echo nest

Tom Vanderbilt of Wired recently wrote, “The Echo Nest helps music services from Spotify to Rdio and Rhapsody suggest tunes you’ll like. But your playlists also teach its algorithms what movies you’ll watch — and even how you’ll vote… The Echo Nest claims it reaches around 100 million listeners per month, by powering music discovery services such as Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and VEVO, and delivering musical connections where none may have existed before… Staring at the sprawling projection up on the wall, which resembles Mark Lombardi’s unsettlingly internecine drawings of political conspiracies, one finds Polish reggae wedged roughly between Romanian pop and K-hop (or Korean hip-hop), closer in musical space to Chicago soul than it is to Finnish hip-hop.”

 

Vanderbilt continues, “These genre clusters are created not by what the artists sound like, but how they are described in the world: on music blogs; in record-company catalogues; on your cousin’s Facebook page — anything The Echo Nest’s semantic trawl pulls up. Although to human ears, there is a distinct sound to Polish reggae — [lead engineer Glenn] McDonald says there is a ‘polka-folk melody to some of it’, not to mention the lyrics being in Polish — the distinction is murkier to a computer. There are reggae bands from Bulgaria to Omaha, Nebraska, that would sound, in terms of quantitative audio signal, fairly similar. ‘But Polish reggae is clearly a thing,’ says McDonald, ‘and bands from Bulgaria to Omaha aren’t part of it, no matter what they sound like’.”

 

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy The Echo Nest