Posts Tagged music hack day

Fans Forever and Ever

One of my very very favorite hacks from this weekend’s Music Hack Day is Greg Sabo’s  Fans Forever And Ever.  “Fans Forever and Ever” automatically generates a (sometimes rather creepy) fan page for an artist. It works by taking an artist’s cultural data from The Echo Nest API as well as song lyrics from musiXmatch.  The fictional fan that creates the page has a randomly created  set of personality traits drawn from a pool of crazy.  I especially like the Geocities look and the borderline-psychotic poetry:

Give me country music!

Here’s a poem I wrote:

I fill myself with the pop sound

The concert changed my life
I hope I do a good job
die, die

…because death is the only solution
I put it on my iPod
I’ll just put on some female
such music
HEAVEN is the only place for Taylor Swift
My friends don’t understand female artist
There is only one life that I want to take

I live for the music.
what should I wear as I commit murder

“Forever & Always” gets me every time

it’s a shame to make it go quick
I don’t care what they say
I have a collection of saws
Never ever say I’m not a true Taylor Swift fan

‘Fans Forever and Ever’  makes sure you remember to keep the ‘fan’ in ‘fanatic’.

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“We will hack!”

Music Hack Day NYC 2011 is done!  What a weekend it was!  175 Hackers built 72 kick ass hacks in 24 hours.  Much thanks to General Assembly for hosting the weekend in their wonderful ‘urban campus’.  The facilities were top notch, wireless and network were flawless and the people from General Assembly were incredibly accommodating.

Music Hack Day presentations at General Assembly

John Britton from Twilio and NYHacker brought the whole event together lining up the venue, and great set of sponsors. (Oh, and Twilio is really cool – fantastic API for hacking on phones).

John Britton (channeling Roger Daltry) thanks the sponsors

The event would not have happened without Elissa and and sweatsedo army  that did everything that needed to get done – from setting up 200 folding chairs, registering the hackers,  serving beer, to taking out the trash. Thanks to Elissa, Matthew, Meghan, Janelle and DJ Sohn for working around the clock to make this all happen!

The sweatsedo army and their Commander

There are some great reporting on the Music Hack Day already appearing on line:

Be sure to check out Thomas Bonte’s excellent Flickr photostream of the event.

Compulsory photo of official Music Hack Day model Matt Ogle with his fans

Final thanks to Dave Haynes for kicking off the Music Hack Day  and diligently shepherding the movement over the last two years.  Music Hack Day is now an unstoppable force!

Dave and Jason

Eric and the SoundCloud gang put together the Music Hack Day Rap – just listen to the energy in the crowd (and this is after sitting through nearly 3 hours and 72 demos):

I had a great time at the event – can’t wait to do it again next year!


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Great Caesars’ Ghost!

The Echo Nest now has an official Editor in Chief.  Eliot Van Buskirk has joined the Echo Nest staff.  He’s writing about music apps at  He already has a whole bunch of great writeups about Music Hack Day Boston and all of the projects that have come out of it.  Check it out:

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What happens at a Music Hack Day?

So what is a Music Hack Day really like?  Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things that will happen at the Music Hack Day.

9AM – 10AM Saturday morning – Registration – hackers start to arrive between 9AM and 10AM for registration.


Welcome to the Microsoft NERD


You get your badge, wander around the venue (which is graciously provided by Microsoft) have a muffin and a cup of coffee and meet up with old friends and / or make new friends.


Smiling faces greet you at MHD Registration



Informal hacking space at the NERD


This is a good time to start scoping around for hacking partners if you think you might need some help building a hack.  If you want to get a head start in connecting with other hackers consider posting to the Ideas page on the Music Hack Day Boston Wiki.


Group hacking



Meet interesting people at Music Hack Day



10AM – Opening remarks – someone will walk you through the weekend, and give you an idea of what to expect, and tell you all the important info like where the bathrooms are.


