Music Hack Day London took place recently at the Barbican. Universal Music was proud to be involved, and delighted to announce a new way of talking about our artists online there.
Why there? Because I believe this announcement could be as beneficial for developers and hackers as it will be for all music fans online.
I’m the Innovation Manager in the Commercial Team and part of my job to make our company better connected to the web. To this end, Universal Music is developing something we’re calling the Artist Gateway, which at provides a webpage for every artist and every album. The idea is to link Universal Music data to the best content on the web. There are three reasons why this is favourable for our artists and labels.
Firstly, we believe that aggregating content around artists and albums represents the most comprehensive experience for fans searching for our music online. Secondly, building artist pages with well-formatted code and good metadata means they are very searchable, which reinforces the journey from search to legal music consumption. Thirdly, creating artist pages using feeds of data and linking that data to the web is advantageous for Universal Music, the developer community and the web as a whole. That’s what I’d like to talk about here.
Aggregating the best of the web
The Artist Gateway will launch early next year with a single page for each of our artists and a single page for each of their releases, be they albums or singles. It is essential that these pages remain up-to-date, refreshing daily. Obviously, this is a mammoth task that’s beyond the scope of human endeavour, which is why we’re using the web.
The Artist Gateway is being developed in tandem with Six Two Productions (whose founder Martyn Davies speaks to midemblog here) and the pages will live at Umusic.co.uk, linking to data and content from a variety of sources: Video from VEVO and YouTube, audio from Spotify, Deezer and Soundcloud, plus quality third party editorial from trusted sources like the BBC and the Guardian.
Note that content will be served from its existing home on the web; the Artist Gateway is just that – a gateway which highlights the best of what’s available online and aids music discovery. This is important: the pages are not a replacement for our existing official artist sites, but rather will drive traffic to those sites, our eCommerce stores and commercial partners.
MusicBrainz and a common language
Obviously, we need a way to make sense of all this data, and one of the ways we’re doing this is by the use of MusicBrainz. MusicBrainz is an online encyclopedia that provides a unique identifier for artists and their music.
For example, one of Universal Music’s most exciting acts is Nero, the dubstep duo whose single Promises went to number one this year. But historically, there have been four distinct artists called ‘Nero’ and the web needs some way of knowing which artist we actually mean. MusicBrainz and unique identifiers allow different websites and applications to precisely refer to a certain artist, to get the right Nero. This is called disambiguation.
Additionally, the use of MusicBrainz ID’s allows us to programmatically link to content by others using MusicBrainz ID’s like BBC Music and the Guardian. It’s worth noting that both The Guardian and BBC Music have each done significant work around artists and linked data (click on those links for more on each).
Ultimately, if Universal Music and other content owners start talking about artists and albums using common identifiers, then we create a web of interlinked data, initiating countless journeys of music discovery.
The Universal Music Artist Gateway launches early 2012.