Land of the Free Music Archive

April 12, 2018 - All

The Free Music Archive (FMA) is an online library of free, legal music downloads maintained by WFMU and curated by dozens of cultural institutions and music-minded organizations. FMA provides a framework for hosting and sharing new output and its library currently features about 16,000 artists. Part of this framework is the detailed assignment of metadata to hosted files including genre and relational information. To this end, FMA’s organizers have released their library’s data to the Echo Nest. The Echo Nest describes itself as a music intelligence platform – it crunches the sonic properties of digital song files and provides numeric values for certain features (loudness, vocal presence, “energy level” etc.). The output of the algorithms that Echo Nest uses is conditioned by text analysis of popular music resources as well. Echo Nest co-founder Brian Whitman described the philosophy behind the company’s approach on his blog. These analyses are often used to power the automated suggestions provided by services like Spotify and rdio. For my final project, I created a network map of these suggestions to visualize the sonic landscape of the Free Music Archive. Both FMA and the Echo Nest make their APIs available to developers. While Echo Nest works with many content providers, you can limit the scope of results returned on queries to the API to specific domains.

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