The World’s Most Wanted Music Is Created by Icelanders & Islanders

March 24, 2014

The islands of Jamaica and the United Kingdom produce a disproportionate number of musical styles and artists, according to musical legend. The world of pop music would be missing huge pieces, the thinking goes, had these islands submerged before the invention of electricity.

Taking this concept beyond mere anecdote and into the realm of data-based reality, The Echo Nest principal engineer and “data alchemist” Glenn McDonald says he “took The Echo Nest’s ten thousand most up-and-coming songs by relatively unknown artists (a.k.a. our Discovery list), found the artists responsible for them, determined those artists’ countries, counted the number of artists per country, and then prorated the counts by population to create a ranking of countries by proportional discovery share – and then I did the same again, ranking by hotness instead of discovery.”

What this means: You’re about to see two lists consisting of countries that punch above their weight in terms of producing the artists who — this month — are captivating the world in two important ways.


As we said when we first announced The Echo Nest Discovery, our computers spend a lot of time scouring the web, figuring out what people are listening to and talking about. And then we do some math. Actually, we do a lot of math. Then we take the result of that math, and feed it into yet more math.

When our system has finished processing all of this music and what people are saying about it, one of the many numbers that pops out is a Discovery score for every song in the universe. The point of this number is to identify songs that are heating up right now, but which aren’t yet big hits, having been created by artists who are not yet established.

According to The Echo Nest Discovery (listen on Spotify), the following countries spawned the most relatively unknown artists that have recorded songs that people are only just now getting excited about.

Here’s the list of countries from the above Discovery map. We’ve bolded the islands, and will explain why later:

  1. Iceland
  2. Sweden
  3. Finland
  4. Norway
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Denmark
  7. Ireland
  8. United States
  9. Australia
  10. Netherlands
  11. New Zealand
  12. Canada
  13. Jamaica
  14. Belgium
  15. Austria
  16. Germany
  17. France
  18. Switzerland
  19. Puerto Rico
  20. Spain
  21. Poland
  22. Slovakia
  23. Israel
  24. Italy
  25. Greece
  26. South Korea
  27. Brazil
  28. Argentina
  29. Chile
  30. Mexico
  31. Romania
  32. Japan
  33. Russia
  34. South Africa
  35. Colombia
  36. Indonesia

Scandinavian countries claim the top four spots on our Discovery list, and five of the top ten. Perhaps there’s something about being stuck indoors making music in the winter, in a place that is already quite cold, that is conducive to making music that other people want to discover — or at least that’s what happened this year.

Now, about those islands. About a quarter of all countries in the world are island nations, according to Dana Ott as cited by Wikipedia. Our Discovery list contains about 19 percent islands, meaning that island nations are actually slightly underrepresented, although they do rank fairly high in terms of producing music that is just now being discovered.

Now, let’s look at where some more popular music comes from.


The Echo Nest’s deep musical intelligence also knows which songs are getting the most buzz – not just how they’re charting, or how many times they’ve been played, but how much people all over the world are talking about and sharing them. We call this buzz-measuring score “Hotttnesss" (listen on Spotify).

Glenn also ranked the world’s countries by the number of “hottt” artists they have right now in our list of the top 10K hottest songs, relative to their populations.

Once again, we’ve bolded the island countries — and just for kicks, italicized countries that are on peninsulas or otherwise are bordered by large bodies of water (i.e. they have fewer direct neighbors):

  1. Iceland
  2. Jamaica
  3. Puerto Rico
  4. Sweden
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Guadeloupe
  7. Norway
  8. United States
  9. Finland
  10. Ireland
  11. Australia
  12. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  13. New Zealand
  14. Serbia
  15. Estonia 16 Canada
  16. Croatia
  17. Denmark
  18. Netherlands
  19. Belgium
  20. Turkey
  21. France
  22. Panama
  23. Germany
  24. Austria
  25. Spain
  26. Italy
  27. Romania
  28. Hungary
  29. Albania
  30. Portugal
  31. Greece
  32. Switzerland
  33. Israel
  34. Argentina
  35. Mexico
  36. Dominican Republic
  37. Czech Republic
  38. Colombia
  39. Cuba
  40. Poland
  41. Brazil
  42. Chile
  43. Japan
  44. Venezuela
  45. South Korea
  46. Malaysia
  47. Guatemala
  48. Philippines
  49. South Africa
  50. Morocco
  51. Thailand
  52. Vietnam
  53. Iran
  54. Algeria
  55. Russia
  56. Indonesia
  57. Nigeria
  58. Pakistan
  59. India

Iceland tops both lists. No other place in the world makes as much music that’s being discovered and generating buzz as does this particular island nation.

