The Echo Nest

On-demand service Deezer to enter 76 more countries and add free version, but still no love for the U.S.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 12:00pm

Though the French media stole some of the thunder from Deezer's planned announcement today (see RAIN here), revealing its $130 million in new funding over the weekend, there was plenty of bang left for today's reveal.

The on-demand music service today announced it will expand to 76 additional countries throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia (what TechCrunch calls the "everywhere but the U.S." strategy), and will add a "marketing-driven free version of the service" while "ramping up its social features significantly."

The global expansion will bring Deezer’s geographical reach to 160 countries worldwide. Deezer has no plans for the U.S. market, where "customer acquisition costs are high and market conditions do not currently allow for sustainable expansion."

Deezer CEO Axel Dauchez revealed the details at a press conference held at Abbey Road Studios in London earlier today.

The new Deezer free service "will be a recruitment channel to encourage users to convert to a paid subscription ('rather than a model in of itself,' says the company). Furthermore, it will be tailored for each individual country 'according to the competition,' presumably in terms of number of listening hours permitted and that type of thing," TechCrunch reports.

Deezer is also the newest client for music intelligence service The Echo Nest. Deezer will use The Echo Nest's Rosetta Stone 30-million song dataset. Hypebot describes Rosetta Stone as "a data translator for music services that allows developers to summon elements from a variety of sources to include in their apps."

Read more in TechCrunch here; MusicWeek here; and HypeBot here.

Our first-ever European Summit event is this Friday!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 12:45pm

Special thanks to our U.S.-based industry friends who'll make the trip over to Berlin this week for our very-first RAIN Summit Europe. This is especially for attendees here in the United States that will incur the time and expense to take advantage of this unique learning and networking opportunity. We'll do our best to make it worth it for you!

Some of our esteemed experts who'll speak are also U.S.-based. We've previously announced Liquid Compass CEO Zachary Lewis (here) and Triton Digital's Patrick Reynolds (here). Joining Reynolds from Triton will be VP/Sales for Europe, Daniel Karlsson. He'll take part in the "Targeted Advertising & Listener Registration" panel.

Also joining us from "stateside" will be TuneIn VP/Sales & Business Development Carl Rohling. TuneIn is the free online radio tuning service, which aggregates over 70-thousand music, sports, news and current events stations from around the world. TuneIn functionality is available via TuneIn mobile apps, and is built-in to select BMW and MINI car dashboards (Rohling will speak on "The Connected Dashboard" panel).

The Echo Nest is a "music intelligence" company, the largest repository of dynamic music data in the world. This data helps application developers build smarter music apps. The Echo Nest's customers include Clear Channel, Nokia, eMusic, MOG, Rdio, Spotify and more than 15-thousand independent app developers. You'll agree, then, that it makes perfect sense for The Echo Nest to be represnted on our "Personalized Radio" panel. Doing the honors will be CTO Brian Whitman.

We're proud to welcome Spotify's European GM and VP of Ad Sales Jonathan Forster as our keynote speaker. Spotify now has 15 million active users worldwide, 4 million of whom pay for the service every month. Besides its on-demand streaming product, Spotify Radio is a personalized radio stream listeners create based on artists, songs, or genres, which can be further influenced through "thumbs up/thumbs down" song ratings.

We're looking forward to Friday's (October 5th) RAIN Summit Europe, at the stylish nHow Berlin. We hope you'll be able to join us (Click here for registration info and the agenda).

Echo Nest launches new tool to connect users to radio stations, and each other, based on their musical interests

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 12:00pm

The Echo NestThe Echo Nest is looking to give webcasters and developers more tools that analyze the social (and perhaps even the political) aspects of music.

The company has just announced the launch of Taste Profile Similarity, a tool which gives services (like iHeartRadio and Spotify's radio service, both of which use The Echo Nest) the ability to connect different users based on similar music interests. It can also be used, points out The Echo Nest, to automatically suggest specific streaming radio stations to users based on their taste in music.

"Taste Profiles help us understand which music a listener likes or doesn’t like with precision, so we can make personalized playlists more relevant across a variety of services," The Echo Nest writes at its blog.

To showcase the new tool, the company has launched a web capp called "What's your stereotype?" You can punch in your favorite artists and the site will place you in a musical stereotype category. Try it out here and read more here.

The Echo Nest has also used its Taste Profiles to discover what musical interests say about about users' politics. For example, The Echo Nest found that Republicans appear to have less diverse taste in music than Democrats, that Kenny Chesney fans are most likely to be Republican and that Rihanna fans most likely to be Democrat.

You can read much more in the company's blog post here.

Service aims to pick the perfect local tunes for your roadtrip

Monday, July 16, 2012 - 12:05pm

RoadTrip MixtapeA new webapp from The Echo Nest not only provides directions for your next roadtrip, but also serves up a playlist of music filled with artists from the cities and towns you'll be driving through.

Called RoadTrip Mixtape, the serivce is powered by Google Maps (for the directions) and Rdio (for the tunes). It's potentially a great alternative to listening to "Boyfriend" again and again on local FM stations. 

