Music Hackday Boston

A couple of weeks I made a trip to Music Hackday Boston. The 4th in a series of music hackdays, designed to bring together smart and passionate people to hack on music technology.

I won’t go in to grand detail as there have already been some excellent write-ups from Ben, Anthony and Brian, but it’s by far the best hackday i’ve attended. A perfect combination of smart people, brilliant technology and a great venue, even the wifi worked properly. It’s just a shame I didn’t find much time to hack on anything myself.

Another highlight were the panels. I’m not usually a big fan of panels at hackdays, they tend to distract from the task at hand, but with the wealth of smart in the room it would have been foolish not to have them. There were only 3 but they’re well worth watching and featured people who really know what they’re talking about. Videos for: Starting a Music Business, Music Discovery and The Future of Music.

Hack-wise I was most impressed by Dan Kantor’s playdarTunes. An iTunes like web-interface that you populate by upload your iTunes library file and then play tracks through Playdar (as it’s all local content, in theory). It’s similar in principle to the Playlick player (James introduced me to Dan, in fact) and I can’t help but get excited about this idea of portable music collections. Where not only is the audio portable, but the library itself could come from different sources and is sharable. What I really want is a slick web-based iTunes which lets me select which of my libraries (or friends libraries) I want to browse and listen to.

We’re getting closer and closer to that ideal thanks to technology like Playdar, Scrobbling and HTML5 audio. Since Boston there’s been more talk on the Playdar mailing list about exposing a get library type call for a resolver. This would be handy for local content in projects like playdarTunes, but even more so for larger resolvers/services - Imagine Magnatune providing that kind of library information, you could browse a library of their artists though your choice of interface and just play it. Hot.

I gave a couple of short talks to give an overview of the API (panickedly put together on the plane) to help people use it, which was fun. The more interesting was the second one in a smaller room, lots of interesting discussion and questions. One of the common and surprising questions was about scrobbling, “Who’s allowed to do it?”. A lot of people were under the impression it’s a proprietary system, rather than a completely open protocol. Getting more people scrobbling (on, on other sites/services, on mobile, etc) is one of our aims for next year, so we have some serious work to do here.

I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get to meet anyone from, who were supposed to be there. I’ve been in touch with them before and was hoping to discuss improving exporting your data from It’s always been possible, but it could definitely be easier.

A big thanks to organisers Dave Haynes, Jon Pierce and Paul Lamere who did an excellent job. Microsoft for providing facilities and Brian Whitman of the Echo Nest for being a gracious host.

I’m really looking forward to Music Hackday Stockholm now.