Berklee Blogs checks in with Ben Scudder, a Music Business major and current intern at The Echo Nest. In today’s post, Ben tells Berklee Blogs about an exciting project at The Echo Nest revolutionizing music intelligence- and how his classroom experiences have contributed to the project in unexpected ways
There are noteworthy topics being discussed at my internship office lately, focusing greatly on future developments. As made public a few weeks ago, the Echo Nest recently secured $17.3 million in funding to drive the company’s international expansion, continued sales growth, and new product development. Led by Norwest Venture Partners, this achievement signifies the rapid growth occurring within the company walls and beyond. For example, during my first month or so at the internship there were several new hires just about every week. The company has plans to expand beyond its current core business of music intelligence and hire people to fill non-engineering roles, focusing attention on an expanded sales team. I have to say that being a part of the team this summer and seeing this level of positive growth first hand has been like a breath of fresh air.
Ever since I began looking into an education in the music business, I was uncertain about the stability of my future. It seemed like everywhere I looked people were advising against it; “The recording business is over,” or “You’re going to be poor” were common responses from people I both knew and read about online in regards to this career path. Coming to Berklee and getting involved in this business truly felt risky because it’s a non-traditional career path. During my first years here, I didn’t understand the critical role that music technology and applications have in shaping the future of music. Now, I am experiencing the new music business first hand and seeing new revenue streams being created, new technologies being developed, and seeing the potential that is within so many people come to life and flourish! It is so reassuring to work with fellow music fans to help shape the future of music interaction. The Echo Nest is the perfect example of a company that has set a high standard of innovation and excellence, and takes advantage of every technology at its disposal to create a better product and user experience. The employees are people who inspire me and make me want to work harder, and the success of this company has reassured me that there is a brighter future for this business in the years to come.
I am currently working as part of the Audio QA team on an exciting new project. We are working on creating an algorithm that will eventually be able to read songs automatically and extract detailed information about them such as song form, the track “liveness” (whether or not the track is a live recording), mood, “dancibility,” etc. Some of these data points are relatively subjective, so we are developing standards by which to measure our test tracks. The past few weeks our team has been pioneering this process by manually going through 200 of these test tracks and gathering “section data,” which is detailed song form information. This is just the first step in developing a tool that will help the Echo Nest continue to have the edge in the music intelligence business by enabling the creation of higher quality music applications. We on the audio team are excited to be part of this process, recognizing that we are taking on a task that has never been done before in history. It sounds overly dramatic in a sense, but it’s the truth and it gets me excited to deliver only my best. This is a great project that challenges me in many ways and highlights some of my strengths and weaknesses.
As a musician with a Berklee education, I have an adequate skill set to analyze the test tracks. The process has actually been beneficial in deepening my understanding of song construction and songwriting in general. I have also picked up audio editing software skills, which thanks to my Berklee training, have been a quick learn. The process has put to use my critical listening and song analysis skills that I garnered in the classroom years ago. It’s in these situations that I appreciate my education to a greater degree than when I am in the classroom. After several experiences of being surprised at the re-emergence of a classroom skill, I never ask myself the question “why am I learning this?” or “when am I going to use this in life?” The truth is that all knowledge is worth knowing, and you never know when you are going to need it. Though I have confidence in these strengths, obvious challenges have arisen.
My job requires me to be on the computer all day, which is a challenge in itself for me. I have a hard time maintaining focus while looking at an LCD screen for 8 hours. My task as part of the audio team requires extra focus when analyzing song section information, especially in making measurements to the tenth of a second. Precision is something that the engineers need to make the sharpest algorithm they can, so I need to report accurate data to them. Maintaining this precision 7 hours into my day can be a challenge, which has forced me to consider new techniques to stay focused. Among other reasons unrelated to my internship, I have made significant lifestyle changes to be better focused. With so much distraction in this world to keep me from my doing my best work, I have deleted my Facebook account, I make time to read in the morning before work, and I exercise much more than I ever have in my life. While these are steps of improvement that don’t exclusively apply to my workplace, I can say that my quality of work and focus have greatly improved altogether because of them. Being in a workplace as vibrant as the Echo Nest inspired me to be more productive and was a factor in my lifestyle changes. By no means do I think this is what everyone should do or that it’s the only way to be more focused, but it’s what works for me. I encourage anyone to find what works for him or her in becoming a more focused and productive person, as it will make life much more rewarding!
Read Ben’s Other Posts: