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  1. Love, Music and APIs

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    By Robbie Clutton

    David Haynes of SoundCloud and Matthew Ogle of Echo Nest presented ‘Love, Music and APIs’ this morning and it was a heartwarming walkthrough of the growing music hack day events and an ode to the developer.  The talk started off by identifying the old gatekeepers of good music, the radio DJs and record shop owners and how things have changed in two ways.  The first way is curation by Simon Cowell produced TV shows, and the second is through the building block that is the API.  

    With the continuing commoditisation of infrastructure through platforms like AWS, Heroku and Github, people have been free to be more creative which has helped with a proliferation of music based applications and APIs.  Olge listed the categories of APIs for music: 

    • artist stats / metadata
    • events
    • gig tickets
    • similarity
    • tags/ genres
    • content / streaming
    • images
    • recommendations
    • play listing
    • acoustic analysis
    • lyrics
    • audio identification 
    • chart data
    • news 
    • search (e.g. auto-complete)

    The presentation then moved onto some examples of hacks completed at various events and whats of real interest is that the hack days give people a playground to be innovative without commercial pressure, resulting in some fascinating results including:

    Invisible Instruments: an incredible project that uses a device in each hand and a selected instrument followed by acting out the moves to play that instrument.  Magic!

    City Sounds: using data about the music played in each city, get the sound according to that city.

    Swing Thing (currently down): add a swing beat to any song, Guns and Roses Paradise City was used to great affect.

    Find the band: build a Spotify playlist of similar artists to an artist the user gives.  A nice recommendation application, not unlike parts of the Guardian’s Band Tracker.

    Through the innovation playground, commercial or collaborative projects can be born.  It’s great to see projects like:

    iSteelPad: now available in the AppStore, play steel drums on the iPad.

    jsonloops - Looking for funding on Kickstarted, an open source project for creating drum loops.

    There’s still lots of uncovered areas from hack days, with location and gaming at the top of the list.  Theres also a desire for more musicians to attend these events and I think that could be a really exiting mix.  I’ll definitely be looking out for the next music hack day near me. 

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Jemima Kiss is a media reporter for the Guardian and Robbie Clutton is a software developer for the Guardian. Find our full coverage of SXSW 2011 at

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