SXSW debuts Music Hackathon

imagesThe South by Southwest interactive, film and music festival in Austin, Texas hosted its first annual Music Hackathon, where “world-class hackers and designers will have 24 hours to create new tech innovations in the music space for artists, industry and fans.”

For those who aren’t familiar, hackathons are events where programmers, designers, developers and creative types from all walks of life come together to create an innovative product in, usually, a 24-hour period. Sleeping is slightly frowned upon and those participating almost survive entirely on pizza and caffeine. It’s a hybrid of creative ingenuity and a a high school sleep over where everyone’s drinking Surge.

Dozens of teams participated in Austin, Texas last week, and a full list of the projects created can be found online. The winner, a project titled Moot and only described as a “looper application that you can loop over and add in artist tracks and more,” received a $10,000 prize.

The hacks from the SXSW event range anywhere from playlist creation apps to personal music mixers and social media platforms. Seriously, give this list a quick glance and see everything that was made.

Hackathons are normally events for anyone interested, and being an “expert” isn’t necessary, and SXSW’s first music hackathon differed in this area slightly—participants included “invited winners of previous worldwide music hackathons, experts from cutting-edge music tech companies, and hackers from the public at large.”

The inaugural music hackathon is the beginning of a desirable future: Music, both as a business and passion, working with technology to better advance the industry for everyone, at every end of the spectrum

The music and technology industries have a complicated relationship. Even before the age of Napster, Spotify and torrents, there has always been contention over music distribution, ownership, royalties and digitization. The switch from vinyl to digital music, at least in terms of distributing music to the masses, sparked the controversy of whom owns what, and the legality of reproducing music on one’s own. Basically we’ve all burned a CD and, at the very least, torrented one full discography.

Aside from Thom Yorke’s outspoken hatred for Spotify, the music/technology relationship seems to be doing better. And the SXSW music hackathon is additional proof that music executives are turning to developers and programmers to continue moving the industry forward.  Justin Timberlake—a triple threat actor, singer and entrepreneur—took the struggling Myspace under his wing to redesign the entire site as a social media platform for musicians, performers, designers, etc. The overall look of the Myspace redesign was impressive, and even though the site has yet to catch up to social media giants Facebook and Twitter, Timberlake’s actions prove there’s a future in technology for music we haven’t explored yet.

And he’s not the only big name getting into the technology game.

Neil Young recently funded Pono Music through Kickstarter—in about a day, actually, totaling about $2 million in two days—with the goal to redefine how we experience music in our headphones. Pono, a triangular prism-shaped device, allows listeners to hear a higher resolution sound that is roughly the equivalent of the live, studio master recording.

You’ll need to buy top-notch headphones, though, and the device is retailed at $399.

I don’t think we’re all going to be sending each other songs through our Myspace accounts while developing personalized software and gadgets to enhance our listening experience. A lot of us would have a decent amount of coding and software development to learn. The next generation, though? Most definitely.

It seems the era where the Internet was believed to have ruined the music industry forever is coming to end, and a new era of encouraging new innovation from developers, musicians and executives alike has arrived. Now, more than ever, the individual consumer can be be involved in the development of the next Spotify, Pandora or Garageband application.

You have to wonder what’s next, and more importantly, are you going to be the one to create it?


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