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About Playola

What's it for?
This web site has been constructed to evaluate various music similarity measures. The data that we collect will be used to improve automatic systems for artist similarity matching, which can be applied to music indexing, search, and recommendation systems.

What is it?
Playola is a music similarity browsing tool. You can find new music by moving around in a music "space" and listening to songs (or short clips) that are nearby in the space. As you listen, you can give us feedback on the experience by clicking a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" icon, which tells us whether or not you agree with the similarity matching. The similarity matching system is completely automated and audio-based -- that is, songs are not labeled or matched by hand.

How does it work?
Music can be described in many different ways - the quality of the singer's voice, the meaning of the lyrics, the instrumentation, the tempo, and so on. To form a music space, we pick several descriptive features and call them musical dimensions, because they represent ways to "measure" a song. Then we do just that - measure each song along each of the "dimensions", using pattern classification techniques. For more details, see the technical report. For example, one dimension may measure the "Punk-ness", another the "Electronica-ness", and so on.

Currently, our 14 dimensions represent 12 different genres in addition to male/female-ness and high/lo-fidelity.

Our database contains short clips from several hundred well-known pop artists, plus several thousand "unsigned" bands. Part of our goal is to provide a new way of discovering music without relying on radio stations and the big record labels to determine what we get to hear. Try starting with a band you know you like, and explore the nearby neighbors in music space.

Keep in mind that Playola is a demonstration and testing research system: we're constantly experimenting with different music similarity measures and recommendation algorithms, so the site may change quite often, and it's guaranteed to be buggy! You like bugs, right?


Privacy and Participation

Policy concerning the use of human subjects in scientific research (that's you) precludes the involvement of minors without special oversight. For this reason, we ask you not to participate in this experiment if you are younger than 18 years old. Your co-operation is much appreciated.

Information such as similarity match feedback and song ratings are recorded for research purposes. However, this information is completely anonymous: we do not record any personal information such as your name or email address. The login required to enter the site is used strictly to keep track of user accounts, and can bear no relation to your real name.

You can of course discontinue your participation at any time.

Thank you so much for your participation!

For any questions about this research, please feel free to contact us at: playola@ee.columbia.edu

Research Team: Adam Berenzweig and Dan Ellis (Columbia), Steve Lawrence (NECI), and Brian Whitman (MIT).