4 Ways APIs Are Changing the Future of the Music Industry

At APIdays Paris this week, Francois Bourdoncle started by referencing “the emerging technology paradigm” by describing the cycles of disruption evident across the music industry. This began when Apple founder Steve Jobs bought the music inventory of record labels to create iTunes, thus monetizing the long tail of music purchasing after the initial flurry of buying the latest album by the latest artist had worn off.

After iTunes had digitized the industry, it too was shaken up, said Bourdoncle, by a range of streaming services like Spotify, which had revolutionized music again from something you own to something you pull from the cloud. Now, the next disruptor about to face the industry, according to Bourdoncle, is music discovery, where personalization and analytics need to be leveraged to help services push music to the listener, rather than the listener pulling it from online libraries.

Bourdoncle describes these multiple revolutions occurring in the industry in a way that is exemplified by how Spotify thinks about delivering music services via API.

4 Ways APIs Are Changing Music

Cedric Begoc, creative technologist and sales development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Spotify, highlighted four ways that APIs are changing the future of music.

1. Streaming rights: Before APIs, there were no online licensing rights allowing Internet radio or websites to stream music legally. APIs have enabled streaming to disrupt the iTunes music business model, said Begoc.

2. Data creation: In order to enable the music discoverability that Bourdoncle pointed to, Spotify bought The Echo Nest API. It uses The Echo Nest API internally on a product called Nestify to test advanced personalization of music tracks. Nestify analyzes a listener’s playlist and categorizes it by major genres enjoyed, and can then create playlists based on which genre the listener is in the mood for or can help the listener discover partially or completely new playlists based on the listener’s current music tastes.

3. Ecosystem development: As demonstrated through the projects listed below, APIs are enabling Spotify to create new music channels and help align music listening with other activities. Begoc gave the example of how date-matching app Tinder lets users find potential dates based on their common musical preferences in Spotify.

4. Connected music: The next frontier, Begoc says, is music everywhere. He points to the new partnership with Uber, enabled via API, that allows customers to stream their own music choices when riding in an Uber car.

Eight Examples

To illustrate the central role APIs are playing, Begoc described a number of projects, all powered by open APIs available from Spotify. “We are releasing new APIs every day. Some data is really confidential, but we are releasing and opening as much data as we can,” said Begoc.

1. Serendipity

Created by prolific tech-driven artist Kyle McDonald during Spotify’s first media-artist-in-residence program, Serendipity is a dynamic demonstration of how the world is connected through music, showing when people around the globe play the same song on Spotify within a few second of one another.

2. Where’s the Drama?

Using APIs from Spotify, The Echo Nest and Highcharts, this app analyzes a song to identify the peak musical drama. Listeners can get a sense of what it is about various songs they like, while music makers can better understand how to develop music that activates the listener’s emotions.

3. How Hetero Is Your Playlist?

How Hetero? - Spotify Site from Ourwork on Vimeo.

Designed for Stockholm Pride several years ago but no longer functioning, this API-driven app playfully aimed to expose how “heteronormative” our society can be — that is, how there is an underlying assumption that everyone is heterosexual. How Hetero Are You? assessed your spotify playlist and provided a rank on the diversity of your musical interests, taking into account the lyrics of all your favorite songs and the intent of the artists!

4. Artists Explorer

The Artist Explorer visualization app uses Spotify and The Echo Nest APIs to create a mind map showing the connections between various musical artists by style and genre. By placing the cursor over an artist shown, the artist's songs are played to help aid discovery. Other features include a speedometer displaying popularity of each artist and custom tools to set the number of connections to display for each artist in the web. Code for the project is shared as open source on GitHub, allowing other devs to create similar projects instantly.

5. Infinite Loop

Built for the Music Hack Day at MIT, The Infinite Jukebox app uses The Echo Nest API to analyze beats in a track so that the song can be remixed and extended into an infinite track.

6. Boil the frog

Using the Rdio API and The Echo Nest API, Boil the Frog allows users to create a seamless transition between any two disparate artists. Begoc, for example, created a playlist that transitions from the French late '70s pop sounds of Plastic Bertrand to the New York hip-hop of Jay-Z rap.

7. Pacemaker

Pacemaker is an iPhone/iPad app that uses Spotify’s APIs to create a virtual DJ turntable deck that automates beat syncing and quickly enables users to try out various DJ remixing features.

8. Spotify Connect

Spotify Connect uses APIs to drive Begoc’s fourth point around the next music frontiers: how APIs are enabling a connected music environment. Spotify Connect uses hardware and Spotify APIs to enable Spotify to be used as a remote, with the Spotify playlists channeled through any stereo devices.

Additional Resources

Begoc also provided a range of additional resources to help developers make use of Spotify APIs to create the next generation of music products:

In addition, ProgrammableWeb also has a number of Spotify API resources:

ProgrammableWeb also regularly posts the latest news covering the Spotify API ecosystem, such as Eric Zeman's coverage of Spotify’s API earlier this week.

Be sure to read the next Music article: Top 10 Music APIs: Spotify, Last.fm, Rdio & Soundcloud