More permanent stuff at

17 January 2009

MP3 Blog Aggregators

I started this post as a "Dear Lazyweb" but decided against it. I'm actually going to do something about this particular problem.

I subscribe to quite a few MP3 blogs. As I told a friend recently, "there is no quenching the thirst for new music." It occupies a fair amount of my internet time, but has lead me to good tunes. And good tunes translates to a happy Gary, so it's time well spent.

One of the biggest problems with MP3 blogs as they exist today is that if you come across something good, there is no easy way to say "find me more like this" without doing all the legwork yourself. Sure, the poster might mention "this sounds like X, Y, or Z," but that is just one persons opinion. I've tried a few mp3 blog aggregators and found a decent one, but there is still a lot noise and I'm not very happy with it. It is just that much better than the competition, which is poor to start with.

Social networking to the rescue. Audioscrobbler has silently been rolling out more APIs over the last 12 months, mostly without anybody noticing. They haven't shut off any of the old services that I currently use (the music section on my website), but they are requiring an API key to use the new services. One of the old services that has been reincarnated in the new is the "find simliar" feature, where an artist or song is supplied and related matches are returned. To be fair, Pandora does a better job of this than, but Pandora has no API that I can use.

So the project, and I've already started pounding out code, is to scan the music blogs, figure out how they link to MP3s, grab the ID3 tag and then store that information in a database along with a link back to the original post. Several interesting things could be done with that information:

1. Find me posts (and mp3s) of related artists or songs. That isn't terribly interesting, but takes some of the legwork out of doing it manually.

2. Zeitgeist tracking. The difference between the good music blogs and the less-good blogs is that the good ones go out on their own to find new music, artists and information, rather than recycle what is being hashed on other blogs.

3. Search-based aggregate syndication feeds. Imagine being able to create an RSS/ATOM feed based on aritst or artist-similarity. This feed would aggregate all the posts that you find interesting. For example, you could create a feed that would return all posts mentioning Belle & Sebastian, or posts that contain references to artists similar to Belle & Sebastian. Pre-filtered information like this is a great time saver.

That's about it for now. I don't know if this kind of tool would be very useful for many. But it is fun to hack at and I've had a hard time lately finding recreational programming tasks that engage my passions. Also, this one is my first real venture into python, which is turning out to be quite fun. The website is in pylons, the spider is plain python, and they both communicate with the database using SQLAlchemy.


Jonathan Ellis said...

You checked out formalchemy, right? :)