Win Butler, Neon Hitch & Robert DeLong Participate in SXSW Music Hackathon

Travis Laurendine

The second official SXSW Music Hackathon kicked off last Wednesday (March 18) in a comfy ballroom just across the street from the Austin Convention Center with teams pitching their ideas to a room full of programmers, designers and data engineers ready to work and eager to learn.

Once teams were formed, they had a 24-hour period to execute the ideas which concluded the following day with presentations from the artists in residence, which included Arcade Fire's Win Butler (operating as DJ Windows 98), Neon Hitch and Robert DeLong -- each of whom participated with hacks of their own.

DeLong worked with Ableton and Microsoft, two of the hackathon event's major sponsors, to turn his body into an instrument which he then used the past two days on stage at his shows, including his set at the YouTube space just around the corner at Coppertone. Neon Hitch created an interactive video stage show working with Kinect developers. And DJ Windows 98 created a homage to the late Microsoft operating system using a vintage CRT monitor that was controlled by fans in the audience via Kinect.

"It was such an inspiring experience to collaborate with such innovative minds today at the SXSW Music hackathon," said Neon Hitch in an email to Billboard. "I love merging technology with music; it's like the ultimate two-part harmony. The manner in which we achieved that blending of sounds and pixels today was a quintessential demonstration of the beauty that comes when two brilliant worlds collide."

Mobile and wearable techs ascension to the top of the tech food chain were apparent at this year's event. Many of the hacks were being powered by big data sources, including Gracenote and OpenAura, and many of the hacks were ways to parse or illuminate the mashup of this data.

Warner Music also had a presence on the data front with their new Warner Music API, whose beta they made available to just the SXSW hackers to see what the reaction is, and use the feedback in readying the API for full launch. The experimental API platform provides software developers with self-service access to select popular music clips for use in the prototyping and (eventually) commercial development of apps and games. It's powered by B2B music cloud provider Omnifone, and the API library contains 90-second clips of popular music from the '60s through present day, and will continue to grow with future iterations of the product.

At the event's close at the Austin Convention Center, a panel of judges assembled to critique the hackathon's finalists and select a winner. They included Ty Roberts (Gracenote), Alex White (Next Big Sound), Jonathan Dworkin (Warner Music Group), Bryan Calhoun (Blueprint), Eric Sheinkop (Music Dealers), Jonathan Hull (Facebook), Todd Hansen (SXSW) and Marc Ruxin (Rdio).

Dan Noskin, a one-man team (suitably dubbed Dandelion), came to the hackathon wanting to learn about the new Apple Watch. Using Rdio and, he created a QR code that would show up on an Apple Watch face that aggregates listening data. After a user scans the code from another watch, his app would surface the current song they're listening to using Rdio to play full songs or 30 seocnd previews with other services., an austin-based team, is kind of like the MeerKat for music. They allow anyone in the real world to broadcast geo-tagged video and plot it on a map. With their service, you can discover new music all over the world. It uses as a live streaming service.

Know Your Music (aka Kym), presented by Vince Davis, goes through your existing library on your phone and brings up relevant information about your music using APIs from various sources. You can also hook up the app to your apple TV or your Apple Watch, so when you're listening to music at home it shows relevant tweets from the artist.

SetStory aims to solve a problem in festival logisitics. Currently, no tool exists to objectively evaluate the potential of an event's success based on its artists. Using OpenAura to grab information from various social feeds, it comes up with a quantifiable score for festival promotors or organizers that would evaluate an event's financial viability.

Groopy, a local music app, wants to help you find up and coming new artists in the city. Users can also look at other cities, and even discover other bands from other cities. They used the Rdio API to play the music and the Echonest API to look up the band's locale.

Bandarama is a workout tool that provides video and sonic feedback to a user based on how well they're performing while exercising. If you're running, for example, and your heart rate slows down, the tempo of the music will slow down and encourage the user to run faster. As hilariouisly demonstrated by team members Boris Polania and Guillermo Zambrano, who ran in circles around the room to demonstrate that once you started running again, the tempo of whatever music playing speeds back up and an applause sound effect is added to motivate the user.

Divebomb uses the xbox kinect to bring users into the music using virtual reality. As songs play, notes fly across the screen and the user's avatar, manipulated by the user, can move to hit the notes as they touch across the screen.

Mashr is an app that would take two different songs and then mash them together using the Gracenote api. They also tie into the musicnote api to find out if two different songs would work well together or not.

To close out the show, artist Neon Hitch performed a song as part of her collaboration with Microsoft with a song called "Sparks," using the xbox kinect to create a crazy visual to go along with her song.

In the end, the check for $10,000 was presented to Dandelion, but it's safe to say that all participants went home with a valuable learning experience.

List of finalists and their teams is below:

Winning team: Daniel Noskin. Dandelion


Groupies Stephen Schwahn 

Groupies Shawn Shaw 

Groupies Revanth Anireddy

Groupies Milan Raj 

HitBeat Jake Ruesink

HitBeat Shaofeng Yang 

HitBeat Bob Neelbauer Brandon Wilson Scott Carlson Wes Todd Jeff Callahan

Kym Vince Davis 

Mashr Sam Maynard 

Mashr Jacob van Geffen 

Mashr Keivaun Waugh 

(Cardboard name changed to Dive Bomb)

Cardboard Alex Chisholm 

Cardboard Devan Huapaya 

Cardboard Pooja Jhunjhunwala

Cardboard Brandon Arroyo

Cardboard Forrest Hicks

(Name changed to Bandarama)

Bandster Boris Polania 

Bandster Guillermo Zambrano 




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