The Brainz are Back in Town

Thursday, 24 November 2011
by adrian
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 18

Many moons ago Last.fm set up a collaboration with MusicBrainz, the open-source music metadata database and community. MusicBrainz use special keys known as MusicBrainz Identifiers (MBIDs) to uniquely identify artists, labels, songs and many other music-related entities. One of the main ideas behind them is that anyone can use these keys to identify and cross-reference musical entities, even if they come from different sources.

For example, an album review site could publish the MBID for an album being reviewed and someone could take this MBID and look up the album on MusicBrainz (or some other site supporting MBID lookups) to find out more information about it.

That was then

The plan at the time was to regularly synchronise MBIDs with the artists, albums and tracks in Last.fm’s catalogue. The MBIDs (or should those be MBIDz?) could then be used to query for these entities using our API, or to link across different services using the MusicBrainz ids as an external mashup key. Last.fm API calls also return MusicBrainz ids where applicable (see artist.getInfo for an example).

This continued successfully for a while until a few shake ups and changes over here resulted in us temporarily dropping the ball on this one and the regular updates stopped (we did however keep the historical data).

MusicBrainz members hanging out in Last.fm’s ball pit back in the day (photo by Mayhem).

This is now

The good news is that we reconnected with MusicBrainz while we were visiting San Francisco for this year’s Hadoop Summit and are recommitting ourselves to being good citizens of the MusicBrainz community.

Our first step is to once again synchronise Last.fm artists, albums and tracks with their relatives over at MusicBrainz using their Live Data Feed which means we’ll be updating these once an hour. We’ve already started doing this and have more information on the technical details over in our development discussion forum.

To the future and beyond

Once we are in synch again we will start looking at other ways we can more actively work together with MusicBrainz and also with others like The Guardian and the BBC who use MusicBrainz Identifiers too. We also hope to leverage MusicBrainz’s experience with handling artist and album disambiguation to improve how we model music on Last.fm. We currently have the pleasure of hosting one of their developers (OCharles) at our London offices a couple of days a week to work on these and other related issues.

So, if you have any questions, comments or requests for features please ask them over on the forum, catch you there.