Mini ListenBrainz update released today

Following up on our release from last week, we found a number of minor problems in production that were really hard to spot on our test setup. Sometimes you need to have real data flowing through your system before you can find the real problems.

The following pull requests were merged and released just now:

This should hopefully make the follow page work a little better for everyone. 🙂

ListenBrainz: Our new follow page

As promised, here is another blog post about the exciting new Follow page. The goal of this page is to finally make use of the data we collect in ListenBrainz and expose a new feature designed to let our users discover more music.

To use this new feature, you’ll need to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. Ideally you should give permission to record your listens and to play Spotify content. But if you’re not ready to dive into recording your listens, start with playback first. N.B. In order to really take advantage of this new feature, you’ll need a premium Spotify account.

Then head over to the recent listens page and hover over the tracks that are listed there. If the user listened on Spotify, then a play button will appear and you can listen to the track. Please note that playing from this page will interrupt whatever you’re already playing on Spotify. If you find that a user is listening to interesting music and you’d like to follow the user, head to the follow page and use the Follow Users section to add this user to your follow list.

When a user in your follow list finishes listening to a track, that track will appear as a line in the Playlist. In theory, you’ll be able to keep listening to what your followed users are playing: the player will attempt to play as many tracks as it can play and to keep the music going. The player also has a previous and next track button that allows you to easily skip tracks that you don’t like. Our team has found this feature exciting and to some extent even has started DJing for each other!

We’re pushing into new territory trying to offer music discovery features and trying out new features that we’ve not seen before. Expect bugs, missing features, and reactions of “why didn’t they do X?”. To be honest, we’re not entirely happy with it and we know that there are features missing. But we felt it important to push this out in order to start getting feedback from you — and we are also excited about the Spotify integration! That said, please continue reading and if you feel that we screwed something up, please open a ticket!

Also, keep in mind that we’re pushing against the tide of the music industry. Established players want to keep everything closed, controlled and in their silo (Apple Music, Tidal, etc). Spotify is slightly more open and allows us to record user’s histories and music playback from web pages, so we focused on working on Spotify first.

This has the unfortunate side-effect of making these new features useful only if you have a premium Spotify account, and following users who are not on Spotify is useless: we don’t know how to play this content. This blows — we know it and we hate it ourselves. But we needed to start with something to show what we’re trying to do and to generate some interest. If people are interested, we can start working in supporting more services and making more of the music in our pages playable.

Finally, the recording user’s listens API endpoint at Spotify has an annoying tendency to fall behind sometimes, which means that the flow of listens from Spotify slows or stops altogether, which is… less than ideal. We’re prodding Spotify to keep the bits flowing if at all possible, but know that all of this is a work in progress.

In fact, the release has already generated a flurry of fixes that we’ll push live before too long. A lot of these sorts of fixes are for problems that you can only see when real-live data flows through the data pipelines: these are tricky features to debug!

Please play with the follow feature and tell us what you think! If you know other services that we can use to play music from the data we have available, please comment! If you find bugs or have suggestions for how we make these features better, please open a ticket!

Have fun and discover some new music,
The ListenBrainz Team

ListenBrainz release: Spotify account linking and our first music discovery features!

For the past few months we’ve been working on enabling ListenBrainz to record your Spotify listening history automatically and we’ve just now released this feature! If you would like ListenBrainz to record your Spotify listening history automatically (and make it public!), go here to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. We’ll take care of the rest!

We would like to encourage as many users as possible to record their listening histories in ListenBrainz. With the data we collect and safeguard for you, we will soon start building more music discovery features. Please help our mission and go connect your account now!

This release also adds two new pages: Recent listens and the “follow” page. The recent listens page shows the most recent listens that we’ve saved in ListenBrainz for any user. This is a convenient way for you to discover other users who are currently listening to music.

The follow page is the new feature that we’re really excited about — it allows you to listen to the music that other people are currently listening to — pick a number of users to follow and their recent listens will appear on the page. The new embedded Spotify player can start playing the music as the listens roll in. This allows you to follow your friends and learn about music that they love! We’re going to write another blog post that talks more about the follow page and how we plan to improve that going forward — stay tuned for that.

