Big Data, Mining, and (Musical) Recommendation Engines

As a side project in my free time I’m helping a small business setup an e-commerce store front. One of the things we’ve discussed is the idea of a recommendation engine to suggest other items to purchase. This lead down an Internet rabbit hole where I ended up reading about The Echo Nest.
The Echo Nest is a self-described “music intelligence platform that synthesizes billions of data points and transforms it into musical understanding.“. It is widely herald as one of the largest and most comprehensive uses of data mining (to find the language and culture around music across the web) and big data (to store and present those relationships) within the music recommendation industry.
Yes! There is an industry. A substantial one. Apple’s Genius feature in iTunes, Pandora, Last.fm, Spotify – all are trying to provide relevant music based upon your listening tastes. Why? So you’ll buy more music of course!
Brian Whitman, one of the co-founders of The Echo Nest, talks in great length about the how and why behind what makes their product so unique – and so incredibly accurate. I won’t steal the thunder of the article, but needless to say, dedication and refinement are key.
This is totally sausage-making, behind-the-scenes stuff, but I encourage you to at least look it over.
Ok, so now the really fun stuff. Here’s something called The Infinite Jukebox. It uses some of the data points within the Echo Nest to create a version of a given song that never ends. It uses references within a song that are similar to other points within the song, makes some minor adjustments when needed (like tempo) and then plays the song forever. The presentation is neat as well, you can view the branches within the song where things loop and even click around the song to find points where things can loop.

At work we’re looking at ways of using the topics of big data, mining, and recommendation engines to provide better healthcare. Reading about The Echo Nest gives me some ideas on how these technologies could impact the care we give! If you have your own ideas or suggestions, please leave a note below.

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