Spotify spotlight: Glenn McDonald divides music into thousands of niche genres

Well it turns out that Austin’s iconic hipsters and hippie music lovers are going to be thankful to one man for making their esoteric music taste now easily discoverable. Glenn McDonald is the person who has classified even the most obscure and niche genres and is now every fans best friend. Never before has it been easier to discover new styles of music and artists you otherwise wouldn’t have known.

Glenn McDonald is Spotify’s “data alchemist” who utilized machine listening  and Spotify’s music-intelligence division, Echo Nest, to analyze upwards of 60 million songs and categorize them based on their tempo, energy, danceability, acoustic-ness, beat and emotional tone. All of the music then analyzed and categorized is stored in his music map, Every Noise at Once, which is a website which catalogues over 1,500 genres and triggers an audio sample when you click a style of music.  From there if you click the tiny arrow near the genre’s name you’re sent into the world of this sub-genre map collecting its artists. Choosing an artist leads to the corresponding Spotify artist page and there you go, you’ve just discovered new music. Long gone are the days of hopping through Spotify’s “related artists” tab.

Having graduated from Harvard in 1989 with a major in Visual and Environmental Studies (filmmaking and photography), he applies that creative mind to his company and ensures that–although the directions on print seem complicated–the website is very user friendly and that everyday McDonald and his team are working out kinks. In one funny turn of events the software wasn’t able to decipher Indonesian dangdut from American country music because “the computers had no protocol to account for twang.” But Austinite’s needn’t worry- the whole thing isn’t only run by computers. “A human touch is required to research the sub-genres or create new ones, a task that often falls to McDonald himself.”

All in all McDonald and his music map seem right in line with Austin’s music lovers because not only does it retain it’s humanism while being very progressive, but it follows in the footsteps of Austin’s history. Our city became iconic because it shattered live music ceilings and was a place unlike any other. McDonald has created a similar place where his sub-genres of sub-genres can remain and revolutionize music discovery and categorization.


Photo of Glenn McDonald courtesy of his LinkedIn profile