Music Apps Hack Weekend

February 27, 2012

Music Apps Hack Weekend is in the can. And what a weekend. Hundreds of hackers gathered in midtown Manhattan at the Spin Ping Pong club to build new music apps. Unlike your typical Music Hack Day, the Music Apps Hack Weekend had a definite bizdev spin. Big Brands including Mountain Dew, Showtime, McDonalds, The CW, Doritos and yes, even State farm was there looking for new ways to engage with developers to prompte their brands. All the biz folk brought lots of money with them. There was excellent food, plenty of beer, flawless internet connectivity with seemingly infinite bandwith and some really big prizes ($10K grand prize, $5K Dorito’s prize, plus a slew of company prizes).  

The big brand presence was offset by a smaller music tech presence. Spotify and The Echo Nest were the only pure music companies that presented API talks. Other tech companies present and giving tech talks were Facebook, foursquare and Twilio. Unlike the 24 hours of hacking that we see in a Music Hack day, hacking at MAHW started on Friday night and didn’t finish until Sunday morning allowing for more than 40 hours of hacking. However, the MAHW had lots of ways to fill those hours with non-hacking activities, with two live bands, a ping pong tournament (with a demonstration by two world champion players), and of course New York City was right outside so it took a disciplined hacker to stay focused on the code. Overall there were about 35 hacks demoed and about 20 of which used The Echo Nest APIs.

The grand prize winner was the hack Swarm by none other than Peter Watts, friend of The Echo Nest (and the winner of our Social Music App Challenge from last summer). Peter seems to be making a living by winning grand prizes at music hackathons. Its a good life. Swarm is a really neat system and was my favorite hack. It goes beyond simple Facebook integration - it augments your music collection with activities from your friends (liking bands, listening, posting songs) and activity from artists that you like (new releases, status updates).  It keeps you up to date with your ‘music universe’.  

Peter wasn’t just the grand prize winner, Peter was key to the success of many Spotify apps. He made his KitchenSink app available on github. KitchenSink is a demo application for the Spotify Apps API. It demonstrates much of the functionality of the API. Peter’s demo app served as the guide for many hacking teams during the event. Peter was not just the grand prize winner, Peter was the MVP (Most Valuable Programmer) of the event. Well done Peter!

Winners of the two Echo Nest prizes were Music Monster which is an advanced playlisting app. Music Monster uses all sorts of Echo Nest goodness like familiarity, hotttnesss, energy, danceability to make playlists tied to particular locations.  The app is online at MusicMonster.co

The other Echo Nest prize went to Everyone’s Mixtape. This app celebrates the art of creating mixtapes. 

Some other notable Echo Nest hacks were Power Hour which uses the Echo Nest API to create Power Hour playlist (which apparently is a way for college students to drink while listening to music. go figure);  Soundbook for Spotify makes social discovery of music easy;  Museik which collects context around songs to encourage new music discovery (as well as bittersweet tears of regret/happiness) and my own hack Boil the Frog - a Spotify App that creates a playlist that gradually goes from one music style to another. It’s like boiling the proverbial frog - with music.

All in all, it was a great event.  The OMD team, and especially Peter Pelberg of the Ignition factory did a super job organizing the event.