Dave Haynes kicks of Music Hack Day London


10:15 – Lightning pitches – a big part of the Music Hack Day is the sharing of knowledge about various music-related technologies, whether it’s an API, a library, technique, hardware gizmo.  During the lightning pitches, everyone who has a technology that they’d like to talk about gives a 60 second description of their technology.


Getting ready for the lightning rounds


11:00 Morning Workshops – The morning workshops are 15 to 20 minute overviews of a particular technology.  There may be be 10 to 20 workshops run in a two hour period.  Depending on the number workshop, there may be more than one track, so pay attention during the lightning pitches to figure out which workshops you’d like to attend.


Waiting for the workshops to start


Some companies offer prizes to the best hack that uses their technology.  If you want to try to win something cool like a concert tickets, an iPad, or some cash, pay attention to the workshops to see who is giving out prizes.


The Echo Nest workshop



The Songkick workshop


1:00PM Lunch time – lunch is free – but don’t let it stop you from hacking.


Eat or hack?


2:00PM Hacking commences – after lunch – formal hacking begins. You have 24 hours to build something cool that is related to music. Hacking will finish up at 2:30PM on Sunday.


Hacking commences


2:00PM Afternoon workshops – In the afternoon, there are some in-depth workshops where you can learn how to build or do something.  The workshops (as with everything at the Music Hack Day), is optional, you can chose to attend a workshop or find a quiet spot and work on your hack.   Some of the workshops may be scheduled on an ad hoc basis (anyone can put on a workshop, just post a note on the ‘workshops board’).  There are 3 hardware oriented workshops, at the Boston Music Hack Day that will give you an opportunity to build or interact with hardware (a rare thing for many of us software types).

Pen plotter & Chiplotle workshop Douglas Repetto and Brian Whitman will show you how to plot your beautiful music visualizations or whatever else on quite possibly the sexiest of all paper output mechanisms — early 1980s HPGL pen plotters! You’ll learn how to use Chiplotle, a Python bridge for live HPGL drawing control, and we’ll have a a few plotters on hand for everyone to use.  Plus, there will be plotters available for hacking after the workshop.

More info:

Electric Eels Workshop

“Electric Eels” workshop – by Noah Vawter – This project introduces a mobile platform for electronic music instruments.  It encouragesplaying them more like traditional instruments.  The new techniques this project introduces extend the role of electricity generation – Electrical energy for every note comes from its players’ movements.

Atari Punk Console workshop

Jimmie Rodgers will lead a workshop on building Atari Punk Consoles. The Atari Punk Console is a simple synthesizer with a wide range of sounds. It is so named because the sounds generated are similar to those of the early Atari consoles. In this workshop you will learn the basics of the timing circuits used to make these crazy sounds. You will also learn how to solder, and how to change the the sounds with your fingers as the contact, or even using light to make a simple light Theremin.


Jimmie's workshop


All parts and tools included in the costs. Additional parts will be available, so you will be able to customize your APC with lights, touch contacts, photo resistors, etc. You are encouraged to find a fun case for your APC and bring it (cigar box, mint tin, Mr. Potato Head other plastic toy, etc), anything hollow that can hold a deck of cards would do. If you do not have a case, then Altoid tins will be available at the workshop.


Hardware hacking


6PM – Dinner – At 6PM the pizzas arrive. Get a slice or two and some soda (the beer comes later), and get back to your hack.  Remember, eating and sleeping is for the weak


Eating is for the weak


9:30 PM – Leg stretching time. – Hacking continues until around 9:30 PM when the Microsoft NERD will close. At that point hacking shifts to the Echo Nest (a few  T stops away).


Onto the T to get to the Echo Nest


10:00 PM Hacking Continues at the Echo Nest


The Echo Nest offices


The venue for overnight hacking is at the Echo Nest in Davis Square – 4 stops away on the T from the main venue.  At the Echo Nest there will be some beer, some live music provided by Javelin, and plenty of comfortable hacking space for the hardcore hackers.


Late night hacking


Overnight hacking is where all the magic happens.


Overnight hacking in London



Overnight hacking at the Echo Nest


8AM Sunday Morning – On Sunday morning, hacking finishes up at the Echo Nest and will return to the Microsoft NERD at 9AM, where you’ll find some more coffee and light breakfast.  Hacking continues thorough lunch.


