The Echo Nest – A company after my own heart
For those who don’t know, The Echo Nest is a music intelligence company. They give developers access to a wealth of music information, allowing them to build smarter music applications. Considering that my two passions are music and technology, it’s no surprise that I like them. But they go above and beyond other music tech companies (I’m looking at you, Last.fm) and continue to innovate in ways that make being a music-loving developer truly exciting. In short, they rock.
Recently, they pushed a number of updates that elevated my feelings towards them from deep respect to outright infatuation. I’ll run through them quickly:
In a nutshell, this feature allows you to find Artist Names within a large body of text. It may not sound particularly fascinating, but it makes scanning the web for musical information MUCH easier. In fact, this is a feature that I desperately needed about a year ago. I posted a (poorly worded) plea to Last.fm, but it fell on deaf ears. Thankfully, The Echo Nest have come to the rescue. I’ve long moved on and abandoned the project, but for me, this is an example of how these guys just ‘get it’.
Another noble initiative that The Echo Nest is leading is the Rosetta Stone project. This provides a way to work seemlessly across multiple services and APIs. Every service uses its own ID system, but The Echo Nest is building a translation engine that allows them to speak to each other. So, for example, I could take a band’s Facebook ID and convert into a 7Digital ID in order to request songs for download, without doing any messy text-based matching. So far they support MusicBrainz, 7Digital, Facebook and Rdio which creates some interesting potential for music applications that work across these platforms.
They also released a service called EchoPrint, which lets developers ‘fingerprint’ audio samples and work out which song is currently playing. It’s complex technology, the same that powers applications like Shazam or Soundhound, yet The Echo Nest have open-sourced the whole thing, giving indie developers a chance to build exciting new applications. It’s a move that goes straight to the heart of The Echo Nest. They build amazing technology and invite developers to lead the innovation. It’s part of a broader embrace of API platforms, which is great for developers and great for consumers.
Now that the gushing is out of the way, it’s time to get into the actual reason for writing this post. When The Echo Nest first announced these new features about a month ago, my mind naturally went into overdrive with potential applications. I managed to control these urges and put the ideas away in a special area of the brain known as ‘save for Music Hack Day’. But they wouldn’t sit still. And today I found myself getting impatient and starting to wonder when the next Music Hack Day acutally was. Sadly, nothing was planned, but I stumbled upon something just as good: The Echo Nest are offering $10k and some sexy swag for the best music app using their APIs.
Now, between working for a startup and entertaining various side projects, a competition like this is the last thing I need, but it’s just too good to resist. I feel like destiny is calling for me to build a kick-ass music app. And so I will. I’m publishing this post in the hope that it holds me to account and I actually make this happen. I also wanted to capture the moment. The beginning of the journey.
For historical reference, I plan to turn the web into one big music portal, with cameos from Rdio, Google Chrome and Facebook. Aiming small, of course. Here goes!