Though Lifehacker finds the service is "a lot of fun to use," it points out a pretty major failing: you can't (easily) export the playlists to take with you on your trip! But a rememdy -- in the form of a mobile version of RoadTrip Mixtape -- is reportedly on the way.

"In the meantime, it's a great way to choose some local music to listen to for your next trip, or just discover musicians who got their start in your area."

You can find Lifehacker's coverage here and try RoadTrip Mixtape for yourself here.

iHeartRadio-powering Echo Nest raises $17m for international expansion

Friday, July 13, 2012 - 12:00pm

The Echo NestThe Echo Nest -- the music data service that powers companies like iHeartRadio, Spotify, eMusic, VEVO, MOG and others -- has raised $17 million in a new round of financing. "The round brings Echo Nest’s total funding to just over $27 million, making it one of the most-funded music data companies out there," reports TechCrunch.

Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese says the new investment will help the company focus on global expansion. They've seen "a big spike in inbound interest from international developers and music companies, particularly in South American and Eastern Europe."

TechCrunch has more coverage here.

Slacker, Echo Nest, iHeartRadio, Rovi execs debate role of "human touch," listener data during "Personalizable Radio" panel

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 11:00am

Personalizable radio panelCustomizable radio, like the offerings from Slacker, iHeartRadio, Pandora and others, is a "combination of art and science," members of the "Personalizable Radio" panel at RAIN Summit West explained. The discussion was one of the most popular and thought-provoking of the conference.

The "art and science" metaphor was first put forward by Owen Grover, SVP of iHeartRadio. On the one hand, there's the "science": data from companies like The Echo Nest and Rovi about what artists are similar to other artists, what vocalists sound the same, what guitar solos are related and so on. 

But then there's the "art" of also taking into account the much more complicated "cultural" factors, explained Rovi Director of Architecture & Innovation Michael Papish. That is, linking artists and songs that don't necessarily relate to one another scientifically, but that are tied together in popular culture. "There's a lot more going on than just saying 'these two songs sound alike, therefore we should play them together.' There's a lot more behind why humans like different types of music," said Papish. 

Both Grover and Slacker CEO Jim Cady spoke to the power of having an emotional connection within the stream as well. "There has to be humans behind it," said Cady. Slacker employs 75 programmers to give their streams that human touch. Otherwise, "there's a missing emotional connection." He says most users want that "lean-back," curated experience (as long as they can "lean-forward" when need be to customize the stream). Grover said Clear Channel has seen their Custom Radio service actually push new listeners to the traditional AM/FM streams (which are all curation and virtually no personalization).

Michael PapishBut Papish (pictured left) challenged the idea of the power of the human touch. "We think there's something magical being done by the DJ song-to-song, but maybe it's all in the listener's head," he said, referencing studies that found that listeners prefer a random assortment of music just as much as a carefully-crafted playlist. "There may not be a way to measure whether a playlist is 'good' or not."

Whether the playlist has a human behind it or not, "The idea of uniformed playlist given a seed artist is unacceptable," argued The Echo Nest's CEO Jim Lucchese. It must be customized to each listener's individual preferences, and the process of discovering what those preferences are may be the next big challenge for personalizable radio services and the engines that fuel them.

Indeed, data about artist similarity can only take you so far, said Grover. "You don't want to start making too big leaps of faith around data," he explained. "A thumbs down on a Lady Gaga song doesn't necessarily tell you much of anything about that song, that listener, or Lady Gaga." Perhaps the sequence of songs wasn't quite right, or the time of day had an impact, or the listener may have just heard the song 50 times already. More information is needed.

"We may have hit the wall in terms of what we can do with either thumbs up/down, or ratings," mused Papish. "We need to figure out new, better ways of actually asking our listeners what they like." That process is still on-going. "We are just getting started identifying the individual listener," said Lucchese. Papish shared that Rovi, for example, is looking for better ways to have the listener explicitly share preferences with music services. One idea is to use gamification elements to make sharing that information more fun and engaging.

Jim Lucchese and Owen GroverAll this shows that the entire realm of personalizable radio is still "in the exceptionally early days," said Lucchese (pictured first on the right, beside Grover). But it's already changing how consumers think about radio, as the panelists explained.

Cady shared the anecdote of driving with several 10-year-old boys who asked him to skip the song currently playing on FM radio. Grover shared his own experience of a 9-year-old asking why he couldn't go back to the beginning of an AC/DC song playing on the radio. "There's a change that's happening," said Cady. Radio is being redefined and the industry "can't hold on to these old conceptions."

But, in Grover's opinion, the idea that these new customizable services will destroy traditional radio is "nonsense." Papish agreed: "We can't lose that one-on-one feeling," that DJ-curated experience. Not everyone wants that kind of experience all the time, but "we can't lose it."

That said, Grover argued, "If you aren't where your listeners are, with the features and content that they expect, you're nowhere... Be where your listeners are."

You can watch the "Personalizable Radio" panel, moderated by Radio-Info's Sean Ross, from RTT News here.

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