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This article was published on December 5, 2011

Spotify, Kinect and more: The best hacks from Music Hack Day London

Spotify, Kinect and more: The best hacks from Music Hack Day London
Edward James Bass
Story by

Edward James Bass

Edward James Bass is Social Media Manager at Amaze PLC, and editor of Sound : Vision : Data Edward James Bass is Social Media Manager at Amaze PLC, and editor of Sound : Vision : Data

It’s been over a year since Music Hack Day last visited London and during that period we’ve seen some serious developments in the world of digital music including several labels announcing partnerships which will allow developers to easily access content and develop apps – something that was previously difficult due to licensing issues.

This growth in available music data is great news for the eager developers who attend the event and so it’s no surprise that this year featured some fantastic hacks created during a 24 hour period at the Barbican Center. Here’s our pick of the best from the 60+ hacks that were demoed this year..


The first hack to really impress (and not just us, as it picked up several prizes at the end) was an interactive music installation that allows users to manipulate audio from Spotify using effects and a synthesizer controlled by two iPhones.

Using data from Echonest to provide the tempo and key of a track, and Pure Data to manipulate the audio, this hack from the team at Reactify Music demonstrated what could be possible in the future for people looking interact with their Spotify tracks in new and interesting ways.

Music Monsters Shape Mashup

Working from the concept of a virtual pet that is ‘fed’ by facts about music,  this hack makes use of the Echonest and Last.fm APIs to help grow your fact-hungry beastie. Once it’s in good shape you can then challenge other users’ monsters in what the developers describe as ‘epic fact battles’.

We think this clever gamification of music facts could be a very appealing take on a popular concept.

Music Monster is demoed


It was inevitable that, following the recent announcement of its open API for developing apps that we’d see some cool stuff developed for Spotify at this Music Hack Day. This app aggregates reviews from leading music websites and blogs, including Drowned in Sound, Resident Advisor and XLR8R and delivers them to you directly within the Spotify desktop app.

For those of us keen to stay on top of the best new music this could be something of killer app.

Kinect Killed the Video Star

There were several hacks that made use of Microsoft’s hugely popular motion sensor technology, but this hack, which uses a ‘green screen’ to allow users to insert themselves into their favourite music videos or album art, was certainly the most impressive. If the developers can get around the obvious licensing issues, then we could see this being a massive hit on the Xbox in the future.

Honorary mentions also go to Notorious Siri – the demo of which featured four iPhones using Siri performing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the Helemin – a bizzare cross between a helicopter and a theremin and Owl Octave – an owl centric synthesiser app for the iPad which provided a huge amount of amusement during the demo sessions.

It’s clear from what was demonstrated that right now Music Hack Day is the bright frontier for digital music and I’ve no doubt we’ll see some of the ideas and concepts we’ve seen evolving further and entering the mainstream in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about the hacks featured then take a look at the Music Hack Day wiki page here.

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