Music Viz And a Critical Perspective on Crowdsourcing

Report part 3 of 5. South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring (usually in March) in Austin, Texas, United States. It is a conference that attracts media, web and design people from all over the world. This is a recap of the sessions I attended.

Finding Music With Pictures: Data Visualization for Discovery
Paul Lamere from music intelligence company The Echo Nest gave a great presentation of the history of data visualizations of music. The starting point was the notion that it is hard to discover new music through interfaces that, basically, are just spreadsheets (such as iTunes or Spotify). Of course, there are social tools that help you discover new music, such as, as there are algorithmically driven tools such as Pandora. However, there is a need for tools that are more visual.

Lamere divided the types of visualizations into three broad categories: human rendered, computer rendered and interactive visualizations. Visualizing music is a complex task because, for example, a visualization based on as artist similarity is a high-dimensional space that involves tens or even hundreds of parameters. I will (eventually) try to list as many examples as possible of these three types of visualizations, but for now you have to make do with a small selection:

Human rendered visualizations
Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music (both human rendered and interactive)
Music History as a London Tube Map
Map of Metal (both human rendered and interactive)

Computer rendered visualizations
Islands of Music (both computer rendered and interactive) Artist Map
Lee Byron Listening History

Interactive visualizations
Flowlist, developed at the Music Hackday NYC, February 2011

Read more about Finding Music With Pictures: Data Visualization for Discovery or have a look at Paul Lamere’s blog at And don’t miss the Storified version of Lamere’s talk, crafted by Hugh Gerry.

The Net Delusion
The Net Delusion is a new book by author Evgeny Morozov that is on about the dark side of internet freedom. Read Mary C Joyce’s review of the book for more information.

Keynote: Christopher Poole, and Canvas
Today’s keynote featured Mick Jagger lookalike Christopher Poole who is the founder of, a simple image-based bulletin board, which has grown from a niche site targeting anime fans to one of the most influential communities on the Internet. Poole is currently working on a new project called Canvas. Request a beta invite on

Transmedia: Transmonetisation – Getting Rights and Making Money
Alex Chapman and James Kay from media lawyer firm Sheridans gave a crash-course in how IPR and monetization fits together and gave examples of four different models that can be utilized. I will try to add more details to which these models are later on; the sound in the venue was too bad to really get what they were talking about.

Read more about Transmedia Transmonetisation.

Crowdsourcing: Innovation and/or Exploitation?
One of the most interesting talks of the day was on hommage to AND a critical analysis of the phenomenon crowdsourcing. The critical voices were the most interesting and you should get acquainted with the writings of Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain and for academic data analysis of the underpinnings and motivations of crowdsourcing you should consult Lada Adamic, associate professor, School of Information at University of Michigan.

Read more about Crowdsourcing: Innovation and/or Exploitation?

Image credit: toodlepip, CC:BY-NC-SA

Further reading from SXSW
Rebooting Iceland and Block Party Capitalism
Theatre on Skype and Bloggers vs Journos
Music Visualizations And a Critical Perspective on Crowdsourcing
Hobos With Shotguns And Grey Area Music Distribution
Collaborative Creativity And Flight Delay Predictions