Playgrounds: Fun and interesting applications of’s technology

The vast array of listening information available at probably had a great deal to do with CBS’s decision to purchase the company. Though I’m wary of the deal, I’ve not lost all hope for the site. The Audioscrobbler technology behind it is some pretty fascinating stuff and the data it collects is open and available be analyzed, interpreted, shared and displayed in a lot of diverse applications.

Hopefully, now that CBS’s hand is in the cookie jar, this aspect of the service won’t change. As long as the data is accessible, here’s a number of cool things that can be harvested from

LastGraph waveform 2007

My waveform for 2007, through the beginning of June.

Lee Byron’s work on data visualization made a fairly large splash on the net recently. The multi-colored waveforms showed undulating music tastes as artists’ popularity expands and contracts over time. It’s fascinating stuff.

And of course, after a moment of exclaiming "cool!" and "pretty!" the question on everyone’s mind was "How do I get one for myself?" Since Byron’s page was more of a demonstration and proof-of-concept, there was no way for someone to enter their username and get a graph of their own listening habits, leaving many visitors disgruntled.

Enter LastGraph, which does what all those disgruntled users were requesting, for whatever username you want. Results are offered in PDF and SVG formats, which are vector based, so you can zoom very close to see small-scale changes in data. The only thing that’s missing is the ability to track an individual artist within the ebb and flow of your listening. Specifically, I’d like to hover over a line and see that artist’s trends highlighted. That’s not going to happen with a PDF though. Oh well.

The site is running kinda bare-bones right now and there is a queue system in place. You may have to wait several hours before your PDF is ready to download. So be patient. It’s worth it. The site’s performance has much improved since it launched.

Also note: the PDFs produced by the site do not render in Mac OS X’s Preview app, so be sure to view them in Acrobat.

Musicmapper’s in Time

This chart shows my listening habits during the past 121 weeks (roughly the beginning of March 2005). Click to see larger.

Musicmapper’s in Time generates a single graphic that displays a variety of data. The bar graphs in the background represents the total of each weeks play counts. Your top 50 artists are displayed, in rank order, on the right. The line graphs show how each of the top 50 have grown over time.

This can be useful for determining trends in your tastes and habits. In my case, before the 52 week mark, I see a lot flat-lined activity, especially among my top ten, that suddenly takes off. Also, I notice that Susuma Yakota, who I had never heard of before January this year, is in my top 50 and that he got there rather quickly. There is a very steep curve for him starting 23 weeks ago.

Tuneglue relationship explorer

Click for full size.

Tuneglue creates a web of related bands and artists. Start with one artist or band, expand the results to find similar artists or bands, then do the same to those. With four or five clicks, you’ll have a large interconnected web of new bands to explore based on similarities and relationships to your tastes. It’s a neat visual metaphor of musical interest and a good jumping off point for new music recommendations. The lack of sound samples limits its usefulness as an exploratiom tool, though the map is still fun to play with.

One killer app of the site, however, is missing. I talk of course, about a "six degrees" linker. It would be very cool to input two artists and see how many jumps are necessary to connect to two. For example, it takes four jumps to connect Mogwai to the Strokes (Mogwai » Radiohead » The Beatles » The White Stripes » The Strokes, according to Tuneglue). I figured that out on my own, but it would be nice of the site to do it for me. tools by Anthony Liekens

cloud of recommendations

This site features a number of related tools. My favorite is the artist recommendation cloud, which generates a number of suggestions for musical exploration based on your top artists. Higher recommendations appear at a larger type size. Recommendations can be based on stats from your overall list, the past 12, 6 or 3 months or the past week.

Also be sure to check out your eclectic rating. I scored an 80 out of 100.

How compatible are your tastes with a radio station?

sekrit user profile bbc6music is, you guessed it, created by the songs BBC Radio 6 (6music) plays on air. Though not every song that the station broadcast gets uploaded to, the user profile still manages to add about 100 play counts per day. As of August 2011, the station has an accumulated track count of nearly 380,000. The most played artist is David Bowie.