Remember, eating is for the weak.


2:30 PM Hacking finishes. By 2:30 PM you should have information about your hack posted to the wiki.  Only hacks included on the wiki by 2:30 PM will be included in the final presentations.


Last minute hacking


3:00 PM – Final Demos – This is the time to show your stuff!  Once all the hacks are complete, everyone will move to the big room for the hack demos. We’ll be joined by about 100 non-hackers who are here to see all the demos.   During the demo time, everyone who managed to get a hack listed onto the hacks wiki by 2:30 will get 2 minutes to present their hack.


Giving a demo - Flight of the bumble bee on guitar


There will be people from the music industry, the press, and the tech world in attendance so it doesn’t hurt to try to make your 2 minutes in the spotlight memorable.    We should have two projectors setup so each hack presenter should have 2 minutes to setup and then 2 minutes to present.


Demoing the big piano



Ben demos the roomba recon



Giving good demo is fun


We will be ruthless with the timing. When your 2 minutes are up,  we’ll start the next demo, so make sure you get to the point quickly

5:00 PM  – final awards – At 5PM the panel of judges will gather to pick the winners of the prizes, and present the awards.  But of course, everyone is a winner.


Announcing the prize winners


6:00PM – After all is done, we will find a local pub to get some refreshment.


Time for a beer


It is sure to be a good time.

Photos from flickr photographers:  Elizabeth Thomsen,  Dave Haynes, Thomas Bonte, Ben Reyes, Brad Searles, aroscoe, habber,  David Noël, imelda, James Wheare, narq,

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My Music Hack Day t-shirt …

Of course I wasn’t eligible for the Music Hack Day tshirt design challenge.  But that didn’t stop me from making one anyway.  Here’s my non-entry.  I made it on Zazzle, so I guess you could actually order it if you want to.

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Music Hackday Boston t-shirt design challenge winner!

We received a dozen or so entries in the 24 hour challenge to design a t-shirt for next week’s Music Hack Day Boston.  There were some really fantastic submissions. We’ve chosen a winning design:

The design was created by  Jocelyn Petko, a designer from Alburtis, PA. Jocelyn specializes in print, illustration and packaging.   Jocelyn’s design life started as a sandwich artist:

If I learned anything from my humble beginnings as a sandwich artist, it is that to craft a successful sandwich, you need the proper ingredients. One can say the same for a successful designer. You start with a dash of talent and skill. You add a dollop of creativity and imagination. Top it off with a generous portion of persistency, with a side of bacon, and you’ve got yourself one delicious designer.

Jocelyn in one of her quieter moments

Thanks to everyone who participated in the challenge.  All the designs really were fantastic.



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We are the Earth Destroyers

For my London Music Hackday hack I built a web app called ‘Earth Destroyers’.  Give Earth Destroyers a band name and it will show you how eco-friendly the band’s touring schedule is.  Earth Destroyers calculates the total distance traveled from the first gig to the last along with the average distance between shows.  If an artist has an average inter-show distance of greater than a 1,000 km I consider it an ‘Earth Destroyer’.  The app also shows you a Google map so you can see just how inefficient the tour is. To build the app I used event data from Bandsintown.

Check out Earth Destroyers


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Boston Music Hack Day is in the can.

I’ve almost recovered from the Boston Music Hack Day.  Here’s a retrospective of posts, tweets video and images about the event.  First, lots of people have written about their experiences at the hack day. Here’s a sampling:

Some Videos:

Ian Hogarth from Songkick:

Bodega Girls at the Echo Nestival


Click for slide show

Lots of friendly tweets too.



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Things I learned about organizing a hack day

Boston Music Hack Day is in the can.  I learned a lot over the last few days about what happens when you have 200+ programmers gather for a weekend.  Here’s some of the things I want to remember for next time:

  • Plan for no-shows – when the event is free,  there will be some people who sign up, but then, for whatever reason will not show up.  We had lots of people on the waiting list that could have attended if we had anticipated the no-shows.


