"Too much is never enough" was MTV’s famous tagline from the mid-80s. And you know what? They were right. We can’t get enough of music. It’s a staple of our lives. Radio airwaves are saturated with every style of music, from classical to metal. Digital cable TV networks deliver 40+ music channels to our living room. We have CDs, MP3s, Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, Rdio, Spotify, Mog, Rhapsody. When it comes to music, we seem to have it all, any time and anywhere we want it. So why are we still looking for new and better ways to experience, discover… to fall in love with music? Music Hackday in San Francisco is an event where the passion of consumers, developers and music platforms converge into a weekend-long hackathon to feed our insatiable craving for music.
Building the Future of Music
Above I mentioned several technologies, products and services to demonstrate the variety of musical delivery channels at our disposal. Those just represent the tip of the iceberg. Music and video is readily available from development platform APIs in every form imaginable - from fully encoded song files, song sample files, instant playback streaming, radio streaming, to song/album/artist metadata (e.g. biographies, album covers, artist photos, etc.). Every imaginable fragment and building block has been made available to developers that are interested in building the future of music — and those resources were served up on a silver platter at SF Music Hackday.
There are several layers to sift through in the music platform ecosystem. Some of the most popular consumer-facing products/services on the market are also development platforms for partners and third-party developers. On another layer, there are purely backend platforms that do not interface directly with consumers. Here are a few notable platforms that were represented at the hackathon and the resources they offered:
- Rovi - http://developer.rovicorp.com - leader in entertainment metadata about music, TV, movies, games and more. If you use Rdio, Spotify, Pandora or Shazam (to name of few), you’ve experienced the value of Rovi. The fundamentals include artist bios, images, album art, discographies, etc. However, the complex resources they offer developers include recommendations, moods, styles, collaborations, themes and more. The power of Rovi is in their diverse data sets and their ability to search and associate across those resources. For example, developers can find a musical artists Twitter ID as well as when they will be appearing on television, pinpointed across any major cable television network.
- JamBase - http://developer.jambase.com - consumer facing live music performance discovery platform. JamBase offers developers the ability to find live musical performances at venues all around the world. The same platform that powers the JamBase.com web site and mobile apps is available to third-party developers.
- MediaNet MN Open API - http://www.mndigital.com/integration/openapi.html - backend service for content discovery, delivery and purchase. MediaNet powers services like Turntable.fm, Songza and MOG. MediaNet provides backend solutions for managing user accounts, content delivery, commerce and reporting.
- The Echo Nest - http://developer.echonest.com - pure backend API with similar music metadata resources to Rovi. Some of the most interesting data that The Echo Nest offers include the ability to search and fetch: tempo (min/max), danceability, energy, artist “hotttnesss”, song type (live/studio/Christmas), loudness (min/max), key (e.g. c, c-sharp, d, e-flat, etc.).
Other notable platforms that were on site included: Gracenote, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, 7digital, LyricFind, musiXmatch.
Over 200 developers came together to build 66 music apps from scratch in just 48 hours. This hackathon was held the weekend before SF MusicTech Summit, helping to draw a diverse crowd of musicians, enthusiasts, producers, promoters and developers from the Bay Area and beyond. Below are a few notable hacks that caught our fancy:
- MoForte Guitar + Leap Motion by Nick Porcaro (video) - mashing up a virtual iPad guitar with the Leap 3D motion sensor.
- DJ Wizard by Brian Ferrell and Jonathon Klobucar (video) - a magical playlist generator to get the party started. Tell the DJ Wizard the name of an artist or song, and he will instantly conjure up a fully stocked playlist that based on The Echo Nest recommendation APIs, inject them into an Rdio playlist, and play directly from the HTML5/JS application, using the Rdio APIs.
- Gordie Howe Hat Trick by Johnny Megahan (video) - a song selection engine based on NHL player statistics and biographical information supplied by the ESPN Sports APIs. GHHT maps key stats, such as penalty minutes and goals, to song/artist attributes, like mood, energy and location (from The Echo Nest APIs).
- LinerNotes by Ed Hickey (@bassnode) (video) - recreating the album liner notes in the digital listening experience. LinerNotes pulls in metadata from Rovi APIs, including artist biographies, full album credits (“from the tambourine player to the mastering engineer”), album art, and more.
- Leap Orchestra by Dean Hudson, Vamsi Mynampati, Tyler F, Neal Riley, Seth Tsui and Nicholas Charriere (video) - another hardware hack utilizing the Leap 3D motion sensor. This team kicked of the app demos with a live performance, starting with some ethereal Theremin-ish melodies before shifting into a dub-step jam. Very entertaining!
- Follow Swap for Rdio by Devin Sevilla (video) - a random music following app to help you mix up your social discovery mechanisms. Simple, fun and useful.
The Prizes and Winners
Most of the teams seemed to be less concerned on trying to win specific prizes, and more focused on learning new skills and meeting new people. However, there were a ton of prizes to be had, and we were all happy to award them to these hard working teams:
- Mashery selected DJ Wizard for the best API integrations, sending Brian and Jonathon home with Jawbone Jamboxes.
- Rdio chose Tweedio and Sing Along with Me for their prizes, one year Rdio subscriptions for all team members.
- TokBox awarded two tickets to Coachella to the team that built TokBox Ukulele. Twilio went with Biscuit Orchestra.
- The Echo Nest awarded iPad Retinas and iPad Minis to Biscuit Orchestra and Inspiration.
A complete list of all 12 prize categories and winners can be found here.
So… Did We Build the Future?
Yes, we did. :) The developers clearly pushed the envelope by integrating the latest music platform APIs with apps for both desktop and mobile. They utilized external hardware devices like the Leap Motion, integrated automotive data controls and came up with new ways to discover and share music. I was a bit surprised not to see any TV hacks, but I can imagine we will see more of that at vertical hack events like TVnext Hack coming up in late April 2013. Overall, the hackathon was a huge success, and extremely collaborative. In fact, there were more projects open sourced than I’ve ever seen at a hackathon.
Big thanks to The Echo Nest, SoundCloud, Spotify and TokBox for organizing the event. That was some amazing hackathon fare — healthy and delicious from morning until night.
See you next year, where we’ll continue to build the future of music!