Finally, there’s the Mainstream-o-Meter, which compares your top stats with the overall most played artists site-wide. Each of your most-listened-to artists are given a weighted score which is then used to calculate your overall "mainstreamness."

:: is certainly a vast treasure trove of information, so hop to it and get exploring.

Magnetosphere: Awesome iTunes Visualizer

One of the lesser-used features of iTunes is its visualizer, the colorful animated display that accompanies any music that’s playing. The visuals are a fun little distraction, but once the novelty wears off, the usefulness of the function tends to be limited. Though, in college, a PowerBook and an LCD projector made for a pretty rockin portable party system.

g-force shot
Ol’ trusty G-Force

iTunes, from version 1.0, has shipped with a default visualizer: G-Force, which was originally a plugin for SoundJam (the app that iTunes was initially derived from). It was groundbreaking at the time of its release and it still has some appeal, but at seven years old with no major updates, the plugin shows its age.

Enter Magnetosphere, a brand-new visualizer that was recently released as a beta. It’s not the first third-party visualizer, but it is the best one I’ve seen yet.

Magnetosphere features excellent music response, smooth animation (even on my aging G4 PowerBook), a variety of visual themes, and best of all, lots of pretty colors. One could stare at it for hours (assuming they have nothing productive to be doing with their time) and I’m even tempted to throw a party just to show it off.

This thing is awesome, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s a video I made of it in action:

Magnetosphere, iTunes plugin, in action

The best part starts around 1:50, but really, just watch the whole thing. And if at all you’re curious, the song is Nostrand, the sleeper hit from Ratatat’s Classics.

Download Magnetosphere from Barbarian Software. Mac OS X and Windows versions available. Requires iTunes of course.

Update 5 Sept 08: There’s a rumor going around that the Magnetosphere visualizer will be included with the also-rumored iTunes 8, which itself is rumored to be released mid-September 2008.

Update 9 Sept 08: Yep, looks like the rumor mill had it right. Magenetosphere is now a part of iTunes by default, as of version 8, which is available for download from Apple.

my date with density

I’m a big fan of text clouds, where a list of topics, keywords, tags, etc are displayed at various sizes based on how popular those words are. the artist cloud is one example. it shows how often a particular artist has been mentioned during the course of the tunequest.

Well, the other day, i was playing with some of these search engine optimization tools, one of which is a keyword density checker. it scans a webpage and displays a cloud of word popularity from that page. after playing with it, i hit upon the idea of seeing a visual representation of the most numerous artists in my library.

Using iTunes’ Export Song List function, I made a tab-delimited text file of all my library information. I then opened that text file in excel and removed everything but the artist column.

Since the density checker looks at individual words, I had to remove all the spaces from the artists’ names, which were copied into a basic html page and submitted.

The results can be found below. it reflects the number of songs from each artist, which gives a decent, but skewed impression of my tastes. it shows what i have, not what i listen to the most. even for just showing the contents of the library, i think a better metric would be the total time of each artist rather than total song count. but that’s beyond my current capabilities. i guess i’ll just have to wait until the iTunes registry is back up.

Yeah, I know it’s so middle school to “brag about” the bands you like, but I think this is neat:

