Music hackathons and hack days are approaching an inflection point that suggests marketing and business development opportunities for labels, music businesses and music tech companies. Given the growing interest from major labels in Midem's Music Hack Day, the music industry manager celeb aspect of Backplane's upcoming hackathon at SXSW and the fact that interesting hacks are showing their ability to reap media coverage, there's a likelihood that music hack days are set to shift gears and that some could become serious marketing opportunities.
I believe we're in a period in which music-related companies could sponsor music hack days in a manner that would give a fresh look to their brand especially if accompanied by more serious outreach to press. However, such an approach will likely conflict with the values of hardcore coders and community discussions have already revealed concerns regarding the current phase of hackathons across the board.
Here are some resources I've gathered to get you started but, if you decide hosting a music hack day is a step you want to take, my best advice is to find someone who's serious about programming, who doesn't reject marketing as a form of selling out and who has experience with hackathons, ideally as an organizer.
The Larger Landscape
For a look at the larger landscape of hackathons check out Steven Leckart in Wired who not only describes a bit of his own experience at one but, more importantly, shows how big hackathons have become in the tech world.
Music Hack Days & Hackathons
Examples of people who would know what's up include Paul Lamere who provides a nice description of what a Music Hack Day is all about on his blog Music Machinery. [Doh! Failed to mention that Lamere is Director of Platform Development at The Echo Nest, a crucial player at a crucial company.]
Another would be Robert Jandura-Cessna who is developing the MyMuzik Stand and has sponsored a series of Hacking-4-Muzik events to connect with programmers and push forward the development of the MyMusic Stand.
Tips on How To Throw a Hackathon
Jandura-Cessna contributed tips for an intro article at Entrepreneur, "Why and How to Host a Hackathon."
Ben Doernberg offers a much more detailed guide to "How to Throw the Perfect Hackathon."
Alexey Komissarouk has a series of blog posts about hosting and sponsoring college hackathons with some smart advice for businesses who want to get in on the action.
Possible Culture Clash
A really interesting thread at Hacker News reveals the emerging issues of hackathons related to differences between hardcore hacker culture and venture capital society among other relevant concerns. If you're going to do one of these things, I would definitely recommend reading this thread to get a sense of issues that might not be obvious to outsiders.
It's Not Just About Marketing
Though I introduced this post with a marketing hook, there are other great reasons to hold a music hackathon. Some companies are finding ways to move products forward, as is the case with MyMuzik. Others are using them to connect with and publicize such resources as APIs to the programming community.
But even if one is holding a hackathon focused on one's own products, whether a music label's catalog or a music tech companies services, recruiting programming talent is perhaps a more realistic and even more valuable approach to hosting and/or sponsoring a hackathon. We're already in a crunch for good programmers and that's likely to continue.
If you pursue the idea of holding a music hackathon in order to reap business benefits, I'd love to hear from you and am open to a bit of brainstorming regarding marketing possibilities as well.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.