"You used to have all of these gatekeepers," says Paul Lamere, director of the Echo Nest's developer community. "There were the A&R folks, the producers, the labels, the old-time DJs, the record store buyers — they were all the tastemakers. Now that's all gone, which means people have to be able to search through everything on their own and make these decisions — and that's where the Echo Nest comes in . . . [Music Hack Day] is a business-free zone, but it's great because kernels of ideas from there have found their ways into real products that help fans find what they want."
Lamere sits at the helm of Boston's annual hack day, and of others in Cannes, Stockholm, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, and San Francisco. A guru's guru in music innovation, Lamere came to the Echo Nest in early 2009 from Sun Microsystems, where he'd spent the previous five years researching music exploration. Though excited about his work there, Lamere, whose kids describe his music taste as "dad-core," says he became frustrated that Sun never intended to introduce his inventions to the marketplace, and defected to the Echo Nest as a result. Within three months of his arrival, the company inked a deal with the music streaming service Spotify to assist with playlist and discovery services.
At hack days and on a daily basis, Lamere helps guide inventors toward apps that are already revolutionizing the commercial space. Last December, the Echo Nest teamed with Viacom for the MTV Music Meter, which pegs the hottest rising artists on the Web, then helps pair those acts with mtv.com readers who might dig them. That same month, they also announced a similar venture with the British Broadcasting Company that helps visitors to the BBC's Music Showcase hub find favorable clips and videos.
"We don't care where the songs come from," says Lucchese. "What we do is sit on top of the data and enable the experiences through which people access [music]. We've built our whole business on the idea that, one day, kickass independent developers will be able to build apps and release them legally without ever talking to a lawyer."
The Echo Nest's biggest landmark deal so far came this February, when they linked with IDJ to bring developers closer to license holders. With Lamere assisting, app wizards can now write programs using the Echo Nest platform — for everything from PCs to smart phones — and release them commercially with no hassle. Considering the depth of IDJ's roster, which includes everyone from Ghostface to Fall Out Boy, the relationship between the Echo Nest and IDJ has the potential to yield countless retail opportunities.
"My company is always looking to innovate," says IDJ senior vice-president of digital and business development Jon Vanhala, who helped shepherd the deal through. "There's no silver bullet in the app world right now — nobody can tell you what's absolutely going to be cool or not. You have to have some faith, and then let the market decide. . . . We believe this community of developers is exceptionally creative, and [the Echo Nest] gives us access to all of that."
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