50cent aforestmightyblack aarhussymphonyorchestra addntox aelters afterthefire aimeemann air[frenchband] akiraifukube algreen alhirt alyankovicwendycarlos alanreevesphilsteeleandp alansilvestri albertobaldanbembo alecempire alessandroalessandroni alexandercourage alfclausen alfredwaitzman aliceinchains alisonkrauss aluminumgroup americanmusicclub anaprilmarch anandashankar angelobadalamenti anthrax antonellopaliotti aphextwin applecomputer aquanote arcticmonkeys arlingcameron armandotrovajoli arthurlyman asone atmosphere attilioanthonydonadio augustomartelli autechre badlydrawnboy barbaramanning bardopond barigozzigroup basementjaxx basilpoledouris bavarianradioorchestra bbcphilharmonicorchestra beastieboys beck beckandtheflaminglips beegees benfoldsfive berlinphilharmonicorchestra bernardherrmann bertopisano bethorton betterthanezra billconti billdoss billevans billperkins billyidol billymay billymayandhisorchestra birdie bis bixio frizzi tempera bjork blackbrown blindmelon blondie blueshammer blur boardsofcanada bobdylan bobmould bonobo boredoms bostonpopsorchestra bradfiedel bradmehldau bradspitzbryantari branvan breakbeatera brentspiner brianeno brianreitzellrogerjmann broadcast brokensocialscene brothersjohnson brunonicolai bt buffalospringfield buffalotom buffythevampireslayer burntfriedmanjakiliebezeit burntfriedmanthenudubplayers bustarhymes cafetacuba cake calexico cameo cameraobscura cannibalox cannonballadderleysergiomendes capuano carlcarlton carlysimon carmenvillaniamurri cartoonnetwork catpower catherinespaak cell cescoanselmo cex charlesmingus charliefeathers charliehadenpatmetheny cheeverjloophole chicagosymphonyorchestra chicagoundergroundtrio chingon chriscornell chrisisaak christhomasking christophebeck christopherfranke christophero’riley christophertyng christypiccioni cibomatto clarencecarter classicalthunder claudedebussy clemek clevelandorchestra cliffeidelman clinic clintmansell coil coldcut combustibleedison controlmachete coolio cornelius cornershop countingcrows craigventresco cschulz curtismayfield czechphilharmonicorchestra daedelus daftpunk dallasstringband damonalbarnmichaelnyman dancastellaneta dannakamura dannyelfman dariog davegrohl davegrusin davematthewsband davidarnold davidarnoldkevinkiner davidbell davidbowie davidcarradineandumathurma davidholmes davidkitay davidnewman dazzband deadoralive deathcabforcutie deathinvegas delarosaandasora dennismccarthy devo dexy’smidnightrunners dickdaleandhisdel tones dickhyman digitalunderground dimitrifromparis dinahshore djkrush djshadow djsmash dmitrishostakovich dntel dominicharlan donjulian donaldbyrd donniedarko doristroychaumont drdre dressybessy duncan dustyspringfield dustytrails dynastiecrisis evax earthakitt eastflatbushproject edwardshearmur elastica elbow electricdiva eliacmiral elliotgoldenthal elliotsmith elmerbernstein elvispresley eminem emittrhodes emmylouharrisalisonkraussandgillianwelch englishsymphonyorchestra enniomorricone enochlight ericserra erikaelgen esem esquivel eta everclear explosionsinthesky extendedspirit fxrandomiz fairfieldfour faithless fantasticplasticmachine fatboyslim faust filabrazillia filter fineyoungcannibals fionaapple flacojimenez florindabolkan fluke foofighters fourtet fowlkes francescodemasi francislai francislaipierrebarouh francobixio francodegemini francomicalizzi francopisano frankblack frankmills frankapotente franzwaxman fredbongusto freedompower fumiohayasaka funkstorung futurama gangoffour gapband garbage garyhoey garyjules geinohyamashirogumi genekelly georgedavidweisbobthiele georgemartin georgeshearing geraldfried gershonkingsley gianpiereoreverberi giancarlogazzani gianfrancoplenizio gianniferrio giannioddi ginomarinacciensemble glennnbranca glittermini globalcommunication goblin godspeedyoublackemperor goldenshower gomez googoodolls gorillaz grandaddy greenapplequickstep greenfuture grooverider guidoemauriziodeangelis guineo gunsn’roses gustavholst gyorgyligeti hajimeyoshizawe hal handsomeboymodelingschoolfeaturingtrugoydelasoulanddelthatfunkeehomosapien hankjones hanszimmer happyend harrybetts harrymcclintock hectorvarela helmet homie hooverphonic hotchocolate houstonperson houstonpersonandroncarter howardroberts howardshore hum igres ipulsar idesofspace iggypop inonzur interpol ironandwine irvingberlin isaachayes isaotomita isotope israelkamakawiwo’ole