This past weekend, Facebook’s London HQ in Covent Garden was invaded by nearly 150 “music hackers” — a diverse group of web developers, app makers, designers, artists, and musicians. We came together for something called Music Hack Day, a 24-hour event pioneered in London back in 2009 and now regularly repeated worldwide (the most recent events were held in Boston, Reykjavík, and Edinburgh).
The formula goes like this: get a group of music-loving geeks together in the same place, give them fast internet, lots of food and drink, and 24 hours to make something – anything – helped along by technologies and staff from online music companies big and small like The Echo Nest, Soundcloud, Songkick, EMI, 7digital, Spotify, and many more. After 24 hours of spontaneous invention and collaboration, you present your new creations to each other (and the world!) before heading to the pub (or home for some much-needed sleep.)
Hits from past Music Hack Days include last year’s accidental boozy viral smash Drinkify, which I built along with Hannah Donovan and Lindsay Eyink. Give it any artist name and it creates a (frequently terrifying) cocktail recipe to match. More recently, Paul Lamere’s Infinite Jukebox has taken the Internet by storm – upload your favorite song and it uses the Echo Nest’s music analysis to create a version that plays forever, complete with a beautiful data visualisation.
This year’s event was a lot of fun, and some incredible stuff got built. In no particular order, here are five of my favourites.
By Nick Palmer and Dan Horgan
Want to be in a barbershop quartet, but without the hassle of those three other singers? Barbertron to the rescue. The live demo featured automatic four-part harmonisation, but the Barbertron team also strung together a bewildering array of tech to create a phone-in version: sing down the line and it calls you back to play you the barbershop version!
Remix Of The Century
By Thomas Hannen, Henrik Pettersson, and David Vella
This team used The Echo Nest’s Remix software to automatically create, quite literally, the Remix Of The Century – an 11 minute track incorporating every Billboard Number One from 1890 to the present day, in order.
By Ben Smith
This ambitious hack aimed to unlock all the useful information and music contained within podcasts. Given a podcast, it applies processing in order to transcribe the speech and identify the music contained in each podcast, making it searchable and indexable.
By Matt Jeffery and Gregory Mead
What do you get when you combine Musicmetric’s artist analytics with Egg-Bot, a open source robot that draws on eggs? DATA EGGS. Believe.
Official hashtag: #dataeggs
By Hugh Rawlinson, Peter Blatchford, and Stuart Alexander
In what will likely go down as one of the most entertaining MHD demos ever, the braintrust behind Gabba-fy took us on journey “from Abba to Gabba.” Their Raspberry Pi-powered “Techno Tunnel” featured a SNES controller, floor controls for beat-matching any song with some Gabba, as well as plenty of tinfoil and projections. I’d say “you had to have been there,” but it turns out you might get the chance – there’s another demo in London brewing on November 29th.