In fact, when it comes to making the “hotttnessst” music – the songs generating the most buzz, climbing the charts the fastest, and making their creators famous – island nations rule. Islands claimed the top three spots on the list, and six of the top ten. A full 60 percent of the top 20 are either islands or somewhat island-ish, in that they are peninsulas or largely water-bounded.

Glenn’s research confirms that the legend of Jamaica and the United Kingdom exerting disproportionate musical influence over the world are true. Even more, it shows that when it comes to interesting the rest of the world in one’s music, it helps to be Scandinavian, an island-dweller, or ideally, both.

Winners and Finalists from the First Ever SXSW Music Hackathon Championship

March 14, 2014

Longtime SXSW attendees feel like they’ve seen it all, as the music, film, and technology festival seems to get bigger and busier each and every year.

But one thing they’d never seen is an official SXSW music hack day… until this week.

At the first ever SXSW Music Hackathon Championship, hackers invented and toiled through Wednesday night into Thursday, pausing briefly for performances by the Grammy-nominated Andrew Duhon, who drew about 60 music hackers into the AT&T Lounge for a private show, as well as a 3:30am moshpit of sorts that formed around rapper Kosha Dillz' freestyling, self-DJed set.

"He could have, like, crowsurfed the crowd," recalled SXSW Music Hackathon Championship organizer and MC Travis Laurendine (pictured below announcing the finalists). "That’s how hype it was."

According to one attendee, some of the more serious hacker types retreated from the shows to continue their work, but the performances were certainly fitting for the first official SXSW Music hackathon.

With the grand prize winner slated to be announced tonight, without further ado, we’re happy to announce that, out of all the hacks created there, The Echo Nest’s two sponsor prizes went to:

SongStash lets artists or other people drop songs for each other to hear at certain locations around Austin, or any other city:

Neon lets people drop any audio files onto its interface, then uses The Echo Nest’s Analyze (.pdf) to identify the segments and determine their sonic properties. With all that out of the way, users can create music through a pure color interface:

The overall grand prize finalists, from which the grand prize winners will be chosen, are:

ARPop - Augmented Reality Instruments for Lady Gaga

Beats Video

Booths, Bands, and Beacons

Crowd Scaler

Glass Karaoke




Party Play


Winners will be announced tonight, March 14, 2014, in Ballroom D at the Austin Convention Center.

The Echo Nest Joins Spotify!

March 6, 2014

We’re very excited to announce that The Echo Nest is joining Spotify, starting today! We can’t imagine a better partner for our next chapter. Spotify shares the intense care for the music experience that was the founding principle of our company, and it’s clearly winning the hearts and minds of music fans around the globe. Our dedicated team of engineers, scientists, music curators, business, and product people are utterly electrified with the potential of bringing our world-leading music data, discovery, and audience understanding technology directly to the biggest music streaming audience out there.

Together, we’re going to change how the world listens.

We started this company nine years ago in a kitchen at the MIT Media Lab, our dissertation defenses looming. We never wanted to do anything but fix how people were discovering music. None of the technologies in those days were capable of understanding music at scale. We both were working on our separate approaches, that, when combined, could really do that. All the while, we were watching the world of music change around us. We knew some version of Spotify was to come, and that the real power was in that beautiful moment when you found a new band or song to love. Every decision we’ve made since then, including today’s announcement, was made from that vantage point of care and often insane passion.

