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Gracenote: A Ubiquitous Music Database

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Any time you play an audio CD and your computer's music player automatically looks up information about the album, it's likely you've just used Gracenote, a huge online database of audio information.

The Gracenote Media Database, formerly known as the CDDB, has been used by more than 150 million individuals worldwide over the past eight years of its existence, for a total of about six billion database searches.

While these are impressive numbers, most of Gracenote's revenue comes by licensing access to its database and a growing number of other services to many online music services and hardware providers, rather than to individual users.

Clients include software makers like Apple Computer and RealNetworks, consumer electronics companies like Sony and Panasonic and car companies like Toyota and Honda. iTunes and Yahoo Music Engine are some of the other services using Gracenote technology and database. Gracenote has been awarded several U.S. patents.

The Gracenote Media Database has information about 55 million tracks and over 4 million CDs. Gracenote has also compiled more than 8 million audio waveform fingerprints, and has information about 17,000 DVD titles.

Data comes from "music afficianados" who enter track and CD info along with info provided directly by music labels.

Gracenote offers a free and basic track info database on its public web site. You can also find their Digital Top Ten index that provides a list (updated weekly) that represents, "most played albums on the Internet, aggregated weekly for almost 30 million listeners worldwide using Gracenote Media Recognition Service."

A basic search on the Gracenote web site database allows you to search by artist, album or song.

Here's what an artist entry looks like for Green Day and their American Idiot album. Note that some tracks have direct links to purchase the song on iTunes.

Of course, other music info databases (that likely license Gracenote data) like Yahoo Audio Search, Google Music Search and Allmusic.com
offer a variety of music info and much more. GoFish offers a lyrics search tool. An Ask Jeeves "Smart Answer" combines info and links from various sources into a single location.

Gracenote is getting into new services like Gracenote Playlist that helps a listener find related tracks based on categorized metadata (over 200 categories) that is cataloged with each track.

Another service coming soon is called Gracenote Discover that will offer recommendations about specific tracks, albums, and artists.

Recommendations will based on three different types of analysis of the music you're listening to: music expert editorial, audio attributes derived from digital signal processing (DSP) and a tagging-like system that uses community-based recommendations.

Another music recommendation service leveraging metadata created by music experts (and a service I'm addicted to) is Pandora. It's in beta right now and worth a look and listen. For more of a "community approach" to music recommendations, Last.fm is one of the many services doing this type of thing.

Gracenote also offers voice-controlled navigation and a streaming audio recognition aimed at the mobile market since more and more music is becoming accessible via live streams direct to mobile phones and devices. For example, I use software called Pocket-Tunes that allows me to stream to my Treo any station that offers an MP3 stream. For example, all Shoutcast stations offer MP3 streams.

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