Hackers Try to Save the Music Industry
Friday, May 11, 2012
Hackers became anathema to the music labels at the dawn of digital file sharing, but now are key players in the industry. At the Rethink Music conference in Boston last month, programmers, developers, and tinkerers showed up for a 24-hour coding frenzy — a hackathon — at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development (NERD) Center, vying to make the coolest app that could transform music.
The music executives treat the hackers "like they would treat emerging artists," explains Paul Lamere, who emceed the event. "They're almost like the talent scouts from the 60s and 70s."
The events are not for the faint of heart. "I've slept three hours in the last two and a half days," says CJ Carr, a veteran at his third hackathon. "It was all over the place intellectually and emotionally — and physically. When Microsoft closed around 8:30pm, I went to Echo Nest,” an app development house. “They had another hackathon going all night."
One team programmed a system that captures a dancer’s movement and generates music from it — helpful if you can’t follow a beat. Carr’s invention was a sonnet generator. Give it a few keywords and it will search various databases online to assemble some facsimile of lyrics:
Where I can score some of that heroin brown
When sex is a pretext to a disease
Gone to set the score, gone into the town
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
But if it takes a cheap, tawdry scene
Stay on the scene, like a sex machine
Some of the projects might seem silly, useless, and impossible to monetize. But today it’s hard to tell the silly and useless from the next big app. Carr’s sonnet generator didn’t recreate Shakespeare, but "I got three people who wanted to hire me,” he told our reporter, “so there's your monetization right there."
Sweet Child O' Mine