Starting a company is a bit crazy. You get the idea you can build a family from scratch and let them loose on the problem that drives you. We moved into an empty room in Somerville, MA in 2005, were soon joined by our CEO Jim Lucchese, and then grew a team of around 70 people, all through the power of communicating our one big idea. It’s hard to overstate how special this place is. With the team we have, we always have every expectation we can do whatever it takes in the service of music. We’ve written a lot of code, we’ve invented technology that will power the future of music for decades to come, we manage reams of data, and we work with everyone in the business. But the true power of this place stems from the people: an amazing family, fully dedicated to building the future of music.

We had such great help on the way. Tristan & Brian’s advisor at MIT and one of the fathers of computer music, Barry Vercoe, supported us through seed investment when we graduated, and when Jim joined, we brought on our dear friends Andre and Dorsey Gardner at Fringe Partners. As we grew, we tapped the great support of Elliot at Commonwealth, Antonio at Matrix and then Jeff at Norwest. And in between was the help and support from dozens of family and friends. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Obviously, moving from behind the curtain to the front stage comes with its own share of questions and challenges. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a wide range of creative companies and independent developers who showed the world what could be done with our technology. They helped us craft and refine our product to where it is today. We look forward to working with partners to embrace the new opportunity to build apps and services using The Echo Nest and Spotify. As we explore this new direction, we’ll help each other move forward.

When we began talking with our longtime friends at Spotify about working together, it became clear how much they share our vision: care for the cause of music at scale. We spent our first weeks together just giddy at the potential of all that special Echo Nest magic working directly with the world’s best place for music. You’re about to see some great stuff from the new Echo Nest-enabled Spotify, and we’re excited to hear what you think. We’re all staying in town, our API stays up, and every single person at our company will continue to focus on building the future of music. Talk to you soon; we’ve got some work to do.

For more information, see our press release.

Brian, Tristan, and Jim
with Aaron, Elissa, Tim, Paul, Matt, Mark, Joe, Eliot, Kurt, David, Dave, Amanda, David, Connor, Shane, Ned, Owen, Ellis, Andreas, Glenn, Joe, Dan, Nick, Aaron, Chris, Aaron, Stu, Kevin, Jason, Ajay, Michelle, Jyotsna, James, Hunter, Erich, Andrew, Nicola, Scott, John, Matt, Matt, Eric, Dylan, Eli, Michael, Adam, Alex, Colin, Jonathan, Marni, Smith, Krystle, Eric, Ben, Conor, Victor, Ryan, Bo, Michael, Athena, Chris, Gurhan, Peter, Kate, Bo, Scott, Jared, Darien, Matt, and Wayne.

We Built This City On…

March 5, 2014

"We built this city on rock ‘n roll," observed the ’80s band Starship.

Which city? Contenders include San Francisco, or possibly New York or Cleveland, depending on the verse.

So, what kinds of music are these cities, not to mention many others, actually “built on?” The Echo Nest’s world-leading music discovery solution can tell us. By combining our data about where artists are from with the kind of music they play, The Echo Nest principal engineer Glenn McDonald determined the kinds of music with which a whole slew of cities are most associated.

The results are fascinating.

Some are obvious — one would expect Honolulu to be “built on” Hawaiian music, Reykjavík on Icelandic pop, and Paris on French indie pop. As Glenn points out, these more obvious findings confirm that the system is working.

The less obvious conclusions are even more interesting, with that in mind. You should check out “We Built This City On" for yourself, but first, a few observations:

London is home to the artists of more distinct music genres than any other city. Next come New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Rio de Janeiro, and the rest.

"Remember the song ‘Pop Musik,’ with its lyric, ‘New York, London, Paris, Munich / Everybody talk about: pop music’? Now we can correct it to, ‘London, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris,’" observes Glenn. "Munich, data reveals, is no more important pop music-wise than Minneapolis or Miami.”

San Francisco, as possibly featured in Starship’s “We Built This City,” is mostly “built on” jangle rock, as well as hyphy, downtempo fusion, jam bands, deep ambient, new age piano, glitch hop, neo-pagan, noise pop, neo-psychedelic, psych gaze, riot grrrl, and funk. San Francisco is also strongly associated with Ethiopian pop; we confirmed many of the bands are from there; an Ethiopian pop band in the tech hub of San Francisco might be more likely to distribute their music on worldwide streaming services than one based in Ethiopia.

