Peter Kafka

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Echo Nest Raises $17 Million for Musical Big Data

You have to be incredibly brave or foolish to bet investment money on a digital music start-up. But what about a data company, which happens to sell services to digital music start-ups?

That seems more palatable. At least to the investors putting $17 million into The Echo Nest, which maintains databases used by companies like Spotify, Vevo and Nokia.

Norwest Venture Partners led the round, and previous investors like Matrix and Jim Palotta, who had put more than $8 million into the company, re-upped.

People like saying “big data” right now, and Echo Nest describes itself as “the leading music big data company.” What that really means is that it has a giant pile of information that music companies use to create recommendation engines and other features for their services.

The best thing about that business is that Echo Nest gets to participate in digital music without having to deal with the headaches and costs of music licensing, which have sunk just about everyone who has tried to make a go of it so far (the jury is still out on Pandora and Spotify).

The downside is that there are a limited number of digital music companies that can use what Echo Nest is selling. Because digital music companies are really hard to run.

So now Echo Nest is positioning itself to sell services to companies that don’t specialize in music, too. It argues that its database could help “a wide range of applications” with tasks like “social discovery,” because it turns out that musical taste and preferences may help predict people’s taste and preferences for other stuff.

As a test case, the company has run the numbers on correlating musical taste and political affiliation. You may not be surprised to learn that country fans lean Republican and Rihanna fans like Democrats, but there’s more interesting stuff at this blog post.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/1971yes)


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus