I Can See The Music – The TasteMapper Lab Experiment

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My name is Kevin Moot and I am a Senior Software Developer at The Nerdery. I was fortunate to be involved in one of the Nerdery’s first projects of the Nerdery Labs program.

The Nerdery Labs program is in the same vein as Google’s famous “20% time” (in which Google developers are offered an opportunity to invest 20% of their time at work fostering their own personal side-projects). Our Nerdery Labs program presents a great opportunity for developers to bring their own personal projects to life and play with new technologies, creating experiments ranging from software “toys” to projects with potential business applications.

The Vision

Our concept was ambitious: create a diagram of the entire musical universe.

I teamed up with one of our Nerds in our User Experience department, Andrew Golaszewski, to conceptualize how we could visualize a musical universe in which users could explore an interconnected set of musical artists and genres, jumping from node to node in much the same way that your curiosity might take you from a Wikipedia article on “Socioeconomics of the Reformation Era” and somehow end up on a video clip of “The Funniest Baby Sloth Video Ever!

Assuming there was some huge data set out there which would give us insights into the composition of people’s personal musical libraries and playlists, could we find out which genres and artists are most commonly associated with one another? Are fans of Ozzie Osbourne likely to see Simon and Garfunkel popping up in their listening history? What other artists should a loyal follower of Arcade Fire be listening to? Do certain genres display more listener “stickiness” that others – that is, do fans of pop music statistically branch out more often to other genres than devotees of death metal?

To narrow this ambitious plan down to a more reasonable, bite-sized problem set, we decided to concentrate on depicting a single central artist at a time as a “root” node. Connected to this root note would be a set of the most closely related artists.

Thus was born the TasteMapper experiment.

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