jacquesdutronc jamescartertheprisoners jamesclarke jameshorner jamesnewtonhoward jamiroquai janwernerfxrandomiz japanic jaychattaway jazzanova jeanjacquesperrey jeromepatrickholanchuckberry jerryfielding jerrygoldsmith jet jimo’rourke jimvenable jimwhite jimihendrix jocelynpook joecalicott joegravesthediggers joehisaishi joeporter joelgoldsmith joelmcneeley johnbarry johnhartford johnmcentire johnottman johnpowell johnwilliams johnnycash josephloduca julielondon julien juniopisanojaqueschaumont juno kcthesunshineband kanyewest karate karma kashmir kevinmanthei kevinshields kidloco killbill kingblackacid kingfloyd kirovorchestra klausdoldinger koichisugiyama komeda kontraquartet koolthegang koop ko wrecktechnique kraftwerk kruderdorfmeister kuniomiyauchi larevoluciondeemilianozapa ladytron laloschifrin larasaintpaul laurindoalmeida lcdsoundsystem leeselmocoorchestra leespencerjohnnyklimek leftfield lenvorsterrobertchamberlain leningradphilharmonicorchestra leonardcohen leonardnimoy leonardrosenman leroyholmes lesbaxter lesiman letterstocleo lilychou limpbizkit lionelbelasco lippsinc lithops littlehatjones littlerichard littlewilliejohn loleymanuel londonsymphonyorchestra loustein louisaldebert louisandbebebarron lovespitlove lovemongers ltjexperience luisbacalov lukevibert lulu mdoughty madseason malcolmmclaren mamasthepapas manorastroman manitoba marcoantoniosolis marcyplayground mariamckee mariomolino marionascimbene mariusconstant markdegliantoni markjonathandavis markmothersbaugh marksnow marseillephilharmonicorchestra martindenny martinfry martino’donnellmichaelsalvatori marvingaye marvinhamlisch masamichiamano masarusatoh maserati massiveattack mastercylinder masurusatoh matmos mattmonroe matthewsweet mauricejarre mcgeebros meatpuppets medeskimartinandwood megadeth meikokaji meltorme mellow meloman mercuryrev methodman michaelandrews michaeljackson michaeljohnson michaelkamen microstoria mikepostpetecarpenter mikhailpletnev milesdavis minibosses mkl moby mogwai mohammedrafi moloko molotovvsdubpistols moneymark montrealsymphonyorchestra mooneysuzuki morcheeba morphine mortonstevens mortonsubotnik mouseonmars mrfreddie mroizo mudhoney multisofa mybloodyvalentine mystikal nerd nancysinatra nathanvancleave nationalskyline nautilis neilnorman neilyoung neu neworder newyorkphilharmonicorchestra nickcaveandthebadseeds nico nicolaconte nicolecroisilleanniegirardot nineinchnails ninodeluca nintendo nintendogamecube nirvana nobukazutakemura djspooky noelgallagher noraorlandi normanblake oasis oglio operationphoenix optiganallyyours orbital ornellavanoni oslophilharmonicorchestra outkast oval paolovasile parade patrickdoyle pattismith paulmccartney paulpiot paulvandyk paulwesterberg pavement pearljam peggyleegeorgeshearing pennywise peppinodelucaeimark percyfaithandhisorchestra perrycomo peterhughesorchestra philadelphiaorchestra philharmoniaorchestra philipglass phoenix photek pieropiccioni pieroumiliani pierrebarouh pills pinkandersonsimmiedooley pixies pizzicatofive pjharvey plaid plastilinamoshtoninoc plastycbuddha plug poe poison porterricks portishead prefuse73 pressuredrop primus prince prodigy propellerheads puffy pushbuttonobjects queen quincyjones quincyjonesbillcosby rem radiohead rageagainstthemachine ralphmoore ralphstanley ramones randyedelman raniertrubytrio ratatat ravishankar rayanthony rayparkerjr reccentre redhotchilipeppers redsnapper renegarriguene rentals rickjames rickrizzotarakey rickyford rickynelson riichirohmanabe rilokiley rizortolani rizortolaniandhisorchestra robertjohnson robertwilkins robertopregadio rogermiller rolandvincent romanomussolini ronjones ronisize ronisizereprazent roygerson royorbison royalconcertgebouworchestra royalphilharmonicorchestra royalscottishnationalorchestra rubinmitchell rufuswainwright rundmc russellgunn saintetienne sammybarbotadrianifabi sanfranciscosymphony santaesmeralda sarahmclachlan sarahshannon sarahhannahandleahpeasall savath savalas scandinavianbrassensemble schlammpeitziger scottwalker screamingtrees seanlennon seatbelts sebastientellier senorcoconut sergionilo sheenaeaston shirleybassey shivaree shonenknife sizentner sigurr–s silverapples sirmixalot skeelo skipjames sloan slutaleta smokeymiho snoopdoggydogg snowpony solkaplan sonicyouth sonnystitt soulasylum soulcoughing soundgarden southpark southerncultureontheskids

