Interscope Records manager, Lady GaGa producer visit campus for Music Hack Day

Published: December 7, 2012

Visiting producer talks innovation in music industry, parallels with innovators and entrepreneurs

InterscopeMusic producer Fernando Garibay, standing, surveys student work at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship



Fernando Garibay, a producer on much of Lady Gaga’s double-platinum 2011 album Born This Way, spent two days on the MIT campus and an afternoon watching MIT students present the results of a 24-hour “music hackathon.”

An artist and an executive at Interscope Records, Garibay was eager to discover connections between the entrepreneurial world and the upper tiers of the music industry.

“I found it very fascinating how many entrepreneurship and startup models parallel our artist development and marketing models,” said Garibay, who has also produced U2 and Britney Spears, among others. “I wasn't aware how much music was a part of the MIT community. I would go so far as to say that music is part of its core. It was so validating as a music maker and reinvigorated my commitment to bridge innovation and technology to not only music as an art form and business, but also to music as a culture and lifestyle.”

Along with Nick Groff, an Interscope A&R representative, Garibay visited MIT to survey Music Hack Day, an innovative 24-hour event where programmers, designers, and artists conceptualize, build, and demo new products or technologies for the music industry. Music Hack Day was held Nov. 10 and 11 at MIT.

While at MIT, the pair also toured the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the MIT Media Lab, sat in on an ethnomusicology class, and visited venture capital firm Red Star Ventures.

MIT’s Music Hack Day was organized by Philip Cohen, an MBA student at MIT Sloan. Cohen is a musician and the founder of AudioCommon, a company providing affordable online production resources to independent musicians. “The digital music revolution has really changed the game,” said Cohen. “The industry has been trying to find its way ever since and trying to recapture value that is has lost. It is going to be the entrepreneurs, engineers, and creative community that fix the problems of the music industry, which is the root of doing this event at MIT.”

“The MIT Community has a very profound interest in music, the arts, and technology,” he added. “We understand the technology piece, of course. But when you throw an event like this you get the opportunity to see the culture thrive around music.”

Sixty-two projects took place at the hackathon, with approximately 300 participants involved in the event, beating the event’s original goal of 200 people. The participants were mostly software engineers, with entrepreneurs specializing in management, and music industry leaders as well.

The hackathon began on a Saturday morning with five-minute technology pitches by the project leaders. Once teams were established, sponsor companies, including leading music streaming firms Spotify, Rhapsody, and Rdio, presented API technologies to the participants and led workshops where teams learned how to use the APIs.

Hacking commenced at 2 p.m. on Saturday and continued for 24 hours until 2 p.m. on Sunday. Each team then had the opportunity to present their hacks to the group.

Finished projects included a service that builds a playlist based on the music tastes of users near a specified wireless network, a program that generates one-sentence music reviews; and a program that turns music into 8-bit tunes reminiscent of original Nintendo games.