Echo Nest, Teaming With Rdio, Brings Next-Level Beats

What happens when you mash up an MIT spun-out music metadata company with a Skype-backed music subscription service? The future of music.

Pandora Look Like a Transistor Radio

A partnership has just been struck that could change the way you listen to music.

The Echo Nest and Rdio today announce that they've joined forces to help developers create the next generation of music apps. The Echo Nest, whose vast trove of automatically collected metadata on music tracks makes Pandora look like a transistor radio, has long offered its data to developers who would make innovative music apps.

Pocket Hipster, for instance, is one such app--in which a cartoonized hipster scrutinizes your music taste, berates you for it, and recommends better tracks. "We're making the bet that music app developers are the future of the music business," Jim Lucchese, CEO of Echo Nest, tells Fast Company. But that future has mostly been limited to brief, 30-second glimpses. The apps resulting from the Echo Nest's data have mostly been apps that, like Pocket Hipster, could only offer you a 30-second track, plus a link to buy it.

All that changes today. At South by Southwest in March, Rdio, the music streaming subscription service with robust social features from the people behind Skype, announced the openness of its new API, which would give "developers the ability to create web applications that can search, access and play all of the artists, songs, albums, playlists, and top charts in Rdio’s catalog of over 8 million songs." Echo Nest heard the news, hopped on the phone with Rdio, and a few weeks later, here we are.

Now developers can use Echo Nest's metadata (is a song upbeat? melancholy?) together with Rdio's catalog of music. And the apps that result won't just offer 30-second clips plus a link to buy the song; provided the user has an Rdio subscription, the apps will offer fully streamable music. "It's like basically having a bunch of Rdio apps sitting on top of Rdio subscription," says Lucchese.

There's one such app available already, by Paul Lamere, an Echo Nest developer. Music Maze is a "steerable music streaming service"--something like Pandora, with a built-in recommendation engine, only you get to choose the path you take through the music. Lucchese calls it a "choose-your-own-adventure playlisting app."

The partnership with Rdio marks a new phase for Echo Nest, which has tweedy academic origins (it began as an MIT thesis), but which seems to us really one of the most powerful and commercially viable companies in music today. "Allowing full-length streaming opens up a whole new class of applications," says Lucchese, making today the day that Echo Nest finally might come on to people's radar in a way that more prominent names in music, like Rhapsody and Pandora, have been for years.

Earlier: "The Echo Nest Makes Pandora Look Like A Transistor Radio"

[Image: Art Renewal Center Museum & Andrew Hur]

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Pandora

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Email David Zax, the author of this post, or follow him on Twitter.

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