Music Hack Day Hall of Fame

Five music apps that rocked the NERD Center
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  April 18, 2012


Touring, merchandising, and marketing aside, the future of the entertainment industry is absolutely tech- and application-based. Of those apps that are changing how we share and consume music, many got their start at Music Hack Day events. In Red Bull–fueled marathon sessions held worldwide, Hack Days send developers on maniacal sprees of spinning music metadata into web-app gold.

Some of those visionary hack-a-thons happened right here, at Microsoft's New England Research and Development (NERD) center in Cambridge, and were hosted by the Somerville-based music-tech behemoth Echo Nest. This coming weekend, indie developers and Echo Nest facilitators will continue the tradition with a two-day "Hackers' Weekend" during Rethink Music.

With future developments in mind, we thought it was fitting to applaud some of the forward-thinking concepts that were conceived at Hack Days in the past few years.

POCKET HIPSTER | Now nearly two years old and an app classic, the equally judgmental and helpful Pocket Hipster app hatched out of a Music Hack Day right here. Developed by the Australia-based powerhouse We Are Hunted, the virtual hipster scans your playlist, criticizes it, then recommends indie artists who might float your boat. Like your pretentious college roommate, but much less smelly.

JENNIE'S ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP | Echo Nest guru Paul Lamere isn't the only rethinker in his family. At Music Hack Day Boston 2010, Lamere's daughter Jennie built an app fit for any road-dog music fan, and was nominated for an MTV O(nline) Music Award as a result. Simply plug in your start point, destination, travel dates, and musical tastes, and the Ultimate Road Trip recommends shows to catch all along your route.

DRINKIFY | A novelty app if there ever was one, Drinkify instructs music fans on which intoxicants to guzzle while listening to certain artists. Since results are based on actual lyrics, they're often surprisingly accurate in terms of what fans of particular artists tend to imbibe. For Wu-Tang, Drinkify recommends straight gin. If you're into Best Coast, grab an ice-cold PBR and garnish with fresh berries. Sounds about right.

THE SWINGER | Though a truly rudimentary product of Music Hack Day, the Swinger still provides endless laughs among tech and beat geeks. Hacked by Echo Nest co-founder Tristan Jehan, the simple app allows users to turn any song — from hip-hop to hardcore — into something out of Benny Goodman's catalogue. If it sounds stupid now, just wait until you hear Bjork over a swing groove.

SPARTIFY | Imagine if everybody at a party had equal access to a communal playlist, and if the people with good taste could collectively veto the lone wolf who'd like to bump Soulja Boy all night. That's essentially what Spartify does — partygoers enter their requests, which are aggregated into a convenient, crowd-sourced Spotify playlist. This is what democracy looks like!

Now in its second year, the Rethink Music conference is a collaboration between Berklee College of Music and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, bringing the top minds in music intelligence — including artists, recording industry execs, entrepreneurs, tech-world stars, and academics — to Boston, to encourage musical innovation around "creativity, commerce, and policy." This year, the conference expands from two days of panels and seminars to include a weekend of music showcases and a developers' hack day. The Phoenix is among the sponsors. For a full schedule, visit

Related: Hacking pact, The Sound of Muzak, Thinking outside the box set, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Music, Music Hack Day, Drinkify,  More more >
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