    No-shows should be sitting in these empty seats

  • Buy Less Food – When people are up all night coding, they tend to skip breakfast.  We had breakfast for 250 on Sunday, we probably only needed breakfast for 100.
  • Late-night hacking with beer and music can be quite productive


    Late-night hacking at the Hack Nest

  • Have dueling projectors – when you have 35 demos to show, plug in time can add a half hour to a 2 hour demo session.  (By the way, thanks to the good Samaritan ubergeek who volunteered to help the presenters get the video (someone tell me who it was)).
  • Work with awesome people – Working Jon and Dave was great,  but there was also an incredible behind-the-scenes team making the Hack Day possible.  We had an awesome set of volunteers who gave their weekend to making the hack day possible.  Here are some of them:

See the guy in the back with the cap? That’s Matthew Santiago – he was a non-stop hack day machine – from moving food for 300, organizing registration,  handling and chauffeuring  the Echo Nestival talent. He worked from 7AM Saturday morning to 7PM Sunday evening with about an hour of sleep.

The secret weapon of the hack day was Elissa – Director of Stuff at the Echo Nest- she managed so many details  from booking the Echo Nestival, renting vans, carting food, finding volunteers, photoshopping badges, getting tee-shirts made, dealing  with press, photographers,  CEOs, and Founders, ordering tables and chairs for the Hack nest,  wrangling sponsors, picking  menus, ordering food,   getting swag, making extra bathroom keys, hand delivering the excess food to the local homeless shelter and so much more.  Elissa quietly managed all of the big and little details that I never would have thought of.   If you attended the hack day, be sure to give her some twitter love.

I learned a lot over the weekend about events and organizing.  I hope I get to be involved in more hack days in the future so I can use my new knowledge.

Photos by Dave Haynes



Paul’s Music Wreckommender

I just posted my music hack day hack.  It is called Paul’s Music Wreckommender.  Use this Wreckommender to find anti-recommendations.  Give the wreckommender an artist that you like and it will give you a playlist of tracks from artists that are very different from the seed artist.  Some obvious use cases:

  • Your 14 year old daughter’s slumber party is getting too loud. Send the girls home by putting on the Hannah Montana Wreckommender – which yields a playlist with tracks by Glenn Gould, Dream Theater and Al Hirt.
  • It’s time to break up with your girl friend.  Give her the ‘You are the wind beneath my wings‘ wrecklist and your intentions will be clear.
  • If you like ‘everything but country’ then Garth Williams will guide the way:  Garth Williams Wreckommendations

You can try it out at

How it works:

This was a pretty easy hack.  I already had a playlister engine with some neat properties.  It maintains a complete artist graph using Echo Nest artist similarities, so I can make  make routes through the artist space for making smooth artist/song transitions. Adapting this playlister engine to create wreckommendations was really easy.  To create the recommendations,  I find the seed node in the graph and then from this node I find the set of artists that have the longest ‘shortest path’ to the seed artist.  These are the artists that are furthest away from the seed artists.  I then select songs from this set to make my ‘wrecklist’.   However, this list isn’t the best list.  There are a small set of artists that are far away from everything. These artists become frequent wrecommendations for many many artists, which is bad.  To avoid this problem I adapted the algorithm to find far away artist clusters and then draw artists from that cluster.  This gives yields a playlist with much more variety.

This hack is primarily for fun, but I think there’s something in the wreckommendations that is worth persuing.   When asked to describe their taste in music, many people will use a negative – such as “Anything but country and rap”.  If this is really the case, then using the wreckommender to literally find ‘anything but country and rap’ – whether it is J-Pop or crabcore might actually be useful.


A couple of sources of inspiration for this hack. First, the name. A word like ‘wreckommendation’ clearly deserves an application.  Second, a coffee pot conversation with Reid, and finally, the LibraryThing Unsuggester, which does a similar thing for books (but in a very different way).

I hope you like the wreckommender, let me know if you find any interesting wreckommendations.

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