Using Big Data to Explore New Music

See that graphic?  That’s The Echo Nest tracking 767 different genres of music in an attempt to learn what people are listening to.  Here’s what writer Glenn McDonald has to say about all this map, which he calls Every Noise at Once (click that link for a better view.)

At The Echo Nest we collect pretty much every bit of data about music we can find. We crawl millions of web pages about music every day, we keep track of the listening habits of millions of streaming-music-service users and we analyze the actual audio of hundreds of millions of songs by millions of artists. Then we try to make some sense of it all.One of the many ways we try to organize all this information is by genre. We want to know what kinds of music there are in the world, which artists are making which kinds and how the genres relate to each other. Sometimes this is useful in itself (want to hear some Finnish hip hop? we can do that). Sometimes it’s a way of cross-checking other data (if we think somebody is making Finnish hip hop, but we think they are from Thailand and were active from 1952 to 1961, at least one of those things is probably wrong.)

We track a lot of genres: 767 as of the last count and we still occasionally find ones we’ve missed. This is by no means all the kinds of music there are in the world, not now and certainly not historically, but it’s a decent approximation of how many major kinds of music there are that have substantial availability online. We take a pretty broad view of what counts as a ‘genre’, from broad categories like ‘jazz’ to hyper-specific styles like ‘skweee’ and ‘gothic symphonic metal’, and from regional genres like ‘cumbia’ or ‘swedish indie pop’ to historical ones like ‘baroque’ or ‘new romantic’.

Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38569 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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