Highlights of Last Week At Music and Bits

I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Music and Bits conference in Amsterdam last week that kicked off the Amsterdam Dance Event.

The talk

The morning of my speaking slot, I lost my voice. Those reading this know I don’t speak much to begin with (unless severely inspired.) After practicing saying “eigenvector” five times in a row fast and failing (I’ve heard this is how Coldplay’s Chris Martin prepares for concerts), I quickly ran upstairs to add text to all my slides to make sure I could at least get some sort of message across. My fellow academics know, during the Brian Whitman Talk Experience you get something akin to a church revival and rant session.

What the slides on screen don’t properly get across is all the amazing sounds and applications that people have made so far with Echo Nest technologies. Thousands of resourceful creative people are throwing away most notions of what “music” and “discovery” means to really collectively figure out what is next in our world, and we are helping them.

For the first time as company co-founder (it’s been over four very long, sometimes incredibly trying years, and this on top of a very intense six years in academia) I am starting to see something very big and inspiring come together. We’re a weird company – no real “consumer” facing products, so very few people know what we do, and the stuff we do is strange enough to get stopped at the border and have hilariously mistranslated explanations. But we have an amazing team, some of the best products in the music space, and quite a lot of our work is in letting people simply know what is possible.

So I enjoyed the mostly surprised but happy audience of people as I played them a sample of 2004’s “A Singular Christmas” or Rob Watson’s hilarious Donk DJ and others’ similarity graphs, visualizations, large social nets using our stuff to avoid awful CF traps – and basked in knowing the company’s amazing near future (which I did not reveal.) We still have a lot to work on but we’ve crossed a lot of important milestones towards getting a new kind of music interaction into the world.


I was so excited to be able to see my friend Oren play with Robbie Avenaim at Bimhuis as part of the Dance Event; Robbie on drums and servomotor-controlled drums and Oren on guitar and synth. A very special concert that someone helpfully recorded the final three minutes of:

At Bimhuis I ran into C of This is My Jam fame. C (aka Christian D) made some of the best jams even before the site actually was released. We “used” C as an example of the nascent music creators as listeners prototype in many a slide and talk, he put so much love into ordering his favorite music.


It was good to reflect just a little bit (but apparently reflection is not a pastime in Amsterdam), and since my voice was shot it was easy to just watch and listen. My best time during the trip was on a boat docked somewhere with the favorite person I had met at the conference who then introduced me to a refreshingly perpendicular (non-music) group of brilliant people, staring at the water as the sun went down and not once discussing licensing issues or marking our exact location on foursquare … I am kind of sighing just looking at the picture (the window out my office goes to a nice tree with a squirrel-friend that visits me, but then behind that tree is a busy bus lane.)

Another personal highlight was meeting someone that had used my insane child software “Hedgehog” back in 1999, a Palm MIDI sequencer. I had always applied the Rainer Buchty Ratio to Hedgehog and just assumed no one ever used it. You’ll have to bear with me on this one, this is kind of like Richard Davies posting letters from the dude from the Clientele ten years later…

Then the ridiculous parties & shows…

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Although I could not get enough time to really talk (I was absolutely mute two straight days,) it was good at least to whisper to my soon to be new friends at Soundcloud, last.fm, RJDJ, Twones, Justin from muxtape, old friends like Volodkin (hype machine), Steve, (ex-imeem) and etc. What I like the best about the music internet people is that we all seem to be open for everything and anything, there is no competitive nature about anyone, we all are focused on making amazing things happen. The first conversations always started with, “OK, you do this, and we do this, why don’t we put this with this and … ”

and especially yes let us not forget

Joris (and oscar) from Eindhoven!! (we met at MIDEM in January and they had a new demo.) Future of music, people… this is their new thing, Jukebugs:

The organizers who pulled this together this did an amazing trick. Thanks to the entire MnB crew: Edial, Vincent, Tim, Roel, each of them great people individually, and everyone else involved. Should do it again….

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