First Music Hack Day Builds Bridge Between Local Tech, Music Scenes

There might have been a time when the kids in bands and the kids who coded didn’t get along. But those days are in the past, and the upcoming Music Hack Day Denver is an example of that.

Music Hack Day Denver is part of an international series of events that’s a few years old, with prior days in London, Berlin, and Barcelona. The vision is to bring together programmers, designers, and artists to create tech for the fast-changing music industry, said Antony Bruno, who’s organizing the Denver event.

As long as it’s music related, Hack Day participants can work on software, hardware, mobile, Web, instruments, or art.

The first Denver edition is this weekend at Galvanize. The event begins Saturday at 9 a.m. with breakfast and registration. The 24-hour competition begins at 1:30 p.m. and culminates Sunday with public demos at 3 p.m. that will be followed by awards.

About 100 coders are expected, and around 10 companies are making APIs (application programming interfaces) available, Bruno said. About 50 people have signed up for the demos, and there are a few spots left for coders and spectators, Bruno said.

Music Hack Day is a fun chance to get together and make introductions, and tech startups in the music industry are serious about supporting it, Bruno said. Beatport is the official “presenter,” and sponsors include Spotify and SoundCloud. Soundkeep and The Echo Nest are helping with organization.

Those companies are part of the wave of digital startups that have revolutionized the music industry over the past 15 years. Bruno watched it happen as a former music journalist. For seven years, he was Billboard magazine’s executive director of content and programming for digital.

“I’ve covered the space as it has evolved from the beginning. Coders and people in app development are the future of the industry,” Bruno said.

Traditional figures in the industry like record companies have woken up to that future, and are becoming much more open to startups and hackers, but there’s still work to do.

“They are very much a part of the industry, but there needs to be a stronger connection and bridge between the traditional industry and tech,” he said.

That’s a big part of the reason so many young digital companies are involved, both on an international and local level, Bruno said. They have products they want developers to know about, and the industry wants to keep an eye out for new ideas.

“The digital music industry is very much in its infancy, and there are a lot of cool apps that could pop up. A brainstorming session could lead to the next app everybody uses,” Bruno said. “A lot of digital music services with APIs participate to promote their APIs to developers and maybe find new and interesting uses for that API.”

Of course it isn’t all business. Music Hack Day Denver is being hosted in conjunction with the Denver Post’s Underground Music Showcase. The four-day event starts today and features 400 performances by influential cult favorites like Mudhoney and more than 100 local acts.

The partnership helps both parties, Bruno said. For local music fans and bands, it’s one of the biggest events of the year. The showcase is on the music industry’s map and is a reminder that there’s more to Colorado’s music scene than the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. Meanwhile, showcase organizers are interested in expanding beyond concerts, Bruno said.

If the first incarnation of Music Hack Day is successful, it could lead to a continued collaboration not just with the showcase, but also between Colorado’s tech and music scenes.

“This is a grassroots, organic way of gathering these people,” Bruno said. “I really hope this could be the start of something.”

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