Cleveland didn’t make the list. Perhaps the “heart of rock ‘n roll" has migrated.

Read the whole “We Built This City On” list.

AirPair Adds Support for The Echo Nest

March 4, 2014

The great thing about APIs like ours is that they let developers integrate mountains of functionality and data without having to build it all themselves. By combining multiple APIs, they can make amazing things fairly rapidly (the same principle that guides the Music Hack Day series we sponsor).

However, APIs don’t build themselves into products on their own. People have to do that. To help them, a startup called AirPair is offering live, online consultations with API experts, as reported by TechCrunch.

We’re pleased to announce that The Echo Nest’s API is one of those supported by AirPair, making it easier for developers to build whatever they can dream up, using our world-leading music intelligence data. AirPair’s experts can help developers in a number of languages, at a moment’s notice – a valuable new resource for developers working with our API.

In addition to The Echo Nest, other AirPair-supported APIs include AdRoll, Algolia, Balanced, Evernote, Framed Data, Human API, Keen IO, Searchmetrics, SendGrid, Sendwithus, Stripe, TokBox, TrueVault, Twilio, TwoTap, Unbabel, and Vero.

Which Musicians Do People in 50 States Simply Not Have Time For?

February 28, 2014

Hot on the heels of his widely-viewed maps of the most distinctive and favorite recording artists in each of the 50 states, The Echo Nest director of developer platform Paul Lamere published a new map on Friday highlighting the artists people in each state listen to the least, relative to people in other states.

Based on the anonymized listening data of approximately 250K music-streaming Americans, this latest foray into regional listening preferences depicts the artists that music fans in each state listen to abnormally less than the people in the rest of the country.

As Paul puts it, these are the “Most Ignored Artists” in each state, representing their “anti-preferences”:

Not only does this make for an interesting conversation piece (what does Florida have against Haim, or Texas against Bon Iver?), but it has possible implications for our Music Discovery & Personalization solution, as Paul notes on his Music Machinery blog:

"If we know where a music listener lives, but we know nothing else about them, we can potentially improve their listening experience by giving them music based upon their local charts instead of the global or national charts. We can also improve the listening even if we don’t know where the listener is from. As we can see from the map, certain artists are polarizing artists, liked in some circles and disliked in others. If we eliminate the polarizing artists for a listener that we know nothing about, we can reduce the risk of musically offending the listener. Of course, once we know a little bit about the music taste of a listener we can greatly improve their recommendations beyond what we can do based solely on demographic info such as the listener location."

For more details on how the chart was made, as well as a list of the most ignored artists in New Hampshire, check out Paul’s post on Music Machinery.

Each State’s Favorite vs. ‘Most Distinctive’ Artist

February 27, 2014

A music map created by our amazing director of developer platform Paul Lamere went viral yesterday. You can find his map in today’s print issue of USA Today, or on seemingly any publication concerned with technology or culture.

His map depicts the most “distinctive” artist — distinctive being a technical term meaning that these are the artists most listened to in one state, which are most underrepresented by listening in the other states. This is different from “favorite,” but a definition of the word “distinctive” hardly fits into a headline, leading to pockets of confusion over what the map represented.

To satisfy those who have asked for an actual map of the favorite artist for each state (as opposed to most distinctive), and to clarify the difference between “favorite” and “distinctive,” Paul posted a new map today showing each state’s favorite artist. You can see them both — the most distinctive recording artist for each state, as well each state’s favorite — in his latest post on Music Machinery.

For further exploration into the differences between music fans in one state or region vs. another, try his Regionalisms in U.S. Listening Preferences map.

Music Fans’ Most Distinctive Artists by State

February 25, 2014

The Echo Nest director of developer platform Paul Lamere has determined the recording artist that is most “distinctive” to music fans in any state — that is to say, their favorite artists, relative to the people in other states — and presented his findings in the map below.

