – and they will be bringing along a Boxee Box to be given to the best music application that runs on the Boxee.  Boxee is a really cool environment for writing music apps – they have a nifty Python API that gives you all sorts of control over the device.  It also means that you can easily write apps on Boxee that take advantage of The Echo Nest APIs giving you world class music recommendations,  detailed info about artists such as news, reviews, blogs, audio and video and even the ability to algorithmically remix music.  Best of all, Boxee puts music apps right where they should be – in the living room.  Imagine the kind of music app that you’d want to have running on your 48″ living room  TV –  something  that you’d use when sitting on the couch, or when you have a party, or when the gang is getting tired of Guitar hero.    What I’d love to have running in my living room is a Pandora-style radio, running on my TV, but instead of seeing static album art,  I’d like the app to show artist images or images that match the mood or the theme of the music.   Ken Burns meets my favorite music.  The cool thing is, this is exactly the type of app that can be written in a weekend at the Music Hack Day.  Can’t wait.


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What is that song?

One of the biggest problems faced by music application developers is song identification – that is – given an mp3 file, how can you accurately find the name of the song, album and artist?  There are some hints in the mp3 file – the file name and the ID3 tags contain metadata about the track – but anyone who has worked with this metadata knows that this data is notoriously hard to deal with.  The metadata is often missing, inconsistently formatted or just plain wrong.  The result of this difficulty is that music application developers spend an inordinate amount of time just dealing with song identification.

Here at the Echo Nest we want to make it easy for developers to create music applications so we really want to solve the music metadata problem once and for all.  That’s why we’ve created music fingerprinting technology. Today, we are starting to release it to the world.

The Echo Nest music fingerprinter takes a bit of music such as an MP3 and identifies the song based solely on the musical attributes of the song.  No matter how messy the metadata is, the fingerprinter can identify the song since it relies on the music to do the identification.  On his blog, Echo Nest co-founder Brian Whitman dives into the technical details of the Echo Nest Musical Fingerprinter.

This is not the first audio fingerprinter in the world, but we think our fingerprinter is  distinctive in several important ways:

  • Very fast – under a second to ID a track
  • Very accurate – uses Echo Nest music analysis technology at the core. (we hope to publish some data on ENMFP accuracy real soon)
  • Open Data – all of the mapping of fingerprints to songs is open data. Anyone can get the data
  • Open server – all of the server code is open – you can host your own FP server if you wish

We want to make sure that anyone who takes advantage of the EN Fingerprinter participates fully in the ENMFP ecosystem – and so it is licensed so that  anyone who uses the fingerprinter technology will share their FP/song mapping data with everyone. No walled gardens – if you benefit from the ENMFP you are also helping others that are using the ENMFP.

It is still early days with the fingerprinter – we are doing a soft release. If you want to experiment with the ENMFP and you are at the Amsterdam music hackday this weekend send an email to with your intended use case. We will get back to you ASAP with a link to libraries for Mac, Windows and Linux.

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The most music tech ever squeezed into 1 weekend

Workshops! The core activity for the music hack day weekend is hacking.  But before we dive into the hard core hacking the weekend starts with a set of music tech workshops where hackers can learn about the latest in music technologies – it’s a way for the hacker to add more tools to their toolbox.   On Saturday morning we will be conducting  around 25 workshops running in 5 sessions of 5 parallel tracks.  Anyone interested in the music+technology space will likely find something interesting – music recommendation, concert/event data,  music meta-data, iPhone programming, electronic instrument construction,  Playdar, NPR – everything from how to author a song for the Rock Band Network to the Yahoo! query language.   If you are going to the Hack Day, you may want to do a little bit of planning to help you decide which of the workshops you’ll want to attend, so check out the workshop schedule.

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Music Hack Day T-shirt

Ben Lacker shows off the Boston Music Hack day tee-shirt – hot off the loom.

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