This release also re-organizes the menu layout a little, moving the most useful features so that they’re easily accessible. Behind the scenes we’ve upgraded to using Python 3.7, starting using some portions of React for our user interface and also found ourselves amazed that this release included 646 commits! We hope to go to a more regular schedule of releases from here on out — this was a big push for us with a lot of infrastructure improvements that were needed.

This release would not have been possible if Monkey (from BookBrainz) didn’t come and help us write the UI for the follow feature. Monkey, iliekcomputers and myself worked relentlessly for weeks trying to push out some exciting features that show off the first steps for what we have planned for ListenBrainz. We’re quite excited for this release and we hope that you’ll enjoy the follow page and discover new music!

Freedb gateway: End of life notice, March 18, 2019

Many moons ago people clamoured for a way for them to use MusicBrainz via their old FreeDB (and others) enabled players. The hope was that this would be a short term solution as more players picked up MusicBrainz support so we created the FreeDB gateway that allowed old clients to use an ancient interface to look up CDs with MusicBrainz.

We’ve been maintaining this gateway for over 11 years now and recently we had a user asking questions about their new music player and that they were having a hard time getting it to work with our FreeDB gateway.

Wait, what? Someone is developing specifically for a stop-gap measure? Clearly the goal of FreeDB gateway has been misconceived and people are not treating it as a gateway to using the proper MusicBrainz API endpoints.

We’re no longer keen on supporting this gateway and have been having trouble finding volunteers to maintain it. Our internal staff has enough to do with our own duties and have no interest in further maintaining this and neither do I.

For these reasons the FreeDB gateway is going away in 6 months time; March 18 will be the absolute last day that the gateway will be functioning. Should something crash and the gateway experience problems before then, we’ll just kill the VM that the gateway is running on and call it a day.

11 years of temporary is enough — if you use this service, migrate to a proper MusicBrainz endpoint right now!

AcousticBrainz migration: We’re on!

We had to postpone the migration of AcousticBrainz last week since we ran out of time (our database is getting to be sizable!). We’ve migrated the bulk of our data and are now ready to move the last bits and call the move complete.

Downtime will start very soon — follow us on twitter for more detailed updates.

AcousticBrainz downtime: Migrating hosting to our other servers

Today we’re going to migrate the AcousticBrainz service from its standalone server that we’ve rented in the past few years to our shared infrastructure at Hetzner. We’ve been prepping for this move for a few weeks now and the actual process to follow has been used before, so we don’t expect the downtime to be more than 1 hour.

We’re sorry for the downtime that will be coming — to keep up with what we’re doing, please follow our progress on Twitter. We hope to start the migration in the next hour or two from when this blog post goes up.

 

BookBrainz is now an official MetaBrainz project!

After many years as a community driven project and often under-staffed, the BookBrainz project has always been the red-headed step child of our projects. A few weeks ago I asked if the community felt that we should make BookBrainz an official project of the foundation and got a very positive response.

After that, we started informally seeking developers to take on this position, leading to the hire of Monkey, who will now be the lead of the BookBrainz project, taking over for Ben Ockmore. Ben will take on a contributor role to BookBrainz going forward and remain on the project! Thanks for all of your hard efforts in the past, Ben!

While Monkey comes up to speed on the codebase, we’ve been brainstorming what features he should focus on first . The short term focus on BookBrainz will be on bringing it into our hosting setup at Hetzner, which means making the codebase ready for running inside of docker with all of the MetaBrainz specific hosting quirks. Part of this project will be to remove elastic search and to utilize our new Solr based search system that we recently released for MusicBrainz.

After getting BookBrainz moved to our hosting facility that focus will be to create a minimally viable product. What exactly does this mean? One of the frequent complaints I’ve received about BookBrainz is that it is missing core functionality of a proper metadata project. Core functionality means that a user should be able to view and edit all of the metadata that is in BookBrainz and then retrieve this data from the BookBrainz API. It should include full data dumps with incremental data dumps being added a bit later.

What do you think the missing core features of BookBrainz are?

Finally, we’re in discussions with the OpenLibrary team, wondering how to best work together and not to duplicate efforts — we’ll post more about this once we’ve reached an agreement with the OpenLibrary team on how we should proceed.

Thanks!