BarCamp Boston – How Technology is Changing the Music Industry

BarCamp Boston Monster Labs Big Brain Room

This morning the first session I sat in on was on “How Technology is Changing the Music Industry,” which was organized by Nate Aune from, Jazkarta, and Plone4Artists, and Mike Champion and Gary Elliott from Tourbus.

It was in the Monster Lab’s BigBrain, which turned out to be rather small.’s goal is to be a decentralized network for musicians and fans in the Boston Area.
The goal of is to connect people to live music. When you’re looking for a show, the process is too complicated / dispersed: you browse venue pages, ticket reseller pages, band pages, fan pages, pitchfork, etc.

With, you tell them what bands you like, they tell you when they come to town. You can get an rss feed of events matching your profile, or an iCal compatible feed.
The long-term goal is to build a community site around live music. Right now they are in Boston and San Francisco, goal is to expand into other markets as well, but slowly.
They are using a Ruby Lucene port called Ferret.The discussion turned quickly to questions about how the service could be expanded – finding other artists similar to those I’ve said I like, for example. Audioscrobbler/LastFM provides an API which takes a band name as an input and outputs other bands which you might also like (described here).

There was also some discussion around various music tagging, metadata, and fingerprinting services like Picard from Music Brainz.

Q & A Session: (In true BarCamp fashion, this wasn’t a strict Q & A session where the audience asks questions and the presenters answer – both Questions and Answers come from participants or speakers – so don’t attribute any of the below to anyone in particular).

Q: What about sharing the data with other folks? Letting own the clean, accurate data about events, and letting others worry about the social networking piece?

A: We’re not really looking to just power other external sites, we’d want at least a link back. We’d like to be visible to the end user.

Q: What about a tool for bands/artists to use, where they could just input info about an upcoming show and have a services automatically blast it out to all the interested sites?

A: The version 0.01 of basically was about broadcasting events out to the web – I’d like to just put it in once place and have the rest of the world know about. But we’ve had better results just spidering a set of sites and assembling the content ourselves.
Q: How do you deal with data quality?

A: We assign ranks to different data sources – for example, Venues have higher quality and a blog post by some guy is less reliable. We also flag things that seem “funny” and manually review them before they are posted. We also allow users to post comments / edit stuff on the page. If you are logged in you can actually edit right on the page.

So it’s a combination of data cleansing in code, human moderation by us, and community policing.

Q: What do you think about MugShot?
A: It looks interesting, but it’s really too hard to tell

Q: What are you doing for geocoding?

A: For now we’re using the Yahoo Geocoding APIs. While that might cause scalability issues down the road it hasn’t been a problem yet – we’re only focused on the US and only very specific locations

Q: So what happens when the whole music industry collapses – how will you help people find tunes?

A: The thing that’s missing, in terms of how technology is chaning the music industry, is how people find good music. There’s tons of technology around downloading, recording, distributing, advertising – but there isn’t much technology that really helps people find good music.
Microformats are part of the answer. Using the hReview format allows people to post reviews in blogs and on sites, and search engines which are aware of the formats can help people locate them. To really scale and be decentralized it’s gotta be pull driven. I write a review and post it – maybe I ping some aggregators to let them know it is there.

Q: What about putting samples of music on

A: An intersting example is PodBop – a mashup of event data and mp3s – so you can hear music associated with an event.

Doesn’t this raise copyright issues, as you might be linking to mp3s which aren’t authorized by the band or their label?

There is a Creative Commons RDF schema to specify what the rights are. (Not necessarily in PodBop).

Q: What’s next for you all? (

A: We’re crunching bugs right now plannign for a release in the next month or two.

Expansion to other regions will be slower, longer term.

All in all, it was an interesting first session – thanks all!