spacehog spacemen3 spiritualvibes spiritualized squarepusher squirrelnutzippers stlouissymphonyorchestra stgermain stjohnny stangetz stangetzbobbrookmeyer stankenton

startrekhumor stefanotorossi stelviocipriani stephenmalkmus steppenwolf stereolab stevemillerband stevereich stonetemplepilots straightjacketfits straycats stringtheory stuttgartscholacantorum styrofoam suburbanshakedown sunelectric supercar supremebeingsofleisure susievandermeer system syv

teenagefanclub teitowa telex tenaciousd teousuelli theÕs theamps theapplesinstereo thebarkays thebetaband thebreeders thecardigans thecenturians thechemicalbrothers thechurch thecinematicorchestra theclash theclebanoffstrings thecommodores thecoxfamily thedandywarhols thedismembermentplan thedustbrothers theevilgeniusorchestra thefaint theflaminglips theherbaliser thehighllamas thehollywoodpersuaders thehumanbeinz thejesusmarychain thekelleydeal thelaziestmenonmars thelivelyones themercuryprogram themonkees themoogcookbook themountaingoats themutatomuzikaorchestra thenotwist theoffspring theohioplayers theorb theoscarpetersontrio thepizzarellis theposies thepostalservice thepresidentsoftheunitedstatesofamerica therefreshments therentals therevels therza theseaandcake thesimpsons thesmashingpumpkins thesoggybottomboys thestanleybrothers thestaplesingers thestatlerbrothers thestrokes thesudwesfunkorchestra thesundays thesuperplastic thetornados thevelvetunderground theverve thevictorsilvesterorchestra theviscounts thewhites thex ecutioners theymightbegiants thieverycorporation thisheat thomasnewman tied tickledtrio timhardin titanlamalarodriguez torococorot tokyosymphonyorchestra tomjones tomandandy tommieckart tommytallarico tomoyasuhotei tone loc tortoise tosca toulousecapitoleorchestra tounge towatei transam travis trevorjones tricky trottertrio turnon tweak tykwerklimekheil unkle uakti umathurman uncletupelo underworld unwound urgeoverkill vanmorrison vanillajadeandebony velocitygirl verlaines vert verucasalt vibenations viennaphilharmonicorchestra vincegiordanoandthenighthawks vinceguaralditrio wallaceroney waltdisneycompany waltergieseking walterrizzati walterwanderley wandadesah wandadesahsergiomendes wangchung warrant warreng warrenzevon wdrorchestra weezer weirdalyankovic weivedecrepon wildcherry williamshatner wojciechkilar wool worldlesspeople yanntiersen yellowhammer yolatengo yokokanno yoshinorisunahara yo yoma ysayequartet yujikoseki zamfir zerodb