Digital Music Trends – Episode 61

This week on the show an interview with Martin MacMillan CEO of mobile music firm Bounce Mobile that recently launched the Fireplayer app for the iPhone. Also this week a short report on MusicHackDay London that took place on the 4th and 5th of September and a couple of thoughts on Ping. You may have realized that last week the show didn’t go live and that’s because I tried to record it twice with a bad cold and both times my voice left me halfway through, didn’t think you wanted to hear me whisper into a microphone! So very sorry about that…

But let’s start with this week’s interview with Martin MacMillan from Bounce Mobile! (Interview follows in the audio version of the show)

Episode 61 by digitalmusictrends
And now let’s talk about MusicHackDay. So it’s the second MusicHackDay coverage for me after last year’s event – and again it was held at the Guardian headquarters after a last-minute venue change. So numerous the companies and hackers taking part in the event – not just from Europe but from around the world. Sponsors of the event – who deserve a mention for making it happen – include Soundcloud, Songkick C4DM, FXpansion, Universal Music, Last.fm, the Echo Nest, Bounce Mobile and Gigulate. So – if you’re unfamiliar with the idea of a hackday – basically it consists of a number of programmers, engineers, and hackers at large – not only on the software side but also on the hardware one – getting together to create cool new projects that mash together the APIs made available by some of the biggest and most innovative players today in the digital music arena. So let’s jump right into it! The coolest hack – and the one that was awarded what you could classify as a gold medal in the form of a Nintendo Wii prize was that created by Marek Bereza and is called Speakatron. In the Musichaday wiki – which you can find on http://wiki.musichackday.org – Marek described this as “A program that looks at you through your web cam and plays a sound when you open your mouth. It can tell what shape you’re making and how high your mouth is on the screen as synthesis parameters”. so that’s basically the essence of it, but trust me when you see it in action it is coool. From what I could gather you can actually assign different sounds to the different parameters so that makes it potentially really great little app. It was a damn cool application and I really hope that Marek will find a way to release it to the general public as I think this would be a number one app on any app store for quite some time. 

The second hack I want to talk about is called Gramophone – and was created by James Coglan from Songkick. The application draws on the Songkick API with set-list data from past gigs, it also draws on 7Digital’s music store and Google Maps. Basically it allows you to fly into an area with google maps, select a month and a year and get a list of the tracks that were played live in that area in the that particular time frame, a really awesome idea! If you follow the link in the show-notes or go to the Musichackday Wiki Page you can actually go and try that for yourself. I have to say that at the moment it doesn’t seem to be working but give it a try and you may have more luck! If you live in an area that has seen its fair share of music go by – i’m in Camden Town for example – it’s a great way to work out which bands were playing 10, 20, 30 years ago – and with Songkick’s database in continuous expansion the data you get is bound to become more and more exciting.
http://gramophone.jcoglan.com/

The third hack that I want to talk about today is called EarthDestroyers  and it was put together by Paul Lamere from the Echo Nest – it uses the Bandsintown, Echo Nest and Google Maps APIs.
Basically this app – available on  http://labs.echonest.com/EarthDestroyers – lets you look up the environmental impact of your favorite band’s touring activities to see if they are well organized and organize their tours in clusters meaning that they are earth savers or if they jump from country to country and continent to continent meaning that they are earth destroyers. The app is incredibly quick and responsive already and you can pop in any artist and it will tell you how far they have travelled for x amount of gigs, working out an average mileage travelled per gig and spewing out the verdict – earth saver or earth destroyer, check it out!

The fourth hack that I want to talk about today is called auto Tube Scoring, an it was created by Nicholas Froment, Thomas Bonte and Werner Shweer in collaboration with Simon Dixon and Chris Cannam from the Queen Mary University. The application allows you to look at a musical performance on YouTube whilst that is being synchronized automatically to a music score running alongside it. You can watch the video on how this works on a YouTube link that i’m throwing the the show-notes and in the blog. It’s pretty incredible – especially if you’re a buddying musician. Just think of being able to look at the same score for a piano sonata played by 10 different professional pianists – all completely synched to the score. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1_kzPg1dLI

Naturally this is a tiny selection of the hacks that were made at MusicHackday, less than 10% actually since there are over 50 hacks on the Wiki page – so do take the time to go and explore for yourself all the projects. If you like what you see and are better at programming than I am remember that MusicHackDay London is only one in a series and that there are more events scheduled soon – one in Boston this coming weekend and one in Barcelona on the 2nd and the 3rd of October – go to http://musichackday.org for more details!

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Ping! in the last couple of weeks has been everywhere. Slightly overlooked during the first day of the Steve Job’s press conference aftermath the real troubles for the service started when people actually started playing with it. On top of that shortly after launch the juicy story of a spat between Apple and Facebook started to take shape. The two companies failed to reach an agreement over the amount of times Ping was allowed to reach out to the Facebook API which caused Facebook to disable Ping’s access to their friend connect feature altogether when Apple decided not to remove it from the product – making Ping pretty hard to use… 

So Ping was well overdue, with Apple being quite late in the game considering how many users they have at their disposal through the iTunes platform. But does it deliver? As a concept it’s promising but its current implementation certainly feels like a social network that is half baked. Setting aside how difficult it is to find your friends on the platform, Ping also makes it hard for people to express themselves – comments can only be made on products available on the store – and it makes it hard for the artists that want to access the service since access to the platform is by invitation only at the moment. Apple has stated that it is committed to bringing more artists – both major label and independent ones – to the network since now there are still only a handful of artist pages live and most of them have little to no interesting content on the artist…. 

My advice on this one is – if you’re an artist try to get yourself a page because 160 million users are worth some of your time and if you are a fan go and have poke around but i don’t think the Ping experience is going to become truly engaging for a little while longer. But Artists beware – just as with the iTunes store metrics there’s a high chance that Apple will not disclose valuable information about your fan’s location, demographics etc which could mean that even a large Ping community will be harder to monetize. 

http://www.pcworld.com/article/204807/apple_the_king_of_digital_music.html?tk=hp_new
http://gigaom.com/2010/09/03/ping-a-social-network-inside-a-walled-garden/
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6830CE20100904
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/09/01/ping-itunes-10-and-apples-social-networking-strategy

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Well that’s all for this week. Still on the calendar for September are the Norwich Sound and Vision festival and the Future Music Forum in Barcelona. The Norwich Sound and Vision festival is taking place this week between the 16th and the 18th of September and is just a couple of hours away by train from Central London. There will be lots of live music and a conference day which is going to be on Saturday the 18th. I’ll be on a panel at 11:15 entitled Digital Weaponry – how to make the most of the web tools available to promote and distribute music alongside  Patrick Ross (Artsists Without a Label), David Adams (Soundcloud) Caroline Bottomley (Radar Music Videos) and Stefan Baumshalnger from Last.fm. 

As usual please feel free to email with any feedback or news story – the address is digitalmusictrends@gmail.com On the site at www.digitalmusictrends.com you can find all the written information about the episode and the relevant links and remember that you have quite a few options to listen to the show – the iTunes store, Soundcloud, the Music Void, Mixcloud, RSS and I believe you can now also search for Digital Music Trends on standalone Internet radios like those made by Logitech or Pure. Have a great week and ’till next time!

Andrea Leonelli
www.digitalmusictrends.com

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