Rhode Islanders listen to more Nirvana than people in other states do. Vermonters are, predictably, the biggest Phish Heads, while Oregonians listen to more Kurt Vile than people in other places. The list goes on, and it’s plenty fascinating.

Rather than being based on where artists are from (also interesting), the below chart is based on the real listening behavior of actual music fans. The Echo Nest knows enough about over 35 million songs by about 2.7 million artists to help music fans on 432 apps and services (and counting) find the perfect music for them at that moment. In the course of providing all of these personalized recommendations, we see detailed listening data for millions of anonymous listeners. We can extract all kinds of interesting things from that data about how musical taste varies in various groups of people, based on the real world.

Here’s the map — enjoy. (To delve in deeper, check out Paul Lamere’s Music Machinery blog, where he breaks down the data, and be sure to try the amazing web app he built for finding the biggest listening differences between any two states in the union.)

See also Lamere’s research into music fans by generation and by gender.

(Subscribe to The Echo Nest’s updates on Twitter or Facebook.)

Generational Conflict Boils Down To Roy Orbison vs. Skrillex

February 14, 2014

One person’s favorite music is another person’s horrible racket — it’s just the way of the world. When those two people are separated by a generation or two, musical taste can diverge pretty wildly.

The Echo Nest director of developer platform Paul Lamere analyzed anonymized age data for millions of online music listeners on a variety of services. He chose two ages, in an attempt to tease a divergence of taste out of the data: a 13-year old (like Willow Smith) and a 64-year old (like Don Johnson).

His full post on Music Machinery goes into more detail, and it’s all quite interesting, but for now, let’s focus on one of his findings.

The artist that 13-year-olds play the most, which 64-year-olds also play the least is… Skrillex.

The gulf in musical taste between these groups of people boils down to dubstep, in a sense. The proof: that’s what Skrillex makes, and he’s the single most differentiating artist between these two ages of listener, from the point of view of the 13-year-olds. This is the artist a 13-year-old should play if they want to enjoy themselves while playing a 64-year-old something they probably haven’t heard before.

How about the other way around? Which artist do 64-year-olds listen to the most that 13-year-olds listen to the least?

It turns out that the dulcet tones of Roy Orbison are the most distinguishing difference between these two groups of listeners, from the point of view of the 64-year-old. So if they want to play something they’ll enjoy that their grandkids hardly ever listen to, Roy Orbison is their man.

One generation’s Roy Orbison is another generation’s Skrillex.

Any physical similarity between Skrillex and Roy Orbison is purely coincidental.

Read the whole deal on Music Machinery.

The Echo Nest Powers NTT Plala’s ‘Hikari-TV’ in Japan

February 11, 2014

We’re pleased to announce that NTT Plala’s “Hikari-TV” will now include radio stations and playlists powered by The Echo Nest, as we continue our ongoing global expansion with our second partner in Japan, the world’s second largest music market.

Japan’s NTT’s Plala is more than your typical internet and cellular service provider. It delivers not only connectivity, but also a full suite of entertainment and security options to hundreds of thousands of Japanese set-top boxes and mobile devices.

Japanese subscribers to NTT Plala can now enjoy streaming radio stations and playlists that improve over time for each user, thanks to The Echo Nest’s Taste Profiles, which are persistent, anonymized records of what people listen to, and how they listen to it. Taste Profiles measure everything from a user’s favorite artists and genres to their musical adventurousness and diversity of taste. The more “Hikari-TV” subscribers listen to the service, the more personalized it will become, delivering better and better music recommendations and radio stations for each user.

Only The Echo Nest’s Music Discovery and Personalization solution can provide top-notch recommendations in any area of the world, because it understands not only what people everywhere say about music, but also how it sounds. As such, we are able to provide a mix of Japanese and Western music to “Hikari-TV,” the first commercially-successful service to deliver entertainment over the new IPv6 protocol.

We’re thrilled to welcome “Hikari-TV” to The Echo Nest, and look forward to continuing our worldwide expansion to help redefine how fans discover, share, and interact with music. For additional details about our latest global partner, NTT Plala, check out the full press release.