Review of Music Hackday in San Francisco, 5/15/10 – 5/16/10

by Kara Murphy on May 20, 2010

This past weekend, over 110 hackers and music enthusiasts from San Francisco and various locations around the world gathered at Automattic’s office space, located at Pier 38, to help create the next generation of music applications.

Music Hackday began last July and since then, meet-ups have taken place in Stockholm, Berlin, Boston, and twice in Amsterdam. Free and open to the public, participants are given 24 hours to create a new app. – preferably using an API provided by one of the organizations involved including Soundcloud, Songbird,, Twitter, and Yahoo.

Music workshops commenced at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon where representatives from the participating organizations were each given a 20 minute time frame to introduce and describe the capabilities of their respective APIs. After the workshops ended, hackers worked diligently through the night on a project to present the following day at 2:30 pm.

It goes without saying that when you bring some of the brightest, most innovative minds together and give them superior tools to work with, great things happen. A crowd of hackers and spectators were mesmerized by some seriously cool (for lack of a better term) new services. I’m sharing a few of my favorites below but I encourage everyone to check out the entire list of what materialized over two days here.

Six Degrees of Black Sabbath

Everyone has heard of the small world phenomenon known as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Based on the assumption that any actor or actress can be linked to Bacon through their film roles, it was only a matter of time before someone thought of applying the same logic to the world of musicians.

This Web app was created using the relational data from MusicBrainz and The Echo Nest. Both evaluate possible connections based on factors including member of band, personal relationship, vocal supporting musician, sibling, and “is person.” I tried this out for myself using two different artists I listened to on repeat yesterday, Band of Horses and LCD Soundsystem, and was surprised to discover how they were connected in 15 steps.

Bragging Rights

I sincerely believe that this application was developed with Spinning Platters’ staff and audience in mind. All joking aside, let’s say, for example, your friend is claiming that he was the first person to discover Portugal. The Man. You can enter his user name and compare it against yours or anyone else you know to see if that is really the case. I know, it’s a bit silly and, unfortunately, limited to’s platform but it’s still a novel idea.[My] Bands In [Your] Town

[My] Bands In [Your] Town

The creator of this widget was inspired by this concept from Boston’s Music Hackday and decided to expand up the idea by combining APIs from, Bandsintown, Google Gadgets, and Max Mind Geodata.

The end result is a tool you can embed on your blog, website, MySpace, or any other profile that allows third-party code. It shows your site’s visitors the bands that you like and let’s them know when they’re playing in their town. While I really enjoy this feature on The Hype Machine (they use Songkick’s API), [My] Bands In [Your] Town provides a more personalized approach.


First and foremost, this app, created for the iPad, was impressive enough to make it onto Mashable’s radar which means these guys won’t have too much of a problem releasing it through Apple’s store when they’re ready.

Using iPhoneSDK and SuperCollider technologies, they’ve created an intuitive tool that makes producing music easy and effortless. Based on a fifty-year-old concept of making sounds out of shapes and colors, Artikulator gives users the ability to create and visualize their music by simply sliding their fingers across an iPad screen. Click here to watch a demonstration.


Last, but certainly not least, there’s TheSwinger which literally makes your music swing. The best way to describe how it works would be to quote the description on the application’s wiki page:

“The swinger puts swing into your music. This command line python script (about one line of code per hacking hour) takes two arguments (i.e., a song and a swing factor) and alters (i.e., time-stretches) every beat, one at a time, to give it a swing feel. It works by stretching and compressing every half beat to complementary durations, pulling and pushing the audio, while retaining the original tempo.”

Let’s just say it makes the song “Every Breath You Take” by The Police fun to listen to again.

Overall, San Francisco’s premiere installment of Music Hackday was a smashing success. The event’s organizers hinted that the next one is going take place in New York City for the first time around September while another date will be added in London before the end of the year. Barcelona is also a possibility as a future location. Finally, in case you did miss out, some of the attendees posted their photos to Flickr.

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