Take Five: Music Hack Day

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a nerd. Yes, I’m a music nerd and a web nerd. But I also have a healthy appreciation for the more techie side of things — perhaps it comes from doing a large portion of my growing up on a BBS and being friends with numerous programmers over the years. While my early indulgence in HTML and CSS didn’t serve as a gateway drug into actual programming, I can still understand the principles and appreciate what goes into some quality hacking.

That said, when I realized that this year’s Music Hack Day would auspiciously fall during my one free weekend in October, I knew I had to be there, bad cold be damned. The stated goal of the event is “to explore and build the next generation of music applications,” which gets me right in the core of my geeky heart.

While the developers spent the whole weekend hacking (and not so much sleeping), I only showed up for the demos on Sunday afternoon. In just over an hour and a half, the hackers sped through 2-minute Ignite-style presentations of their hacks — 40, altogether. Here are some of the video highlights:

DIY Cee-Lo Video

Toscanini Gestural Control Interface

PseudoConvolver (playing the bass with your voice, and vice versa)

Some of my favorite hacks (full list):

  • sQRatchLive – A scrobbler that not only tweets what’s playing currently, but generates a QR code that can be projected on a screen so people can buy the song.
  • On The Fly – dynamic setlist generator
  • hazMash – Create your own mashups!
  • Scrobbyl – Allows you to scrobble tracks from vinyl, cassette and CD
  • MusicSeeder – Music recommendations based on your Facebook “likes”
  • TwitterPlay – “TwitterPlay takes the top Twitter trends of the day, searches for songs with those keywords as lyrical content, and generates a playlist based on those results.”
  • Danceability Index – This one was really cool. You can invest in the stock market based on the danceability of popular songs. “Dancing without moderation suggests a peak of irrational exuberance,” said hacker Joe Rothermich. Awesome.
  • Jennie’s Ultimate Road Trip – Create a road trip itinerary based on music recommendations.
  • Show Preview – Helps you determine whether you should come early to see an opening act you’ve never heard of by aggregating band info and song clips.
  • Twitter for Music – A way of publishing “disposable” music in the form of tweet-sized (60-90 second) clips. People can follow or unfollow.
  • WeJayy – a collaborative realtime playlist generator.

The creativity, ingenuity and stamina on display were amazing. The event was organized by The Echo Nest, a company I’m proud to say is based in Somerville, which develops platforms for music app development. Many of the apps above were built using various elements of The Echo Nest API. The list of additional sponsors is quite impressive, as well.

Much like Rock Shop Boston, events like this are helping fans and musicians alike enter a new era for the music industry. Can’t wait to see which of these hacks makes it into the next release of iTunes… or hell, becomes the next iTunes.

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