Posts Tagged sched

Unofficial Artist Guide to SXSW

I’m excited! Next week I travel to Austin for a week long computer+music geek-fest at SXSW.  A big part of SXSW is the music – there are nearly 2,000 different artists playing at SXSW this year. But that presents a problem – there are so many bands going to SXSW (many I’ve never heard of) that I find it very hard to figure out which bands I should go and see.  I need a tool to help me find sift through all of the artists – a tool that will help me decide which artists I should add to my schedule and which ones I should skip.   I’m not the only one who was daunted by the large artist list.  Taylor McKnight, founder of SCHED*, was thinking the same thing.  He wanted to give his users a better way to plan their time at SXSW.  And so over a couple of weekends Taylor built (with a little backend support from us)  The Unofficial Artist Discovery Guide to SXSW.

The Unofficial Artist Discovery Guide to SXSW is a tool that allows you to explore the many artists attending this year’s SXSW.  It lets you search for artists,  browse popularity, music style, ‘buzzworthiness’,  or similarity to your favorite artists – and it will make recommendations for you based on your music taste (using your, Sched* or Hype Machine accounts) .  The Artist Guide supplies enough context (bios, images, music, tag clouds, links) to help you decide if you might like an artist.

Here’s the guide:

Here’s a quick tour of some of the things you can do with the guide.  First off, you can Search for artists by name, genre/tag or location. This helps you find music when you know what you are looking for.

However, you may not always be sure what you are looking for – that’s where you use Discover. This gives you recommendations based on the music you already like.  Type in the name of a few artists (even artists that are not playing at SXSW) or your SCHED*, Hype Machine or user name, and ‘Discover’ will give you a set of recommendations for SXSW artists based on your music taste.  For example, I’ve been listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg lately so I can use the artist guide to help me find SXSW artists that I might like:

If I see an artist that looks interesting I can drill down and get more info about the artist:

From here I can read the artist bio, listen to some audio, explore other similar SXSW artists or add the event to my SCHED* schedule.

I use quite a bit, so I can enter my name and get SXSW recommendations based upon my top artists. The artist guide tries to mix things up a little bit so if I don’t like the recommendations I see, I can just ask again and I can get a different set. Here are some recommendations based on my recent listening at

If you’ve been using the wonderful SCHED* to keep track of your SXSW calendar you can use the guide to get recommendations based on artists that you’ve already added to your SXSW calendar.

In addition to search and discovery, the guide gives you a number of different ways to browse the SXSW Artist space.  You can browse by ‘buzzworthy’ artists – these are artists that are getting the most buzz on the web:

Or the most well-known artists:

You can browse by the style of music via a tag cloud:

And by venue:

Building the guide was pretty straightforward. Taylor used the Echo Nest APIs to get the detailed artist data such as familiarity, popularity, artist bios, links, images, tags and audio. The only data that was not available at the Echo Nest was the venue and schedule info which was  provided by Arkadiy (one of Taylor’s colleagues).  Even though SXSW artists can be extremely long tail (some don’t even have Myspace pages),  the Echo Nest was able to provide really good coverage for these sets (There was coverage for over 95% of the artists).     Still there are a few gaps and I suspect there may be a few errors in the data (my favorite wrong image is for the band Abe Vigoda).   If you are in a band that is going to SXSW and you see that we have some of your info wrong, send me an email ( and I’ll make it right.

We are excited to see the this Artist Discovery guide built on top of the Echo Nest.  It’s a great showcase for the Echo Nest developer platform and working with Taylor was great.  He’s one of these hyper-creative, energetic types – smart, gets things done and full of new ideas.   Taylor may be adding  a few more features to the guide before SXSW, so stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on new developments.

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2 Comments support added to SXSW Artist Catalog

I’ve just pushed out a new version of my SXSW Artist Catalog that lets you add any artist to your SXSW schedule (via  Each artist now has a ‘schedule at’  link which brings you directly to the page for the artist where you can select the artist event that you are interested in and then add it to your schedule. It is pretty handy.

By the way, the integration with could not have been easier. Taylor McKnight added a search url of the form:

that brings you to the DEVO page at  Very nice.


While adding the sched support, I also did a recrawl  of all the artist info, so the data should be pretty fresh.

Thanks to Steve for fixing things for me  after I had botched things up on the deploy, and thanks in general to Sun for continuing to host the catalog.

By the way, doing this update was a bit of a nightmare.  The key data for the guide is the artist list  that is crawled from the SXSW site – but the SXSW folks have recently changed the format of the artist list (spreading it out over multiple pages, adding more context, etc ).  I didn’t want to have to rewrite the parsing code (when working on a spare time project, just the thought of working with regular expressions makes me close the IDE and fire up Team Fortress 2).  Luckily, I had anticipated this event –  my SXSW crawler had diligently been creating archives of every SXSW crawl, so if they did change formats, I could fall back on a previous crawl without needing to work on the parser.  I’m so smart.  Except that I had a bug. Here’s the archive code:

 public void createArchive(URL url) throws IOException {
   File file = new File(getArchiveName());
   if (!file.exists()) {
     URLConnection connection = url.openConnection();
     BufferedReader in = new BufferedReader(
     PrintWriter out = new PrintWriter(getArchiveName());
     String line = null;
     try {
       while ((line = in.readLine()) != null) {
     } finally {

See the bug? Yep, I forgot to close the output file – which means that all of my many archive files were missing the last block of data, making them useless.  My pennance for this code-and-test sin was that I had to go and rewrite the SXSW parser to support the new format.    But this turned out to be a good thing, since SXSW has been adding more artists.   So this push has a new fresh crawl, with the absolute latest artists, fresh data from all of the sites like Youtube, Flicker, and The Echo Nest. My bug makes more work for me, but a better catalog for you.


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